Written by: Andrew Kirkpatrick
Each person on this track has more viral hits to their name than most artists could ever dream of, a fact that’s made doubly impressive when you consider that (infamous Philly beatmaker Baauer excluded) they’re all only a year or two into their rap careers. Chinese MC Kris Wu, Indonesian rapper Rich Brian, YouTuber-turned-depressing-R&B-crooner Joji, Ohio’s Trippie Redd, and “Harlem Shake” mastermind Baauer form a strange and impressive supergroup, and their resulting collab is (you guessed it) another viral hit.
The track kicks off with metallic synth bells ducking and weaving around lumbering 808s. Kris Wu spits a fiery verse that switches between English and Chinese while Rich Brian, low and monotone though his voice may be, flexes with bars so ridiculous (“When I take her out to dinner, man, that check ain’t gettin’ split / Do it look like I’m getting thinner with the chicken and the ribs?”) that they only add to the song’s hype factor.
But at the halfway mark, the track goes from silly fun to something truly exciting as Baauer’s instrumental cuts out and the downtempo keys and forlorn vocals that’ve become Joji’s trademark take over as he croons: “They said that I won’t make it / They said that I won’t change / They say that I’m not flexin’ / Now they said ‘wow, you’ve changed.’”
Not what I’d expect from the man formerly known as Filthy Frank.
Trippie Redd comes in last and, fittingly, marries the song’s distinct halves with a sing-song flow that deftly switches between spacy and braggadocious.
The cross-cultural collabs 88rising has brought us in the past couple years — including the “It G Ma” remix and “Gospel” — have been spellbinding, and “18” is no exception. 2018’s first banger is going to be a tough act to follow.