Photo: Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images
  /  08.21.2018

Long before Aminé took rap seriously, he took to music as a serial diss-rapper; he would release diss tracks aimed at local rival high schools when their sports teams competed against each other. This brought him local eminence that made his high school experience the stuff of legend. He graduated and realized that he missed the comedic atmosphere that rap brought him into at the time, so he began to take music seriously. A few short years later, in 2016, he released the endlessly jovial “Caroline,” introducing the trademark panache that he has become known for. His debut album Good for You came on June 22, 2017, a week after he was christened as one of XXL’s Freshman Class of that year.

There was much of Aminé to adore in Good for You, mainly his goofball shtick which, according to Pitchfork, “the playfulness of the image belies its actual content.” In the album’s accompanying newspaper release (undoubtedly due to writer roots, he interned at Complex while enrolled in college), he explained depression through the eyes of an ex-girlfriend. But that essay was about as dark as it got; Good for You, with the exception of standout “Sundays” with its melancholy and introspective bliss, is every bit as carefree and energetic as the man that created it. It became one of the year’s most surprisingly good projects, establishing Aminé as someone that knows more about rap than he lets on. This politically correct performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon helped as well.

It’s been almost a year and a month since Good for You came out and, in the time since, Aminé was mostly off the radar, save for the random single “Squeeze,” the eclectic video for “Campfire,” and a tenacious freestyle over the Clipse’s beat for “Momma I’m Sorry,” prior to the surprise announcement and release of ONEPOINTFIVE on August 15. Marketed as an “”LP/EP/Mixtape/Album” according to his official video teaser released a day prior, ONEPOINTFIVE is as stark a turn in artistry as Kanye West’s slide from Graduation to 808s and Heartbreak. It’s immediately clear why it took so long to get more of Aminé; he’s been living it up to the fullest: enjoying the thrills, swallowing his Ls, and coping. ONEPOINTFIVE is the polar opposite of Good for You, and that’s what makes it work. Through making it a goal to explore the inverse of what the world typically knows him for, ONEPOINTFIVE is Aminé’s best work—and of 2018’s biggest, surprising successes thus far.

Of course, being one of 2018’s best creative works, by itself, isn’t much of an accomplishment. There’ve been a plethora of releases this year that have missed the mark. As music critic Gary Suarez recently told Vibe, this could be because of rap’s changing guard. The miscommunication between generations could account for lackluster singles and flat-out creative misfires. Perhaps the most glaring is ye, Kanye’s middling June album that makes for a great drink coaster. ‘Ye prefaced the album’s release with a two-month Trump-endorsement campaign to ruffle some feathers, then released an album that largely avoided its fallout. His attempt at world-building felt flat. ye, while attempting to explore new ground and traverse the innards of Kanye’s decaying psyche, didn’t work at all.

ONEPOINTFIVE is, dare I say it, the correct version of ye. It’s a dark, claustrophobic album that prides itself on sucking the air out of the room. That room is the ballroom, hotel room, or any other locale that comes with fame. As Aminé tells us throughout the album, fame sucks—really, really bad. Mostly on a mental level, but he brings us into his mind. The definitions of those dooms and glooms and the mental insecurities that come with them are much like ye attempts to get at. But ONEPOINTFIVE succeeds because of its authenticity and lack of attention-drawing escapades outside of the music.

“DR. WHOEVER” begins the escapade on the glummest of notes, being a confessional therapy session where Aminé spills of what’s become of his life. “Man, I’ve thought about suicide a hundred times,” he spits out in the opening, and it doesn’t feel like a ploy to blend into the mix of emotionally-pertinent rappers of the moment. The listener plays the therapist listening to him vent and it gets hard at times; he nary lets up for a breath. When he does for the chorus, he explains himself and the purpose for his miserable intro. But it sets the precedent for the rest of the project’s aesthetic to enrapture us in. From there, it only gets darker.

Aminé’s darker doesn’t always come from the dreary topics that comprise emo-rap, it can also be derived from meaningless rap—something that he’s avoided in the past because he was so intent on being the sensible, bubbly lad with something to say. But here, he’s sunken into a place of purposeful uniformity where even the meaningless statements hold a darker purpose. “HICCUP” is the kind of spacey, galaxy-trap song that bolsters the cool factor, but doesn’t add much in the way of building character. Similarly, “REEL IT IN” is built in a similar vein of “words thrown together” rap that comprises what we consider swag rap. With Aminé, it sounds depressing; hell, even he doesn’t sound that much into it. But regardless, it just sounds good. They’re both polished, the production on both rely on palettes outside of typical trap rap sounds, and they’re ear worms (the Gunna feature on the former is one of the project’s standouts).

Mixed into him delving into his lack of meaning in life, his infatuation with money also plays a large part in his ravaged mental state. He covered the evils of money on “Money” from Good for You; now he’s reveling in the same vice he once slammed. The love of money, for all of the success it has brought him, is also ripping him apart. On the dark, piano-dominant banger “CHINGY,” the very first thing that comes from his mouth is the diamond clarity rating of his pinky ring. His delivery on the track is lurching, painful even. As the piano blares on and the track moves furiously fast, Aminé’s fascination with his new luxe standards plays as both a revelation of disgust and a strange obsession. “SUGARPARENTS” translates his luxe pockets into a means of slandering women looking for financial security in his bank account. Rico Nasty, another of the album’s rare features, speaks with a tantalizing hum that, while of a similar sentiment, differs in the tenacity of the delivery. The two make for an interesting vocal juxtaposition that plays well. Sprinkled throughout the album’s narrative are further hints that the smog of financial stability is choking Aminé. He may adventure into something more random like the composition of his hair (“CANTU”) or the obsessive tendencies of young-20s romance, but money and its problems arise time and time again, even acting as a screening mechanism for friendship (“DAPPERDAN”).

On a surface level, it may appear that Aminé’s finally become one of the boilerplate rappers that he despises. But the pain and anguish can be felt in each bar, as meaningless as they are, mainly because of the opening’s bare-palm explanation of the emptiness of his life. Good for You was filled with the splendor of new money and life circumstances. Now that it’s settled in, ONEPOINTFIVE is a companion project that acts as the follow-up addendum, similar to Catfish, that explores what’s changed since then. In Aminé’s case, it’s not so good. Money has changed the composition of his beliefs and made him more in tune with the problems inflicting their wrath on his conscious. His ability to translate these wraths into thrilling musical escapades outside of his realm of typical bubbly aesthetic is delightful, and it makes for a thrilling analysis of his decaying moral sensibilities, even if we do feel as if he should safeguard his brain whilst creating music in this vein.

In an ideal world, ONEPOINTFIVE is the creation of a new character for Aminé; the birth of a new identity so that darker sounds explored in this creative tangent don’t impact the good-standing nature of his established aesthetic. But this feels genuine; Aminé is deeply impacted by the celebrity that he has acquired. The music that comes from it exudes emotional atmosphere while lacking thematic content. Aminé’s did what Kanye attempted to do with ye, through the explanation of his emotions and translating it to atmosphere instead of deeper-than-surface rap. I dare say that this is the kind of creative evolution that more artists need, but not at the expense of their psyche. Let ONEPOINTFIVE become the example of how to properly channel emotional growth and decay without becoming preachy or excessively campy.

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