Aminé can do it all. His line "Some days I'm Gandhi and some days I'm Boosie" is an apt way of analyzing his approach to music. Crash landing at the intersection of rap and world music with his mixtape Calling Brio, Aminé achieves what so many try and fail to do; creative songwriting with no loss of intensity or passion. Representing Portland, a music city without a firm foothold in the national rap scene, Aminé could be just the man for putting it on the hip-hop map, already dominating the airwaves of Oregon and stretching his influence beyond.
The son of Ethiopian immigrants, Aminé grew up in a house with eclectic music stylings and embraced every genre. As a high schooler, Aminé found rap as many do; a love of poetry and an outlet for roasting your friends. Aminé bridges the gap between old and new, flows alternating between technical and loopy, hitting the lyrical pockets before going a little more out there. His production choices explore the sounds of the present and past, American and global, creatively using a diverse range of drums, vocal samples, and melodies, at one point even grunge (your Northwest is showing). He's got a little bit of everything, and it's very effective. He wears his influences on his sleeve confidently because he never loses sight of his sound. Tupac's storytelling, Kanye's cinematic composition, Outkast's patience, but Aminé's mind.
His output has been in spurts, with two vivid benchmarks. Calling Brio dropped last summer, high flying and far from what you expected. The production is adjacent to electronic music, sharper than much of what you'll be hearing from that genre, combined with a heavy afro/world influence. Produced entirely by Kaytranada, Pasqué, Boybeatsworld and Tek.Lun, Calling Brio is as move-able as philosophical, exploring Aminé's identity as an artist and a man ("shorty want my net worth to be more than my self worth"). And for the time being, "Zzzz" is my new favorite song, period. Diving into a seemingly conventional take on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" over a marimba-hip-hop beat pairing, the track is fun, almost goofy, before morphing into something so much deeper. "Zzzz" is a complete re-imagining of a song almost everyone knows, taking something universally upbeat and twisting it into a solemn reflection. Incredible.
Calling Brio came out during the summer of 2015, but Aminé has kept his name on the lips of music lovers. His blazing single "Caroline" touches all the bases of a heatwave track, hitting a sweet spot between hype and slow-cooked laziness. "Caroline" is an honest-to-god organic hit, looking at almost 3 million views on 3 minutes of music with little help beyond word of mouth. For Chicago fans, it all came together at Reggie's two weekends ago, when Aminé made an appearance at Joey Purp's Lolla after-party. The task of opening for Joey Purp isn’t an easy one, given the significant nature of the concert for Joey, deep into SaveMoney's summer. But Aminé blasted off the moment he was front and center, winning over a picky crowd with undeniable stage presence. Gracing the audience with a full spectrum of tracks from Calling Brio before closing off on the one and only “Caroline", he took a small opening slot and approached the mic like a hyena, not a second under the lights wasted.
My favorite line of Aminé’s must be off the track “Summer Feelz”, where he opines that ”the summer breeze resembles the devil’s breathe.” Beautiful, and a demonstration of the thoughtfulness and clarity behind Aminé's success. He’s got his sound, but with words like this, he could cover any sub-genre of rap, if he needed to. No need, however. Aminé is going bananas being Aminé.