Ever since Aminé released his single, and self-directed 2016 music video for “Caroline,” the 26-year-old rapper has been on a fast-tracked trajectory to the top. The viral summer-themed music video with striking yellow visuals quickly racked up millions of views, proving that Aminé was one to watch—as a director too. Since then, he’s been busy releasing his debut EP Good For You, a mixtape ONEPOINTFIVE, touring, and performing at countless music festivals with TV performances in-between.
Aminé’s long-awaited and immaculate sophomore offering, Limbo, was recently released and through listening it becomes clear that he’s come a long way from the small Portland neighbourhood of Woodlawn Park—as he recounts on his track “Woodlawn.” Even though much has changed for Aminé, he hasn’t given up the reins on the visual aesthetic of his music videos, and continues to co-direct alongside Jack Begert to keep his visuals consistent since day one. Their recent collaboration for “Compensating,” the sixth track on Limbo, perfectly captures that vacation feeling with his eponymous flare for representing culture, charisma, and humour.
While Aminé acknowledges how far he’s come from the beginning of his career on tracks like “Shimmy” and “Pressure In My Palms,” his lyrics on “My Reality” and “Fetus,” take a more serious note discussing that mid-20s feeling of being in limbo (hence the title of the album) and feeling pressured to figure your life out. Below, Aminé tells us about the detailed creative process that went into Limbo and what it is that keeps him grounded, while still celebrating his success as an artist.
What is a common misconception about your hometown of Woodlawn, Portland?
Everyone’s perception of Portland is very hipster and white. For me, it was important to tell people what part of Portland I was from, and make sure they know there’s another side to it that people aren’t aware of.
What is your earliest music memory?
It was with my mom. She was playing a lot of music on Sunday mornings when she cooked—she would play a lot of Michael Jackson. My dad would only play Bob Marley in the house.
How did Limbo come together?
It was a very intricate process, it wasn’t anything easy like putting together a mixtape. We wrote verses for years and I kept songs for a year or two. A lot of the songs [on the album] have 50 different versions with different production on them because we would take out a snare or drum if we thought it sucked. So, it was a very detailed process to put this album together and it wasn’t easy but I’m really proud of what we ended up with.
Did your creative process for Limbo differ from ONEPOINTFIVE?
ONEPOINTFIVE is called that because I didn’t want it to be my second album. I wanted to give people music, so I gave them a 30-minute project that was really clear and concise. We made all of it in a month in Hawaii. People loved it and we went on a tour for it. That gave us a lot more time to work on Limbo after Good For You [in 2017].
The feeling of being in Limbo is very relatable for people in their mid 20s, who might not know where their life is going. What do you hope that fans take away from the album?
The main thing for me is to let my fans know that I’m the same as them, and I’m still figuring out this thing we call life. I feel like people’s perception of artists and rappers is that our lives are perfect. People are usually jealous of that [perception] and think that we have everything figured out but I don’t think they really understand the hard work that goes into it or the stress that comes with it. Just to let people know that we’re still figuring this shit out, the same way they are.
You’re very involved in all the creative projects that come along with being an artist, why do you prefer to do the visuals yourself rather than hiring other creatives?
For me, I know exactly what I want. I’ve been doing this from day one because I had no money and no one would direct for me. I want to be in the film industry as well, so this is more like me trying to build my name as a director too.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your music and the accompanying visuals?
I draw inspiration from everything. I might be having dinner and somebody might tell a story about their friend and that might trigger an idea for me and I’ll write it down in my phone. I have tons of ideas [that] I’ll randomly write in my notes.
How does it feel to be releasing music without being able to go out and promote it?
It sucks. I had been working on this for two years and I had tons of plans to do things in Toronto, London, L.A., and New York. COVID got rid of the whole interactive, personal experience I could have had with my fans, but as soon as it’s over, I’ll definitely be touring this album.
You’ve discussed how your album title Limbo speaks to how you feel in hip-hop and life, but you’ve built a career by just being yourself. What helps keep you grounded?
What really helps keep me grounded is just being home in Portland. Home always brings you back down to reality. L.A. and New York are these star-studded places— they’re not really real, you know what I mean? It isn’t how everyday people are living. So just being able to be home and do regular things with my mom is what keeps me grounded.
If you could tell your 2016 self anything, before “Caroline” blew up and you were trying to make a career out of music, what would it be?
When are you going to drop the skincare routine?
If Vogue wants to do one of those YouTube videos, those are really cool and entertaining but I’m not a vlogger.
Do you have a skincare routine?
I do a moisturizer routine everyday. I think it’s important as men to clean your face. This is my money maker; I gotta be in music videos so I can’t be grimy.