On August 7th, Portland-based rapper Aminé released his sophomore studio album “Limbo.” It follows his debut album “Good for You,” released in 2017, which featured favorites like “Caroline,” “Spice Girl” and "Heebiejeebies" with Kehlani. After a quiet 2019 with no new music, he came into 2020 with a bang — releasing ”Shimmy,” the first single off “Limbo,” in February.
“Shimmy” is easily one of the best songs of 2020. The song samples Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s 1995 song “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” for its beat and adds haunting choir vocals in the background. It’s beautiful. The musicality of the song is phenomenal, but the lyrics are even better. From the first two lines––“It's been a whole (Limbo), year, my n—a (Yup) / Let's, not front, it's my year, my n—a (Woo)”–– Aminé sets the tone for the song.
“Shimmy” has a lot of great lines emphasizing Aminé having the top spot in the rap game and other rappers living in squalor beneath him. Perhaps his best moment is when he proclaims, “A lot of y'all fake flex, n—a / That is not your necklace / And that whip ain't yours, n—a / That's the IRS's.”
The two other singles from “Limbo” — “Riri” and “Compensating,” which features Young Thug — are also standouts on the album. “Riri” also opens with a great line –– “You love Rihanna, but you ain't a savage (nah, nah).” On the enjoyable track, Aminé tells the story of a beautiful woman in his life who broke his heart three different times. It has a very fun, summertime vibe with its story of young love.
On “Compensating,” the combination of Aminé’s singing, Young Thug’s rap verse and T-Minus’ production mesh very well together. The song focuses on Aminé and Young Thug reflecting on past loves and how they had to compensate for their faults in relationships. This delivers a vibe similar to “Riri” — it sounds like the perfect song to play at a party.
Based on the first three singles, it feels like the album would be an upbeat, endearing, pop-rap album and not very serious in its subject matter. However, the album has quite a few serious and contemplative moments.
“Kobe” is a conversation between Aminé and his friend Jak Knight, where the two reflect on the death of Kobe Bryant. Seeing the death of someone who was an important father-like figure in their lives made them want to focus on preparing for the future. Even though it’s a short interlude, it’s still one of the highlights of the album. Many across the world were saddened by Kobe’s death and didn’t know how to respond to such a surprising loss. “Kobe” expresses these emotions expertly.
“Mama” is a real gem. Many rappers have written songs dedicated to their mothers. “Mama” by Aminé is probably the best song about an artist’s mother since “Hey Mama” by Kanye West in 2005. The piano and Charlie Wilson’s vocals mesh together in the background. Aminé sings beautifully. The lyrics are so personal and memorable, like when he says, “I'ma write you a song to put on every day / So the times that I'm gone, you could smile when it plays” and “'Cause you're the only woman in my life / Who makes me smile, you make me smile.” The song is a wonderful dedication to his mother and mothers across the world.
“Fetus” with Injury Reserve tells the story of a boy who gets a girl pregnant in high school. The girl doesn’t want to keep the child, but the boy does, despite struggling with remorse for bringing a child into a world that is filled with oppression, violence and poverty. Aminé uses this story to reflect upon his future. The track is a great reflection of what many young people think about. As children, we are told to aspire to have a family. But it is hard for a lot of people to rationalize having children when the children are being brought into a world where they are not given value by all. This is especially true for Black people, who worry that their children will face discrimination, which can lead to their death.
Even though the vast majority of the songs on this album are phenomenal, there is one dud on the album — “Becky.” The song has Aminé reflecting on his past relationships with white women. Growing up his mother used to tell him, “Don't ever bring a white girl home to me." The white woman he is reflecting upon doesn’t see that people treat them differently because they are an interracial couple. So because of the harsh treatment by others and her lack of acknowledgement of the issue, Aminé decides to break up with her.
The problem with this song is that Aminé doesn’t want to name the complicity of the woman he is dating. He believes she is oblivious. Even when he tries to educate her, she sees no difference in the situation. Aminé says, “And I'm tired, so this ain't worth the risk.” In this situation, Aminé being tired and wanting to end the relationship is justified. But what about all of the other situations where white people remain silent in the face of systemic racism and their white counterparts’ egregious actions?
White silence is violence. The fact that Aminé has dated some white women who were not willing to do the work to make him more comfortable in the relationship is very sad. It’s not that they were not racist, or just oblivious — they just didn’t care enough.
And the fact that Aminé doesn’t mention this, unfortunately, shows how some Black men feel — we live in a white supremacist society, there are many people who are racist or support racists out there, but if one dates a Black person they are automatically seen as not complicit in the system — which is simply not true. Especially with the Black Lives Matter protests that have occurred over the last few months, one would think Aminé would leave a song about a complicit white woman on the cutting room floor.
Overall this album is great — one of the best of 2020. The title of the album and its tracks fits very well with the sentiments of the music and the times we are in. Sometimes we feel like we are on top and nothing can touch us — “Shimmy”— other times we look towards the future and wonder will the suffering ever end — “Fetus” — and occasionally we just want to reflect on the good times of the past — “Compensating.” Even though the album has a few weaker songs, it does a fantastic job of instilling a sense of uncertainty — almost like the album itself is reflecting a constant state of limbo.