Aminé is Too Big to Be an Underdog

Aminé is a multidimensional artist. When he first dropped “Compensating” earlier this year, it didn’t catch me. It took watching the superb self-directed music video for me to actually recognize the genius of the song. The video gives off big Wes Anderson vibes and is funny as hell, like all Aminé’s videos. The man has a talent for eye-catching, unusual visuals, and the Young Thug verse definitely didn’t hurt either. While watching the video I realized Thug wasn’t present, which reminded me of Thug’s classic video for “Wyclef Jean.” It seems as if a lack of Thug’s presence is almost as powerful as the man himself. I like to imagine that Thug pulled up the video shoot and didn’t want to get out of the car.

Like almost every other Aminé single, “Compensating” is infectious as hell, with Aminé’s multi-dimensionality being the x-factor. Aminé has had a large presence since he first popped onto the scene but I struggle to think of proper comparisons. I hear influence from early house music as much as I hear melodies from Luda. This inability to put him in a box has led to stellar artistry but it also walls him off from more casual rap audiences. His breakout hit “Caroline” may have influenced that. He came in the game inverted: from having his music blasted on college campuses to attempting to win over everyone else. I’m still plagued by nightmares of white boys screaming “westside nigga.” Regardless, man has hits for days and can knock a 16 out the park; what else could you expect from a suave nigga from Portland?

“Compensating” falls into a standard trap music box but it still has that classic Aminé flare. The melody that ends the track before the last chorus is an earworm. It’s so potent, it could’ve served a better hook (but what do I know). Young Thug deserves extra credit calling his orange and black seats Daffy Duck. No-one is better at comparing the interior of luxury vehicles to cartoon characters. Chefs kiss. I’d say you’re gonna hear “Compensating” when you go out but we may never do that again. The album’s earlier boastful single “Shimmy” is a perfect example of his abilities. He shows his ear for curation flipping a classic Ol’ Dirty Bastard sample for a new age.  “Shimmy” is A1 all around. The beat is trunk knocker and Aminé is not here for no bullshit the entire time. Aminé flexes easily; He has the right to with cutting observations about the fakeness he sees around him. 

While the album’s title clearly refers to the limbo Aminé’s career is in between a big artist and a certified superstar, the title Limbo applies to life perfectly right now. We’re in a strange pause with no idea what comes next, sitting in our dwelling spaces waiting till the world ends. While things are tenuous for America at large, I definitely think this project will push Aminé further up the ladder of success. Aminé was definitely pigeon-holed post “Caroline,” but he took it on the chin and let the world know that he had more to say. This project definitely doesn’t shy away from dense subject matter, even bringing it to the forefront at times. Although credit has to be given to 3 Stacks for his infamous jumpsuit, I gotta give props to Aminé for opening up the project with the line “When your skin darker shit gets harder/this a black album/like Sean Carter”. The soul sample that backs the line up is warm, but it serves as the perfect canvas for this subject matter. I think using “Burden” as the opening track was a conscious decision to avoid immediately hitting the listener with pop flare. However the track is followed by “Woodlawn,” whose flute beat sounds like it may have been passed by DaBaby or Jack Harlow. “Woodlawn” also features the first of many homages to Kobe. His death is painted as one of the turning points of one of Aminé’s close friends’ lives, pushing him out of the limbo between your teenage years and full blown adulthood. It is a time period I’m entering as well even though I still feel like a jit. 

The album itself is literally in limbo, stuck between pop-leaning tracks like “Can’t Decide” where Aminé sounds like he’s channeling Chris Brown versus the more whole-hearted cuts like “Fetus” featuring Injury Reserve. On “Fetus,” Aminé talks about the difficulties of fatherhood with current father Injury Reserve as Aminé looks forward to his potential future children and his past familial relationships. This track hurts because of the powerful feature from Groggs, who recently passed away, discussing how he plans to nurture his children. The dynamic between Injury Reserve and Aminé is super organic and makes me contemplate the struggles of the game. Aminé boasts how the funds from this project will pay his kids’ tuition. Meanwhile Ritchie from Injury Reserve laments he may not have enough to fund his child’s schooling completely because the industry is inconsistent and as painful as it is, IR is still much less mainstream than Aminé. Even though Aminé and IR are very established musically, they both feel very underrepresented in the game compared to their output, moreso for IR. The similarity may contribute to how they mesh so well, though Aminé has no trouble holding his own alongside a full roster of features from JID to Slowthai to Uncle Charlie and Vince Staples (drop something plz). 

It’s great seeing Aminé go toe to toe with artists of a similar caliber but he really shines solo, like the single “Shimmy”, “My Reality”, and “Mama,” although I will admit Mama’s amazing beat might have left me biased. The chopped up vocal sample on “My Reality” makes the track as well, sounding eerily similar to “The Story of O.J.” It’s a classic rags to riches track that reminds me heavily of 808’s and Heartbreak with its heavy autotune mixed with natural instruments.

Alright you know I couldn’t finish this without addressing the absolute ruckus that has been caused by “Becky”. Honestly, Aminé should’ve expected that dropping a track about lusting for a white woman in 2020 was only going to result in twitter collectively rocking his shit. But I don’t think everyone that spoke about it was right. Despite the subject matter, nowhere in the track does he bash black women; Aminé has had a great track record on this issue thus far. He’s simply talking about racism he experienced. Did he consciously decide to put himself in situations that would create that racism? YES. As someone who’s no stranger to Beckys, I’ve experienced the same issues. Is it serious enough to write a song about how awful it is and put it out in this climate? Fuck no. 

Although I think there are some missteps on this project, Aminé still delivers. I don’t like numerical ratings so I’m going to rate this album straight gas. Any shortcomings Aminé may have as a musician are more than made up for by his pristine visuals and otherworldly ear for beats. While Aminé may feel like he is in Limbo at the moment, this album shows that he has a diverse set of skills that will keep him in the public eye for years to come.

P.S Aminé was the only good artist my college ever booked to play in my time there even though I didn’t go (and he made a STACK) and yes, they did book Logic.

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