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Limbo

The Portland hip-hop musician is growing both lyrically and artistically.

Picture this: It’s spring break of 2016, you’re laying out by the beach with your friends and the song “Caroline” by Aminé comes on the speaker. You and your gang instantly chime in on the iconic opening lyrics, and everything is right in the world. This song was the first viral hit from the Portland native, Adam Aminé Daniel, otherwise known as Aminé. Since then, he has released a mixtape titled “ONEPOINTFIVE” and his latest studio album, “Limbo.” “Limbo” combines strident beats with reflective lyrics to create an album that marks a turning point in Aminé’s career.

Aminé’s earlier hits like “Spice Girl,” “Reel It In” and “Red Mercedes” have an unmistakably youthful, hip-hop vibe; however, “Limbo” demonstrates Aminé’s transition to a stylistic and lyrical maturity. In “Kobe,” a sad tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, the rapper laments: “He died and I feel like…a lot of my innocence, in…being a young person died with Kobe…and now…I’m like let me figure out how money works…let me figure how…to buy a house…I felt like a piece of my childhood go…”

With each insightful lyric, Aminé is clearly developing both his musical style and his voice in society. He noticeably shifts from his previous songs about cars and women to his lyrical tributes to his mother and Kobe Bryant. Though Aminé is only 26 years old, his maturation from a kid to an adult is evident throughout “Limbo.”

In an interview with HIGHSNOBIETY, Aminé discusses his inspiration for the title: “… As I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize that with every level I achieve, every level gets harder, just like the game of limbo. … I thought the older I get, the wiser I’d get.” This album is undeniably a testament to the growth that Aminé has undergone since the release of his last studio album, “Good for You.” From the time “Caroline” was played nonstop on the radio until now, young fans have grown up too and can appreciate Aminé’s transition to a more relevant lyricist.

Like many other rappers, Aminé uses this platform to pay homage to the city where he grew up. In the song “Roots,” featuring Charlie Wilson, Aminé ends his first verse with, “These roots made me, I bring my flowers to the world.” Because of both the good and bad experiences that came with growing up in Portland — his childhood friends, the policing, the financial hardships and his family — Aminé has become the person and rapper he is today. Further, the track “Woodlawn” is dedicated to his rising out of the neighborhood in which he was raised. Aminé references an incarcerated friend named Marc, who Aminé promises will be well taken care of when he gets out of jail. Aminé’s ability to help his family and friends with his newfound fame and wealth is a true reflection of his kindhearted character.

Throughout the album, Aminé incorporates varied samples, multiple features and melodic instrumentals making each song a versatile piece of the puzzle he creates. “Pressure in My Palms” starts out with a bass-heavy beat and switches halfway to more laid back instrumentation. Lyrics like, “I got more pressure in my palms than Arthur,” which references a meme featuring the titular cartoon anteater, capture the witty and boastful theme of the song. The features from Vince Staples and slowthai complement the beat nicely without overshadowing Aminé’s lyrical delivery. Notably, Aminé transitions seamlessly between each song on the album.

Like “Pressure in My Palms,” the song “Compensating,” featuring Young Thug, was another instant hit. The lyrics reminisce about old flames that were squandered because of infidelity. Looking back on the heartbreak he caused when he was younger shows Aminé’s growth in the realm of relationships. The music video for the song is a reminder of Aminé’s cinematic talent that helped him create the music video for “Caroline” himself. Another personal favorite song of mine on the album is “Riri.” The melody is insanely catchy and will have you rewinding the song just to hear the chorus again.

One song that fell short of the lyrical and stylistic standard set by Aminé is “Easy,” featuring Summer Walker. The explicit lyrics don’t do much for the message of the song and begin to sound redundant by the third verse. The background instrumentals conflict with the lyrical overlays, failing to produce the smooth flow that listeners are expecting. However, Aminé redeems himself on the heartfelt track “Mama.” In this sweet tribute to his hardworking mother, Aminé expresses how he intends to pay back her efforts now that he has money. The song is a feel-good track that makes you want to pause the album and call your mom. Near the end of the song, Aminé references the late Tupac Shakur with the lyric, “Tonight I want to quote 2Pac, ‘Dear Mama.’”

Behind Aminé’s colorful beats and expressive lyrics are hip-hop and R&B artists who inspired his diverse sound. Aminé has previously credited performers Michael Jackson, Shakur and Kanye West as his musical inspiration. The rhythmic beats of Jackson paired with the clever lyrics of West and Shakur are evident in Aminé’s style.

Aside from the funky beats and poignant lyrics, “Limbo” is unlike any other album released by Aminé. “Limbo” ultimately channels a Tyler, the Creator turned J. Cole vibe. The eclectic nature of the album works in its favor and keeps listeners excited for the next song. Aminé comes through with a one-of-a-kind tracklist that still hints at his original sound. Compared to his previous albums, “Good for You” and “ONEPOINTFIVE,” Aminé once again delivers the perfect balance of melancholic self-reflection and energetic melodies, making “Limbo” another series of bangers. Whether you listen to it in order or pick out the best songs on the album, “Limbo” will undoubtedly leave you bumping Aminé on repeat.

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