I’ll be the first to say it: Aminé is playing us, and I’m more than okay with that.
To break down the play the Portland native has been running on his fans, we must begin by traveling back to his magenta-and-orange days—the days of his 2014 EP, En Vogue.
Although it has been virtually scrubbed off the internet, those lucky enough to download the project are likely familiar with the opening title track, which is halved by a recording: “We love to pursue that what’s popular is important, but in reality, we are stuck en vogue.”
For Aminé, the idea of being "stuck en vogue" is being trapped by popularity and by the capital ‘m’ moment. Aminé subverts these trappings immediately, though. Suddenly, the beat and his delivery become more grave, and he begins a deeper conversation on commercializing Blackness.
Across the EP, Aminé struggles with materialism, authenticity, and reconciling being “stuck on the money” with artistic integrity. The wide range of production pads the central conflict of the project. He explores all of this in detail and with brazen honesty on the Jahosh-produced track “Game Needs Me,” in which the title ultimately reads like sarcasm.
Fast forward to 2016, and Aminé has nothing to worry about, as these themes have essentially become the blueprint for crafting his come-up. It’s almost as if Aminé predicted that “Caroline” would be his seminal en vogue moment.
Nearly three years after making his DJBooth debut, we now know Aminé for a few things: his name, bananas, and “Caroline.” His debut single peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, has been certified Platinum three times over, and has an accompanying video that is currently sitting at over 176 million views.
With all eyes on Aminé and his poppy hit, the 23-year-old made good on his 2014 worries during a politically-charged bonus verse during his performance on Fallon. He took his en vogue moment and spun it into a disarming platform. But his Fallon performance was far from a one-off.
Soon after, Aminé dropped “REDMERCEDES.” The seemingly radical shift from yellow to red should have been the first sign that something greater was to come. On the surface, “REDMERCEDES” is a stack-your-money anthem. On the surface, the song goes against his resolution on the En Vogue EP, dripping in opulence from the bassline to the sirens. His lax delivery is near-infuriating and the furthest from humble.
Then the genius music video was released; Aminé is in whiteface.
“REDMERCEDES” serves as a platform for Aminé to showcase his wit, comedic timing and unique ability to discuss issues surrounding race without actually saying a word.
Just like he did on Fallon, Aminé wormed his way to the center of our attention and left us leveled with sobering commentary.
All this time, Aminé has been gearing us up for his vulnerable opus, “Turf.” Produced by frequent Frank Ocean collaborator Malay, “Turf” offers a welcome gravity to Aminé’s collection of singles. Operating like a memory, the music comes in as a set of choppy waves, knocking you around and still managing to steady you. The low notes of his voice resonate through the weight of his memories on the first verse. It’s the simplicity of some of these bars that help the track come together as a mural of Aminé’s hometown: “The food was pretty good but the times was better / These are the only days I missed.”
No move Aminé makes comes without meditation. The groundwork for “Turf” was laid at least two years ago. Looking back to his 2015 mixtape, Calling Brio, “Said and Done” is a close cousin to “Turf”—particularly with a hook tinted by remorse and reminiscing:
“When I'm dead and gone / Will I lose everything I remember? / Will my guilt be the only thing I'm left of / Did I make my father proud?”
All these years later and though the sentiments match up, guilt doesn’t color the hurt Aminé puts forward on “Turf.” In fact, he seems to have reconciled the weight of his responsibilities.
In the end, Aminé has played the game on his own terms. His charting singles are bold, infectious, and have effortlessly branded him. He felt out the crowd on “REDMERCEDES,” trying to expand his color palette. Then he brought us “Turf,” the perfect amalgamation of his bright colors, heartfelt story, vocal range and writing ability. Aminé’s come up was a guided odyssey, and now we’ve landed ashore.
What comes next is to survey the sites on his upcoming debut album, Good For You, which is due out this Friday, July 28.