Aminé brings the energy on brand-new album ‘Limbo’ (2020)

Aug. 13, 2020, 8:05 p.m.

After exploding into the hip-hop scene in 2017 with the triple-platinum smash hit single “Caroline,” Oregon rapper Aminé has enticed fans and critics alike with his boundless energy and rapid-fire punchlines. Returning triumphantly to the rap game on Aug. 6, Aminé has dropped “Limbo,” a project that has some of the highest highs of 2020, but unfortunately can’t bring a lengthy 14 tracks worth of consistency.

From start to finish, “Limbo” bursts with vigor and enthusiasm that seep into nearly every bar of the project. Whether he’s joyously flexing about his escape from his hometown of Portland, paying his respects to basketball legend Kobe Bryant or thanking his mother for all she has done for him, Aminé maintains an effervescent presence and a boisterous personality throughout his album.

While modern rap can often feel unfocused, Aminé has always been adept at finding a healthy balance between staying on topic and not beating listeners over the head with a single idea. In songs like “Woodlawn,” all of Aminé’s bars reflect a common theme — in “Woodlawn,” for instance, its theme triumphant escapism. Every line feels as though it can be connected back to a central thesis, instead of just acting as time-filler; this thematic cohesiveness is what differentiates Aminé from the rest of the hip-hop game right now, as his songs feel as if they hold more weight and gravity than many artists can now muster.

Aminé’s immense stage presence presents a unique challenge for features on his album — they risk feeling boring or uninspired when going head to head with the Oregon rapper. Indeed, these features did end up being somewhat hit-or-miss, and those that couldn’t keep up with the album’s fast-paced aura ended up dragging the project down. On “Fetus,” rap trio Injury Reserve ended up slowing the pace considerably with alternating snail-paced bars in comparison to the quicker tracks. In contrast, rappers like Vince Staples and JID are known for their joviality and personality, making them a perfect match for Aminé, complimenting his strengths instead of pulling him into more uncomfortable territory on his solo project.

As a rapper that thrives on a dynamic groove, Aminé can’t help but feel stifled when he’s paired with overly R&B-tinged tracks, which are scattered throughout the second half of the album. Going from fast-paced joyrides like “Pressure In My Palms” with Vince Staples and UK rapper slowthai to “Easy” with R&B crooner Summer Walker just two tracks later — it only highlights the flaws of the slower track. Without a skidding trap beat and bars packed with sly self-awareness, the rapper’s slower tracks feel insincere, not tongue-in-cheek.

That said, when the rapper slows down to zero, he manages to shine once again. Several times throughout the album, Aminé drops into a spoken-word monologue, which feels like a special trip into the rapper’s world, and humanizes the seemingly carefree celebrity. Tracks like “Burden,” “Kobe” and “Riri” feature spoken clips of Aminé ranging from six-second outros to entire tracks that give us an exclusive glimpse into his thought process, making the project feel all the more personal.

Production has never been an issue for Aminé — as “Caroline” blew the world away with its bouncy synths and sliding groove — and “Limbo” is no outlier. Production on songs like “Can’t Decide” and “Compensating” feels like a perfect match for Aminé, with pounding kicks, creative hi-hats and snappy snares that allow the rapper to bring new vibes to each track.

Overall, “Limbo” is a wholly creative album that feels like a worthy addition to Aminé’s discography. Were it shortened to the ten best tracks, this album could qualify for legendary status, but as it is, it serves as an exuberant summer project absolutely worth a listen.

Contact Morris Raskin at mraskin20 ‘at’

Morris Raskin is a high school student writing as part of The Stanford Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.

Login or create an account