Album review: Aminé – Limbo

It’s safe to say that Aminé’s talents should be appreciated and respected, as the Portland, Oregon rapper has stood out among the mainstream rap field with his eccentric flows and witty pen-game that are usually backed by these unorthodox, industrial, and loud instrumentals. If there was a scale with JID and Young Thug being the furthest on either side, Aminé is right down the middle. He has similar qualities to both artists, but not to the point where he is an embodiment of them.

From the beginning, you could tell that there was something unique about Aminé. “Caroline” isn’t the greatest song of the 2010s, but it gave you a sense as to the path he was going to take for his career. Comedic content, but not parody and with something to say. Of course, it has to be backed up with talent and he’s done that for the time he’s been around so far. The standout tracks that I love from Aminé prior to Limbo are “REDMERCEDES” and “BLACKJACK.”

Going into an anticipated project such as Limbo, along with an absence of around a year and a half, I was expecting something fantastic from him.

While I do enjoy a handful of tracks off of this record, what frustrates me about this album a lot is that the production and flow are the safest we’ve seen from Aminé, and when the instrumentals do go hard, his rapping just doesn’t hit with me.

First off, Limbo is the perfect name for an album in 2020. While not the intention that I have in mind, everyone’s lives have been in limbo this year. Racial injustices have hit a new and difficult chapter this year, politics are splitting the United States in a way I’ve never seen before and yes, there is still a pandemic that is not getting any better since our lives were paused nearly nine months ago.

The opening track “Burden” is what I want from Aminé on a consistent basis. Great flow, good lyricism backed by an eccentric instrumental. We get a slick guitar that is layered by this unsettling, distorted sound of what I believe to be someone crying for help. It’s hard-hitting as Aminé delves into racial issues and drops bars like “When your skin darker, s**t gets harder. This is a black album like Shawn Carter.”

Quickly, my fears began coming to fruition as “Woodlawn” takes a step back in the in-your-face flow that makes him great. He falls into a trap that most rappers go down where they try to do this rap-sung flow and we end up with poor autotune. It’s exactly what we get on this track and now, I’m at the point where I don’t know what we are going to get for the remainder of the record.

While not a song, the “Kobe” interlude is a touching moment because it embodies how most of us felt losing our basketball hero. It also is a perfect lead into the next track, my favorite on the record and one of the best songs of 2020, “Roots.”

If you want perfect harmony, you add Charlie Wilson to your track. The man can do no wrong and gives one hell of a concert. I absolutely love the juxtaposition of heritage, your roots, and the actual definition of a plant. “I’m not a succulent or sucker, baby girl” is one of my favorite lines of the year as Aminé understands that this girl is just using him for his fame and wealth. JID, as usual, brings his elite lyricism to the track and Aminé and JID’s vocals transition seamlessly between each other, so I hope that these two collaborate often down the road.

Tracks five and six bring the album back down again as “Can’t Decide” just exists to be moody. Unlike later in the record, Animé’s singing doesn’t work here. The hook is the equivalent to nails on chalkboard. His vocals also don’t work on “Compensating.” There’s something about the high-pitched, processed sound that doesn’t compensate his vocals well in the slightest. This time around, his verse isn’t bad, but Young Thug’s feature here is a head-scratcher. Sure, his eccentrics are fun, but however the producers mixed this, it just comes out as another sore on the ears.

However, the album picks back up as we get two absolute bangers in the lead single “Shimmy” and “Pressure In My Palms” where Animé is really feeling himself in these braggadocious cuts. slowthai and Vince Staples also provide great features on the latter.

“Riri” brings back the same garbage rap-sung flow that’s been my biggest issue with this project, and don’t get me started on the absolute cesspool that is Summer Walker’s relevancy. She can’t sing and I don’t know why these artists choose to feature her on their tracks. LAUNCH HER INTO OUTER SPACE, PLEASE.

I’m torn on “Mama” because the sentiment is beautiful and the singing actually improves 10-fold compared to earlier tracks. “You was my lift before the Lyft” actually hits me personally because it brings back all the memories of my mother driving my brothers, myself and all of our friends and teammates in middle school. Sonically, it’s a vast tone shift from the previous array of songs we just listened to.

Fortunately, this album ends on a high-note with the incredible “Becky” and the gut-punch in “Fetus.”

Incredible, Aminé’s vocals are quite excellent on “Becky” as he talks about how his community views his romantic relationship with a white woman. The looks that he gets are as if the world is hounding him and asking him “why are you sleeping with the oppressor?” It’s definitely an interesting look on this situation and it’s hard for me to not blurt out the catchy one-liner in “Mama said: Don’t ever bring a white girl home to me” because of a past relationship I was in. It’s great.

Rest In Peace to Stepa J. Groggs as “Fetus” was his first posthumous feature after his sudden and tragic death in June. The instrumental is also quite sentimental and soft on the ear, which make it even harder to not shed a tear when you hear Groggs voice on the track.

At the end of the day, I was left unsatisfied. This isn’t a bad album by any stretch of the mind, but as impressed as I was with a handful of tracks, I was as equally disappointed in some of the poor cuts on here. I don’t think Aminé lived up to his potential and fell for some generic tropes in mainstream rap today.

Richest Tracks: “Burden”, “Roots”, “Shimmy”, “Pressure In My Palms”, “Becky”, “Fetus”

Worst Tracks: “Can’t Decide”, Summer Walker’s appearance on “Easy”

Rating: 7/10

Listen to the album

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6a8GwYiEMrXgMvZBvuBXrt?si=DOcHuE6RTCOzloAmf0Lr0g

Apple: https://music.apple.com/us/album/limbo/1521742168

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