Charting Aminé’s sonic progression proves to be quite the fulfilling task on his sophomore effort, Limbo. The 26-year-old emcee made major waves in the rap game with his 2017 debut album, Good For You, a playful and adventurous project that showcased not only his lyricism but also his undeniable charisma. Its big breakout single, “Caroline,” was a mirthful infatuation romp that was simply infectious.
Although this light-hearted nature dominated Good For You in its entirety, Limbo takes more of an existential turn as Aminé earnestly wonders what comes after that initial rush of success. Opening track “Burden,” with its wailing rhythms and pulsating beat, is what Aminé teases at the beginning as “some shit you go and pick your homey up from jail with.”
“Woodlawn” indulges in the rapper’s trap temptations while celebrating the Northeast Portland neighborhood he grew up in. His brief “Kobe” interlude is surprising in its potency; Aminé’s vulnerability coupled with the realization of his own mortality is piercing, yet soft. His ability to look so powerfully inward stands in sharp contrast to the man we were introduced to three years ago.
“Roots,” which is soulfully accompanied by JID and the one and only Charlie Wilson, leans into Aminé’s more self-deprecating side (“If being ugly was pretty / I’d be the shit”) and fearlessly embraces who he really is. Good For You was saturated with an array of party-starters; its follow-up takes a solemn look at Aminé’s life and shares the findings.
“Can’t Decide” and “Compensating” (featuring Young Thug) showcase Aminé’s impressive skill of making his vocals—which sway between syrupy cadences and hard-hitting verses—effortlessly melt into quirky melodies. One of Limbo’s standout moments, “Shimmy,” pays homage to the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard by interpolating his infamous track “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” with gritty delivery.
“Easy,” a collaboration with Summer Walker, is a sultry and slightly wistful listen that proves the two artists complement each other perfectly. “Mama” takes a note from Tupac’s playbook with his take on the quintessential maternal dedication anthem; “Becky” brings the qualms of interracial dating to the forefront (“Mama said never bring a white girl home to me”). Aminé’s sensitivity around the subject is off-putting, though. Limbo centers his unique experience as a Black man trying to navigate a complex and slightly corrupt world; “Becky” throws off this sentiment as he describes a forbidden love with a white woman. Although it’s audibly pleasing, the topic seems anachronistic compared to the rest of the album, which feels timely and urgent.
“Fetus” explores the possibility of fatherhood for a younger Aminé—although it never came to fruition. “Reality,” the album’s final song, brings everything full circle as our protagonist comes to terms with success and all of its proverbial pitfalls. As Aminé delves deep inside himself to excavate his most vulnerable parts, listeners are on the receiving end of a restlessly pensive poet eager to discover the meaning of fulfillment.
By no means does Aminé have all of the answers as to what constitutes happiness in a world that prioritizes materialism over people and bragging rights over thoughtful gestures. But he is at least starting to ask the questions, which are inevitable in evolution.
Candace McDuffie is a culture writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Rolling Stone, MTV, NBC News, and Entertainment Weekly. You can follow her on Instagram @candace.mcduffie.