From OutKast to Steven Spielberg, the artists who move culture forward don’t simply inhabit this world; they create their own. That’s exactly what Aminé did on his 2017 full-length debut, Good For [Republic Records]. Buoyed by his RIAA triple-platinum breakout smash “Caroline,” “REDMERCEDES,” and “Wedding Crashers” [feat. Offset], the album immediately made an indelible impact upon arrival. XXL chose him for a coveted spot as one of its 2017 “Freshman Class” cover stars. In his first major profile, The New York Times described the record as “amiable, inventive and idiosyncratic, one of the year’s most intriguing hip-hop albums and also a bold statement of left-field pop,” while Pitchfork appropriately called it “the soundtrack for an almost sober drive home.” Between explosive sets at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and beyond, he delivered show-stopping performances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and more, solidifying himself as a force of nature on stage.
It’s almost hard to believe that the rise of one of hip-hop’s most innovative ingenues happened in Portland, OR—a city more known for hipster rock, coffee, and, well, strip clubs.
However, Aminé could very well change that perception.
“You don’t ever think of a rapper or even a black guy coming out of Portland,” he asserts. “That’s just not a thing! However, there’s a fairly diverse subculture in the city that few people know about. It’s very different from what you would expect.”
However, everything he does defies expectations. The rapper, artist, and director draws equal influence from his parents’ Ethiopian heritage as he does from trailblazers such as Kanye West and André 3000. He’s more likely to record in a remote AirBNB’ed wilderness cabin than he is in a posh studio, and he cites Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson as major inspirations. Building on a lifelong passion for music, he began recording in high school and quietly sharpening his mic skills. While attending Portland State University, he released his 2015 project Calling Brio. Merging visual lyricism, swaggering production, and his clever, catchy bars, it became a phenomenon on Soundcloud, racking up over 1 million+ plays. In addition to praise from Pigeons & Planes, HypeTrak, and more, Complex spotlighted him as “one of the artists we’re certainly checking for this year.”
“I’m a fan of all genres,” he explains. “My parents always played African music and Bob Marley. Then, I grew up on everything from Erykah Badu to John Mayer. I want to do something that reflects this diversity. My songs need to be good for the listener personally.”
Representing that mosaic style, “Caroline” struts through a funked-up tribal bounce with the kind of grit and gusto that’d make Jules Winfield and Vincent Vega proud. Upon release, it quickly caught fire, garnering 255 million-plus Spotify streams, 76.1 million-plus Soundcloud plays, and 186 million-plus YouTube/VEVO views as well as reaching #7 on Spotify’s U.S. Top 50 Chart, #1 on Spotify’s Global Viral Top 50, #1 on the US Viral Top 50, and #1 on the Canada Viral Top 50. As the track first took off independently, he inked a deal with Republic Records and “Caroline” is peaked at #11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs Chart.
“With ‘Caroline,’ I wanted to make an encouraging and fun record,” Aminé goes on. “It really happened in the moment, and it’s a feel good song.”
It’s also just the beginning. Aminé has a lot more surprises up his sleeve for Portland, hip-hop, and the world at large.
“I never want a basic reaction,” he leaves off. “I want you to always have questions. I hope to challenge listeners to wonder why. Those are the artists I care about.”
Good For You ultimately proved to be good for hip-hop and the culture at large. As evidence of his impact, “Caroline” scored a quadruple-platinum certification from the RIAA as Good For You went gold. Maintaining this momentum, he released his self-described 2018 “EPLPMIXTAPEALBUM ONEPOINTFIVE”. Acclaim came from Pitchfork, HipHopDX, and High Snobiety who claimed “Aminé’s trunk-rattling ‘ONEPOINTFIVE’ turns rough cuts into gems.” Meanwhile, the lead single “Reel It In” put up impressive numbers with global consumption exceeding 200K...in under a month.
However, it set the stage for even bigger things to come with his forthcoming 2019 second full-length. He’ll undoubtedly change the culture once more.