Limbo: the okayest album of the Summer

Joe Molander on why he didn't love or loathe Aminé's latest release

Joe Molander
27th August 2020

When a journalist cares more about clicks than reporting, it’s tempting to resort to sensationalism, and that includes album reviews. Releases stop being five or six out of tens, and start being either the best or worst thing ever made. Aminé’s latest album is neither: it’s a competent offering from a competent artist, but rarely exerts itself beyond that.

One of the album’s problems is the lack of theme, which stands out in a year that has seen a minor resurgence in concept albums. Run the Jewels took on politics, Charli XCX made an album with her fans, and Taylor Swift did a whole album where she pretended to be likeable. Aminé, on the other hand, flits from one subject to the next. He tries politics – “When your skin harder, Shit gets harder,” he raps on the opening track – but gets bored. A couple of songs later, there’s an interlude about Kobe Bryant. By the end of the album, he’s talked about his mum, girl troubles, Hollywood’s drug problem and Steve Harvey getting his name wrong.

That’s not say it isn’t well done: the discussion about Kobe is genuinely heartfelt. ‘Becky’ ties racism and ennui together in a way that few of his contemporaries would even try. “I’m fed up with the mall, I’m fed up with my dawgs, I’m fed up with the looks that we get in restaurants, And no it’s not a law but you know we ain’t the same,” he explains.

The main problem is that the absence of theme comes from a lack of focus. The beats are well done – again, competent – but repetitive, and kept at such a lukewarm tempo that they never really excite. The album does muster a few good songs: ‘Pressure In My Palms’ and ‘Burden’, the opening track, manage to be more playful. They still seem like the exception rather than the rule. 

This isn’t an album that’s bad enough to ask questions like “what happened?”, but it’s still worth considering why it isn’t as good as its predecessors. Aminé makes clear on the album that he’s in a state of flux. He knows he’s getting older, and it’s worrying him. “Maybe I’m the one who needs the Lord to save me,” he considers. Even the album’s name evokes the feeling of not knowing where you belong.

Brockhampton released Iridescence after dealing with Ameer Vann’s messy – and public – departure from the group. Initially lauded, fans later realised the album was far from the band’s best. Aminé seems to be going through a similarly stressful transition on Limbo. As a result, the album reminds hip-hop fans that Aminé exists, but not much else. In places, he’s considerably more mature than the ‘Caroline’-style rap that made his name. He seems ready to do something more substantive, and he is close, but isn’t quite there yet. That’s why his latest effort is the okayest album of the Summer.


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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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