Limbo: A Review
Adam Aminé Daniel, better known as Aminé, is a Portland-born, Los Angeles-based rapper who started making waves with the release of his first commercial single “Caroline” from his first studio album Good For You; which peaked at 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Starting his career as a 2017 XXL Freshman, Aminé showed nothing but raw potential. With Good For You peaking at 19 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Mr. Yellowman solidified his name in the discussion of prolific newcomers for the foreseeable future. Following up on Good For You came ONEPOINTFIVE, a mixtape known for the track “REEL IT IN” which charted respectably at 33 on Billboard. Now, after a two-year hiatus, Aminé makes a return with Limbo, debatably the rappers most focused album in both concept and execution.
This record focuses on life and how quickly it comes and goes. Using the all-too-recent tragedy surrounding the Bryant family, Aminé finds himself spiraling through a quarter-life crisis where he tosses his youthful innocence away in exchange for learning how to live his life to the fullest. Sprinkled throughout the tracklist are many subtle and not-so-subtle references to the Mamba and how his influence led Aminé to become the person he is today. The track “Kobe” has the rapper on a short monologue where he discusses the impact of the basketball star’s death on his recent and sudden maturity. The name Limbo is also a nod to the rapper’s mental state as he finds himself stuck between being an adult and wanting to regain his childhood innocence while seeking guidance.
Despite the grown-up themes mentioned throughout the album, the intro track “Burden” has a first verse that best sums up this album as “…Some s**t you go and pick your homie up from jail with.” As odd of a description as this is, I find it very fitting to the overall vibe of this tracklist as tracks like “Woodlawn” and “Pressure in My Palms” are the main highlights to this record acting as feel-good turn-up tracks that also touch on the rapper’s success with the right amount of flexing and braggadocio. Aminé has always added a comedic element to most of his tracks and with Limbo he doesn’t fail to deliver. The opening verse to “Pressure In My Palms” starts with the line “This is Brittney Spears when she was bald n***a”; a playful yet appropriate teaser into the crazy theme of the track. Short features from Slowthai and Vince Staples help keep the track alive before a beautiful and smooth transition to the second half of the song which features a beautiful set of concluding bars from Aminé.
“Roots (feat. JID & Charlie Wilson)” and “Shimmy” are both lyrical bangers. The latter takes heavy inspiration from Old Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang fame and wears this proudly on its sleeve. From the production to vocal samples, Shimmy is a wonderful interpolation of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” that brings some nostalgic old school rap vibes to the project while adding elements of new school. “Roots” is a fun track with JID and Charlie Wilson complementing Aminé’s vocals remarkably well. Also being a promising up-and-comer, JID shows out with playful and funny lyrics that bring out the best qualities of what an Aminé record should be.
Tracks like “Can’t Decide”, “Riri” and “Becky” all serve as love tracks that focus on forbidden love and the emotions that go into relationships. “Can’t Decide” discusses the dynamic between Aminé and a girl who are friends/lovers and how the confusion of their status affects his emotions. This track features not only a beautiful melody sung by Aminé but an equally beautiful and infectious hook that manages to cement itself in your head. “Riri”, originally one of the albums singles, touches on the struggles of being a well-known and wealthy celebrity with many women looking to take advantage of that position. It’s a simple track that is fun and enjoyable but fails to really stand out when partnered with the rest of the tracklist. Lastly, “Becky” has an interesting subject matter that sheds light on the struggles of being an interracial couple and how some families still find it as an issue in 2020. This is another track that generally falls under the radar for me as the production is toned down compared to the rest of this project. Aminé’s bars and singing are good, but like the production, they fail to live up to the expectations built by its constituents.
“Compensating (feat. Young Thug)” is a catchy song with appropriate production and an even more appropriate Young Thug feature. This track discusses a lover’s quarrel between Aminé and a girl who he’s been with before his rise to fame. Thug’s falsetto helps to deliver the melodic yet pained chorus of the track. This song doesn’t quite jump out to me compared to the rest of the tracklist, but I wouldn’t necessarily skip it either.
“Easy (feat. Summer Walker)” is not good. This track doesn’t really provide much in terms of concept and the delivery from both Aminé and Summer Walker are subpar at best. The message, which is the only redeeming component of this track, discusses the difficulties of love and how we should be grateful for the love we have in our families. Honestly, this track is almost always a skip due to how drawn out and derivative it is. The message itself really isn’t all that original and the tone it sets doesn’t sync well with the rest of the tracklist. Had Walker been substituted for Ty Dolla $ign, there may have been some redemption to this track; but as it stands, I can’t stand it.
Mama, while unoriginal in concept, provides one of the most wholehearted tracks on the album. Similar to the ode this track makes to Tupac’s “Dear Mama”, this song is simply a song of appreciation from Aminé to his mom. Rappers from the founding days of hip-hop to modern day have tracks with similar or identical subject matter. Despite this and due to the personal nature of these types of song, I tend to give them more leeway as they really aren’t intended for the audience more-so than the listener, being Aminé’s mom. It’s a beautiful track that pours emotion and sincerity.
“Fetus (feat. Injury Reserve)” takes some risks with its outlandish production consisting of what I can only call screeches and odd reverbs. While this may be off-putting to some, I don’t personally mind it as it draws more focus to the lyrics and message of the song; being the struggles of Aminé wanting a child but not wanting to raise it in the current state of our world. An unintentional but powerful inclusion on the track is Injury Reserve, featuring the recently deceased Groggs who powerfully delivers one of the best bars of the album, saying: “I hope I can be half the father that my Mama was, I hope I can be half the father that the Mamba was.”
Lastly, we arrive on “My Reality”, the curtain close of this album. This track’s production mirrors that of Kanye West during the Graduation era of his career with its uses of vocals, synthesizers and vocoding. In this track, Aminé reflects on the life he has, stating how his reality is his fantasy; consisting of no problems or worries and serves as a powerful closer to what I consider to be a fantastic project.
Aminé has been under my radar until this point. While I barely listened to Good For You and found myself indulging in some of the tracks on ONEPOINTFIVE, this was the first project from the Portland rapper that I decided to sit down with and experience what it had to offer; and I am so happy that I did. This album features some of the most concise track lists I’ve heard in 2020 alongside some wonderful production that features a heavier emphasis on T-Minus’ contributions.
While only having a run time of 44 minutes, I find that this is the perfect example of good things coming in small packages. Most of the tracks are beautifully crafted; but those that aren’t tend to fall extra flat due to the expectations set by the others. I really want to give this album an 8 but I know that that is just a little too high for this project. However, I rate this album with the strongest 7/10 I can give.
Rating: 7/10- Great
Written By: Michael Miserendino