Rich Boy

Rich Boy

(Interscope; 2007)

By Chet Betz | 8 November 2007

Mobile, Alabama's Maurice "Rich Boy" Richards is a new model for college students all over the South. Walk by a dorm room, hear some guy making rap music, say, "hey, I can do that"; drop out of school and give yourself a presumptuous rapper name; somehow get mentored by Polow Da Don and with his and Butta's help make a best-of-year hit about selling crack and buying Cadillacs; include the word "Gangsta" in at least two song titles on your first album; drawl the shit out of everything. Basically, forget the books and get to poppin'.

The opener's the only track produced by Rich Boy, and it sounds more Aftermath than Polow. But then you have Polow producing/co-producing like ten tracks, some guy named Brian Kidd doing his best Timbaland, and a Mr. DJ appearance reinforcing the thought that this is a new Southern rap album mindful of its Stankonia (2000) heritage -- a thought further reinforced by killer guest verses from Big Boi and Andre and the P-Funk falsetto crooning that peppers songs like "What It Do" and "On The Regular." The end result is a surprisingly consistent body of neo-proto-crunk that makes one wish it was OutKast on the mic.

There's nothing in Rich Boy's marble-mouthed slurring that could have inspired these producers and yet they still sound like they're on a mission to create unified Southern heat. "What It Do" has to be a top contender for best drop from the Lil Jon chalice, its snake-charmer synth line setting the cadence melody while a tabla-and-snare 808 pairing carries the verses without feeling moronically simplistic. "Touch That Ass" is disgusting: Rich Boy's rap is disgusting, literally, and Polow's beat is disgusting, as in "fantastic." Rich Boy progresses from wanting to touch that ass to paying a lot of money to touch a handful of asses; the beat, however, progresses from "Drop It Like It's Hot" minimalism to the low synth-grind of HHNF (2006) minimalism to a coy, playfully layered minimalism that I don't think the Neptunes have attempted yet -- Polow makes a keyboard whistle. Oh, then he finds a way to make "Change Clothes"-style lite-funk sound good with "On The Regular"; if there's anyone I'd want doing the next Clipse besides Williams and Hugo, it's Da Don.

What's inciting these efforts and how does Rich Boy succeed when Rich Boy himself's a bust? Lacking in wit, creativity, and anything resembling mic skills, Rich Boy relies on the boon of the untalented: goofy-ass charm. I mean, he looks like spawn of Canibus with a Scriptured pec like Ja Rule and raps like a poor man's hybrid of T.I., Lil Wayne, and the dudes in Oscar-winning Three Six Mafia, plus all the dudes who guested on "Stay Fly." But the give-away that Rich Boy knows exactly what he's doing is "Lost Girls," a reggae version of Ludacris' "Runaway Love" wherein Rich Boy kills two birds with one stone: he gets to show his soft side and rap like Kanye.

Some of the goof is unintentional, I'm sure (so much the better). Just look at that album cover. Regardless, for all of Rich Boy's lewdness and lack of rap identity, Rich Boy gives off the distinct impression of a kid trying to fit into britches a couple sizes too big for him. The album's length and ambition, the operatic bombast which blows up tracks like "Role Models" and "Let's Get This Paper," and Rich Boy's very moniker thus become endearing and enjoyable. And maybe it's even laughable, but not pitiable because Rich Boy sounds so committed to just the idea of hustling and touching asses and actually becoming a Rich Boy, and because the producers backing him sound committed to the idea of making music that blows the roof off, never mind the chop shop.

Rich Boy says he's not a role model on "Role Models," and he's right. College kids, just kidding, stay in school. But the fact that Rich Boy's trying so hard not to be a role model while trying to make it big while also dropping a single that I'll likely be listening to years from now, insta-classic "Throw Some D's," makes his debut about precisely one thing: a boy willing his most selfish fantasies to life. Which doesn't make Rich Boy "good," but it sure is fun.