‘Limbo’ is Aminé’s best album to date

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

Aminé is no stranger to the rap scene — the Portland native has a slew of positively received mixtapes and a quadruple-platinum certified single, “Caroline,” under his belt. But Aminé’s old self is becoming unrecognizable to longtime fans with the new, improved persona he reveals on his second studio album. Released Aug. 7, Limbo is a well-composed confession that though the artist has gone through bouts of uncertainty, he’s well on the road to figuring out who he really is.

Limbo kicks off with “Burden,” in which Aminé begins his journey through the past few years, unpacking personal aspects of his life that he previously may not have ventured into. The rapper suggests that he can’t quite believe some of what he’s experienced, but he’s reached the point where he either shares his qualms now or risks straying further from the more practical lifestyle he hopes to achieve.

Though Aminé does express some dissatisfaction on Limbo, he has always been sure of himself, reflected clearly in his consistently smooth delivery. Songs such as “Woodlawn,” an ode to his hometown, and “Roots,” a love letter to his heritage, are Aminé’s way of assuring himself that though he may be in limbo, he still has his feet grounded. “Roots” stands out as a track that’s unapologetically Aminé, one that’s punchy but soulful and shines through his clandestine identity. “These roots made me, I bring my flowers to the world,” the artist raps, considerably more sure of himself.

Limbo is an album sprinkled with tributes as well, reflecting on influences from Aminé’s mother to late basketball player Kobe Bryant. “It weirdly, like, fast-forwarded my maturity,” he muses about Bryant’s untimely passing on “Kobe.” Each component that has had an effect on who Aminé is today finds a place on Limbo, either tucked away in a line or two or dedicated in an entire song. 

“Pressure in My Palms” is an excellent collaboration with Vince Staples and Slowthai, featuring a deep, commanding beat and a seamless trading off of verses. It fits right into the tale of growth and assertiveness Aminé is weaving with Limbo

Aminé, however, is known for more bite-sized raps than sprawling poems, short songs that get to the point quickly and flawlessly. Limbo finds him expanding his tracks to house multiple verses that each detail a facet of his personality, now able to preach longer, more meaningful messages and add more hooks to draw listeners in. 

On this record, the rapper also turns back to the solid hip-hop beats that serve him well, but incorporates more R&B than his previous works, especially on “Roots” and “Easy.” This shift from primarily hard rap to more melodic vocals is a nice show of range for Aminé, since his prior two releases erred slightly on the side of homogeneity.

2017’s Good for You and 2018’s OnePointFive represented Aminé breaking out as a new rap star, making a long-lasting name for himself. But both releases were strongly underscored by the undeniable yet common need to impress those getting to know Aminé for the first time. This tendency to cater to what people may have wanted rather than to present the vulnerability the artist truly wanted to project doesn’t rear its head on Limbo. In fact, “Shimmy” is the record’s only song that seems like it could have been on one of Aminé’s previous releases, and only because it sounds the most instrumentally similar to those songs.

Limbo undoubtedly feels less forced and commercialized than some of Aminé’s previous releases. It’s more from the heart, as the artist is no longer trying to pretend he’s so carefree. And while Aminé chooses not to dwell on his former shortcomings and changes of circumstance, he has no problem switching between the past, present and future in a thoroughly comprehensive introspection. Limbo is Aminé’s best work to date, a flowing realization that he’s growing up and ready to take on the responsibilities that come with maturation.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.