B Rich: Born Rich
It’s been four years now since B. Rich’s “Whoa Now,” a naggingly catchy track built around a sample of the theme song from The Jeffersons, broke on Baltimore radio. That single set off a whirlwind chain of events, leading local rapper Brian Rich to a contract with Atlantic Records and a video full of B-more scenery getting heavy rotation on BET. But just as he appeared destined for success, the 80 Dimes album stiffed, and B. Rich was unceremoniously dropped. He kept playing local shows and issuing independent singles, but eventually seemed to disappear off the map entirely. To hip-hop heads across America, he became the subject of milk-carton jokes. And in Baltimore’s underground community, B. Rich’s overnight rise and fall became a cautionary tale, leaving many bitter that the scene’s biggest blip on the national radar was a one-hit wonder.
So it came as a bit of a shock when ads for a new B. Rich album started popping up in national rap mags like XXL last summer. Sure enough, he’s back on an independent label with Born Rich, and it certainly sounds like the time away has aged him a bit. The rubbery squeak of his voice has deepened, and the lead single, “We All Doin’ Time,” is a slow, somber meditation on how the contemporary black man’s struggle parallels the slavery of his ancestors.
In contrast to the bouncy club tracks of 80 Dimes, Born Rich is full of Dirty South production, along with four hard-edged East Coast beats courtesy of longtime Nas producer L.E.S. The best of those, and arguably the album’s lyrical highlight, is the short but powerful “Birthday,” on which Rich flexes his storytelling skills with an intricate and unlikely tale. And “Whoa Now” producer Dukeyman returns for one track, “The Ghetto,” which features the Gutta Squad and a soulful Donny Hathaway sample. Born Rich may not jump into the mainstream with another party jam, but it’s a mature sophomore effort from someone that few expected to hear from again.