“I’m a young dread-head with anxiety,” asserts Aminé, late in the second verse of “Reel It In,” off his newest mixtape OnePointFive. It’s a strikingly honest sentiment, something the young Portland rapper has come up with frequently since his breakout release Good For You last year. The problem is, that good bar is preceded and followed by a lot of empty flexing like “And I love it when a bitch ni**a tryin me.” Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with flexes — the rap game kinda runs on them, in fact — but after the ambitious storytelling-through-therapy-session track that introduces this mixtape, “Dr. Whoever,” the realization of a lower stakes set feels like a letdown. At a breezy 35 minutes (a whole 20 minutes shorter than Good for You), OnePointFive has more shape and emotional directness than Aminé’s last effort, but it also never reaches the same heights.
The minimalist beats are ethereal, easygoing, and narcotic; the delicate, slightly distorted synth chords of “Why?” sound like cloud rap had sex with trap, with a fat, bouncing bass line propelling Aminé’s repetitive stream of “why why why why why why why” forward. The non-sequitur ending of the track showcases another flash of inspiration: a layered chorus of voices singing as one over reverb-drenched surf-rock guitar. These sonic flourishes are enough, for awhile, to distract from Aminé’s uncharacteristically banal lyricism. But the more times you listen, the less substantive things seem: “Sugarparents” is about being rich. “DapperDan” is about being fresh. Aminé always delivers a certain verve, weaving vocal flourishes and ad libs into the bars themselves, like the hook on “Hiccup” (“Diamonds on my biiiiiiiiiih / uh huh”). But in a year oversaturated with Gunna features, the one we’re ‘treated’ to here (also on “Hiccup”) is still one of the worst. (And that’s to say nothing of Aminé silly couplet “Atlanta for a week / Gonna start to bumpin’ Gunna,”). The track “Cantu” stands out because it revels in it’s own cheekiness (it’s a song about the artist’s hair, after all), with one of the recurring skits from Rickey Thompson ending the track on a high note and offering some playful barbs directed towards touchy white people with a fascination with nappy hair. OnePointFive’s pleasures are obvious, accessible, but they tend not to be too deep.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 2