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Aminé - ONEPOINTFIVE Music Album Reviews

On the Portland rapper’s surprise “EP/LP/Mixtape/Album,” his feel-good music starts to lose some of the stained, lived-in quality that once made it so rich.

Aminé crashed the rap ranks two years ago with an offbeat tease called “Caroline,” which went quadruple-platinum and positioned him as an outsider star. His songs had a knowing wit and a kind of brightness that made him a beacon in an era of rap gloomcasters. But his music has become more vainglorious this summer, for what he's dubbed flexing season. His optimism has waned and he's turned his attention to expensive things—owning them, flaunting them, seeking comfort in them. His new “EP/LP/Mixtape/Album,” ONEPOINTFIVE, the follow-up to 2017’s Good for You, was released on a whim, as if merely a trifle, another casual flex. (“Mixtapes are albums and albums are mixtapes. Niggas call they albums mixtapes cause if it flops, it’s an EP,” he joked in a promo video.) Regardless of classification, ONEPOINTFIVE is a project about adjusting to a new class of rapper, how shifting tax brackets come with a new outlook on life. But in these songs of excess, Aminé’s feel-good music starts to lose some of the stained, lived-in quality that once made it so rich.

The songs on ONEPOINTFIVE aren’t rapped with the same joy as those on Good for You. They are significantly less interesting, less curious, and less story-driven. His swaggering is all bluster, no charm. On songs like “Hiccup” and “DapperDan,” he loses sight of his reflection admiring his jewels, and on “Chingy,” his boasts lack imagination. He’s less clever writing from this space, basically not saying anything Migos haven’t said already.

Aminé used to judge rappers for this kind of talk. Good for You’s “Money” was a thoughtful consumerist critique that weighed tipping the personal scale against the scourges of late capitalism. He imagined stacking coins as a fool’s errand, like drinking salt water to quench one’s thirst. “Money don’t make you happy, it just makes you wanna get richer,” he rapped. He’s richer now, but no less anxious: “Birthdays these days be the worst days/’Cause I know I’m gettin’ older and not happier.” And yet, the new album still devolves into aimless materialist raps that feel empty. There are brief pivots toward the prudence of previous work, to be sure: The opener, “Dr. Whoever” is a frank admission of grief and on “Why?” he raps, “I need love, I’m depressed/I’m a fool, I’m a mess.” But these are tiny thought bubbles popped by shiny objects, blips along a half-hour cruise through new-money trappings.

Positivity has been sold as Aminé’s defining trait, but he is slowly shifting away from that energy. Money can turn friends to hangers-on; turn suitors to opportunists; turn lovers to liabilities; turn a light-hearted upstart rapper into a cynical big shot. Even the palette he and his producer Pasqué are working with is darker, the scenes in his songs more overcast. Aminé once seemed like an outlier, the fun-loving Portland boy content to be himself on rap’s fringes. Now his songs tuck neatly into the contemporary trap fold. That isn’t to say they can’t be satisfying, because Aminé, Pasqué, and Tee-Watt have delivered one of the better-produced trap records of the year with quirky, off-kilter beats that shift and patter in cool ways. But where it felt like only Aminé could make the vibrant Good for You, ONEPOINTFIVE falls squarely into a bracket with the rest of his flex-rap colleagues, and many of them play the showboat better and more convincingly.

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