Aminé Limbo Republic Records
Since his 2015 breakthrough Caroline, Aminé has always straddled the line between laid-back poet and disarming social critic. This is best depicted through his 2017 NPR performance, where he candidly instructs non-Black people in the audience not to use the n-word. On his sophomore album Limbo, the Portland native explores this duality even further.
Like most of the world, the start of 2020 saw mass mourning for basketball star Kobe Bryant. Leaning into his own grief, he pens a tribute to his late hero over sobering strings, closing a chapter of his childhood for good. Immediately changing the pace on Mama, the rapper reverts back to youthful innocence, as he unapologetically admires his maternal figure, acknowledging her sacrifices for his well being. “You were working grave-yard shifts for the both of us,” he raps across uplifting piano keys.
Keeping the tone similarly emotive, Limbo mostly moves through ambient soundscapes, with touches of experimental hip-hop and lo-fi R&B folded into the mix. This offers Aminé a perfect canvas to articulate his views on life and love, like on the Summer Walker-assisted Easy, where he establishes that emotion “doesn’t come easy” across the song’s chorus.
But perhaps Aminé’s most poignant moment comes in the form of Becky. The colloquially-titled track is a sombre meditation on the world’s current mood: Black people are exhausted. Over a smooth bounce, the sax-led track traverses the trials and tribulations of interracial relationships. “Mama said don’t ever bring a white girl home to me/ N*ggas catch cases every week, so you best stay on your feet,” loops throughout the chorus, a warning that carries the weight of history – from Emmett Till to The Central Park Five. Becky is a sobering reminder of the risk Black men face in even the most routine daily interactions with white people. As Aminé puts it: “I’m fed up with a world that I know I can’t change”.
Limbo is Aminé laid bare. Sure, there are moments when he’s braggadocious, like on Shimmy and Woodlawn. But for the most part, Aminé trades this in for ruminations from a deeper place. Limbo feels like the emergence of a new artist: one whose growth has taught him exactly how to use his voice.