Aminé really wants you to know his name. Constantly throughout the album, the Portland native reminds us that he is more than just his debut single. Last year, ‘Caroline’ took the world by storm and went on to peak at number 11 on The Billboard 100 in addition to going triple platinum. It’s not a bad way to start a career, but sometimes being a new artist with a big single can be more curse than gift. As catchy as the bouncy hit single was, one could only guess that Aminé wanted to be known not as the guy who made ‘Caroline’, but as a talented rapper with a good ear for melody and quirky flow instead. The debut album is what an artist works their whole life to release. It’s their one chance for a true first impression and it’s a shame how many artists don’t treat it as such. Luckily it feels like Aminé wasn’t rushing or feeling pressure to drop a half-baked album while the single was still in heavy rotation on radio. Whether or not that translates to follow up hits or a sustained career is still up in the air, but for now he’s given us Good For You, his debut effort which comes in at just over 50 minutes long with 15 songs.
Kicking off that tracklist is ‘Veggies’ featuring a Ty Dolla $ign who seems to be inescapable despite not having an album out this year. It begins with a cinematic string section with Aminé spitting bars for the first couple minutes of the track until the beat drops in the second half and the album truly begins. There’s Charlie Wilson hums, a Ty Dolla $ign bridge and more solid raps by Aminé which all combine to culminate in a great start to the album. As the album proceeds, it becomes more and more evident that Aminé’s ear for catchy melodies was not a fluke. In fact after multiple listens of Good For You, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched to say that Aminé’s music has more pop crossover potential than almost any of his contemporaries. He may not have as much of the charismatic flare outside of music as some of his peers, but the music exudes fun and personality on its own.
Some of the most pop leaning moments come early in the album. There’s ‘Yellow’, which finds Nelly riding shotgun and sounds as bright as its name. There’s the aforementioned ‘Caroline’ which doesn’t sound any less fresh in the context of the album than it did as a single last year. Then there’s ‘Spice Girl’, the ode to different types of women that Aminé desires which continues the trend of flutes being hip-hop’s new favorite instrument. His skill shines through on these moments when the beat allows room for his melodies to bend and stretch in ways that other artists can’t. The most refined version of these attributes comes on ‘Hero’. The song has a semi-interlude that opens the track with a plethora of people mispronouncing the rappers name. This only further drives home the point that the rapper yearns for the respect he thinks he deserves. The song itself doesn’t have much to do with people mispronouncing his name, but it is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for Aminé’s staying power on the album. Every twist and turn of ‘Hero’ sounds like a different hook, each more catchy than the last. It’s these pop sensibilities that don’t sound pushed by a label or manufactured in any way that make the carefree bop of his songs as effective as they are.
The album’s strongest run lies smack in the middle. It’s a run that shows an artist who knows how to have fun and craft radio ready singles, one who can slow the tempo and show his spiritual side, and also one who can induce nostalgia with tales of his hometown and upbringing. The first of this three track run is ‘Wedding Crashers’ which brings Offset along to reminisce about a past failed relationship. It’s a song that’s so infectious that it wouldn’t be surprising if the ex that the song was written for actually did play the song at her wedding. If any track could be his next to find its way onto the Billboard charts, it would be this one. The next of the three is the laid back ‘Sundays’. It speaks on faith, depression and how relationships change as fame becomes an added element in someone’s life. Behind the smile and juvenile fun of most of the album is a deeply layered artist that might have used the creation of this album as therapy. Lines such as “Mama Called, she said don’t worry bout me baby, get your problems solved, I told her ask me for whatever, whenever you want, I just went double platinum, mama say my health is more important than my album” represent the type of introspection that artist’s would benefit from displaying more often. He continues that honesty and openness on ‘Turf’ which features an appropriately timed appearance from legend Charlie Wilson. He delivers raps about where he came from and how it and the people from it have changed through the years. The imagery displayed here and the vulnerability in his vocals on the refrain results in one of the best moments on the album.
The biggest surprise on Good For You is how consistent it is from top to bottom. Outside of ‘STFU’ which is the lone misstep due to it verging on corny territory, the album does not suffer from the unevenness that most young artists debuts do. If Amine’s transcendence past a one hit wonder were any question before this album, it is clear that those questions have been answered and then some. There’s room for him to evolve his sound even more in the future, but for the time being Good For You is a perfectly timed summer release by an artist that has something to say, but also knows how to have a good time. In a climate where it seems like artists are either having drug induced fun or making bold political statements with almost no in-between, it’s refreshing to hear an album that plays like a summer day feels. Aminé may not be the best lyricist, he may not be the best singer, and he may not yet be as popular as some of his peers, but one thing is certain: After Good For You, he’s earned the right for you to know his name.
Repeatable: ‘Veggies’, ‘Hero’, ‘Wedding Crashers’, ‘Sundays’, ‘Turf’
By Scott Evans