Friday, June 21, 2024

NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds


SJP and UC Divest Coalition Demonstrations at UCLAUCLA chancellor appointment

Album review: Aminé falls below bar set by debut album with incohesive lyrics, theme in ‘Limbo’

(Courtesy of Republic Records)



Republic Records

Released August 7

By Vivian Xu

Aug. 7, 2020 2:42 p.m.

Aminé: the sophomore slump’s latest victim.

The Portland, Oregon, rapper, whose 2016 debut single, “Caroline,” put his name on the map, unfortunately flounders in his sophomore effort, “Limbo.” While the release is a pleasant listen, it pinballs around and jerkily ventures through thumping trap beats, languid production and jazzy instrumentals. This overabundant musical exploration sadly leads to lulls and clipped changes in tone.

In line with his sonic shifts, Aminé delves into a myriad of topics in this release, from past romances and race relations to his newfound fame. It seems difficult for the artist to maintain a sense of focus, which can probably be attributed to a desire to branch out from his in-your-face and upbeat debut album “Good For You.” Regardless of the reason, his sophomore record presents a jumble of catchy songs that struggle to unite as a cohesive album or properly showcase his artistic potential.

By welcoming the listener with the opening track “Burden,” Aminé sets expectations high with mellow backup vocals and relaxed guitar chords. His flow is fittingly meta and deliberately slow as he raps about a world in which “when your skin darker, shit gets harder.” Layered falsettos soulfully complement his easygoing verses, which deceivingly mask the weight behind his lyrics about racial injustice and discrimination.

Yet the laidback tempo seems to be the only element he retains in “Can’t Decide,” which pairs together a flamenco guitar-esque sound with light trap beats. The unlikely combination melds surprisingly well and is the only silver lining of an otherwise monotonous track about an on-and-off relationship. And unfortunately, other songs like “Mama” and “Easy” are similarly underwhelming because of their boring song structure that leads the listener into a repetitive loop.

[Related: Album review: John Legend continues to impress with signature love ballads in ‘Bigger Love’]

Regardless of other tracks’ sonic mundanity, lead single “Compensating” is a wonderful example of Aminé’s artistic range as he playfully sings the opening chorus and then immediately transitions into rapping an octave lower. Featured artist Young Thug matches Aminé’s vocal dexterity by easily reaching the high-pitched melodies in their first collaboration, all the while being backed by groovy production. Both rappers admirably acknowledge their past mistakes in relationships, frankly stating “it’s hard to admit that I’ve made my bed/ And you know I’ma always wish you the best.”

But this sentimentality is seemingly thrown out the window with “Shimmy,” as Aminé brags “I’m bigger than Texas, me and God text message.” Clashing harmonies distract from his grandiose claims of owning flashy cars and reaching a level of fame that has earned him haters. The materialistic flexes are a drastic change of tone, but in an album that hops between genres and topics with no hesitancy, the 180-degree shift frankly does not stand out.

Aminé continues chronicling his experiences with fame in “Pressure In My Palms,” which opens with an enticing ghostlike chant of the song’s title. After layering on trap drums, Aminé hops on the track to show off his clever and lighthearted lyrics, comparing the pressure of keeping up in the music industry to the tension in cartoon aardvark Arthur’s curled first. He then hands off the song to Vince Staples, who seamlessly transitions into the next verse without missing a beat.

Such consistency is lacking in other parts of the album, though, as Aminé seems to contradict himself in “Becky” by expressing his frustrations of being “fed up with a world that (he knows he) can’t change.” The hopelessness of his lyrics goes against the positive chants of the opening track, “Burden,” which addresses being Black in America and encourages a mantra of “you got to make it better or things won’t change.” These conflicting ideals contribute to the record’s characterization as more of a disarrayed mixtape rather than a united album.

[Related: Album review: Logic ends rap career with proud reflections on past and future in ‘No Pressure’]

Even with the release’s haphazard and meandering structure, “Limbo” is thankfully able to end on a solid concluding track that reflects on Aminé’s ascent into fame. “My Reality” brings together tender piano notes with the artist’s surreal realization that he is “livin’ out the words that (he) used to say.” Trading out the album’s usual trap beats for bongo drums, the track is a heartfelt musing that provides a satisfying ending to the record.

But the entire album is just that – blandly satisfying and lacking a wow factor. Aminé delivers silky vocals, pleasing instrumentals and a consistent flow, but unfortunately still falls short in terms of putting forward a coherent body of work. The absence of an overarching theme due to Aminé’s inability to stitch together his scattered lyrics is this release’s hamartia.

Even so, the listener should keep in mind that the record follows on the heels of Aminé’s chart-topping debut album. Few artists make such a splash with their first release, and Aminé’s exploration can be chalked up to a rapper finding his niche in the notoriously competitive hip-hop industry – a forgivable endeavor.

Yet with the bar set so high, Aminé manages to limbo right under it.

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Vivian Xu | Daily Bruin senior staff
Xu is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment. She previously served as the Arts editor from 2021-2022, the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2020-2021 and an Arts reporter from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and anthropology student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Xu is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment. She previously served as the Arts editor from 2021-2022, the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2020-2021 and an Arts reporter from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and anthropology student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Featured Classifieds
Room for Rent

Furnished studio/bedroom unit w/private bath between UCLA and Santa Monica $1,175 month. Single bus public transport to UCLA or the beach. Txt 1(805)551-9922

More classifieds »
Related Posts