Portland Rapper Aminé Charms on His Second Major Label Album, but the Production Isn’t as Unique as He Is

With a big-budget sheen and packed guest list, “Limbo” further validates the young MC as a wiz at concocting breezy, lovetorn anthems built for playlist placements.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Republic Records.

Aminé is a star the likes of which most Portland hip-hop fans never expected to see in their lifetimes.

In four years, the 26-year-old rapper went from a Portland State dropout self-releasing mixtapes to major-label prodigy. He didn't just happen to grow up here, either: He reps the city incessantly, shouting out local haunts from Du's Grill to Woodlawn Park on songs with worldwide distribution, and rapping next to the glass spires of the Oregon Convention Center roof in music videos.

He's bold and charismatic, with technicolor visuals and a sitcom-ready smile—see his recent cameo as a hot, lovable doofus on HBO's Insecure.

It's a success story so swift and unexpected that if it ended after one record, Portland would still be thankful it happened at all. But Limbo, Aminé's second full-length album for Universal subsidiary Republic Records, keeps the dream alive, insofar as it doesn't step too far outside what worked on his 2017 debut, Good for You.

Related: Aminé's Major Label Debut Is a Summer Party Record With More on Its Mind Than Just Good Times.

With a big-budget sheen and packed guest list, Limbo further validates the young MC as a wiz at concocting breezy, lovetorn anthems built for playlist placements. On "RiRi," Aminé reminisces fondly about a ride-or-die ex—rumored to be R&B singer Kehlani—over a smooth guitar lick. "Compensating," a duet with Young Thug, comes close to recapturing the pop magic of his breakout hit "Caroline," with its croaky crooned chorus, thudding bassline and swiveling toms.

Indeed, a lot of Limbo sounds familiar, and it's not just reminiscent of Aminé's past glories. As on Good for You, he again chases production trends without adding enough of his own signature. "Woodlawn Park" is layered over the same flute-trap beat Southern MCs moved on from long ago, while "Can't Decide" borrows the strums and squeaky drum patterns of Compton rapper YG's "Go Loko" from last year.

Aminé almost salvages these less original moments through sheer charm—almost. Where he truly shines, though, are on love songs. Like a pop singer in the 1950s, he sounds most at home tackling timeworn matters of the heart. "Easy," a strummy back-and-forth with singer Summer Walker, could have been written about the roller-coaster relationship at the center of this season of Insecure.

His appearance on that show seems like an important intersection in Aminé's career: One way or another, the kid from Portland is clearly bound for ever-bigger things. But it's still up for debate which path exactly is going to get him there.

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