Photo: Micaiah Carter
Aminé Talks New Album 'Limbo,' Portland Protests And Black Lives Matter
GRAMMY.com spoke with the 26-year-old rapper about taking his time on his sophomore album, his love for Kobe Bryant and finding peace in not always knowing what's next
As fans hungrily devour Limbo, his newly released sophomore album, Aminé can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Over two years in the making, the LP marks his official follow-up to his 2017 debut, Good For You. After generating a promising buzz, starting with his 2016 summer smash, "Caroline," Aminé released a placeholder mixtape, OnePointFive, in 2018. In between, he took his time to carefully craft Limbo.
"I couldn't have made the same album if I'd only had six months to make it," the 26-year-old rapper told GRAMMY.com just a few days after he released Limbo. "It meant a lot to me, so I gave every song the time and care that it deserved."
Limbo comes full circle for Aminé in several ways. The album is a mature sophomore project—it features tributes to his mother as well as his icon from his hoop-dream days, Kobe Bryant—yet pines for simpler days when he wasn't expected to have everything figured out. The album features familiar faces, including Charlie Wilson, Injury Reserve, J.I.D, Vince Staples, slowthai, Summer Walker and Young Thug.
Limbo also arrives as thousands of protestors have demonstrated in the streets of Aminé's hometown of Portland for more than two consecutive months in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in May. Born to Ethiopian and Eritrean parents, the rapper shares his experience as a Black man who grew up in the predominantly white city, which was once a Northwestern epicenter for segregation and deep-seated racism.
"For a city to be so liberal, it was so racist—the way I was brought up," he reflects. "It's the place where I grew up and I love it to death, but it's also a place that never made me feel like I was welcome."
GRAMMY.com spoke with Aminé about taking his time on Limbo, supporting the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland and finding peace in not always knowing what's next.
Congratulations on releasing Limbo! You've been working on this album since before you dropped OnePointFive in 2018. How does it feel now that your new album is finally out?
It was a bit nerve-racking, 'cause it's like your baby. But it feels really, really good. It kind of feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Why did this album take two years to release?
I think that's just where I was at in my life. The platinum plaques and gold albums are really cool, but I had certain artistic places that I knew I hadn't gone yet, and there were still certain things I wanted to achieve. And I knew I wanted to make a more mature album. Not to discredit my past work, but they are fairly different. I just feel like, I'm 26 now, I'm a bit older, and I'm trying to make an album that will last 20, 30 years from now.
There are several Kobe Bryant references on Limbo. Did you ever get to meet him? Or was he just a big role model for you?
No, I never even got to meet him. He was just somebody I looked up to. I didn't pursue music my whole life—I pursued basketball. He was just someone where, I never knew a life without him, which is what that ["Kobe"] skit is kind of about.
There are also lots of references to Portland on the album. Being from Portland, are you surprised by how many people have showed up to support the Black Lives Matter movement there? Or do you think the protests have been a long time coming for the city?
I'm generally not surprised because Portland is liberal. It's literally the definition [of] liberal. Everyone in that city has a Black Lives Matter post in front of their lawn; they support the movement, and they've said that for years. But the history of [Portland] is kind of hypocritical.
For a city to be so liberal, it was so racist—the way I was brought up. So for me, Portland is just like the South. Growing up there, it never felt welcoming for anyone who was Black or any sort of minority or was an immigrant. Them [protesting] is a beautiful thing—I love the protesting. But it's also like, I'm not gonna send my Black family or Black friends out there to protest. Because if they're beating up white people, what do you think they're gonna do to us?
Them protesting is what they should've done 20, 30 years ago. So I guess it is a long time coming. But the problem is, the people that are protesting are the same people that are moving the Black people out of Portland neighborhoods and gentrifying the hell out of the city. So my love for Portland is like a bittersweet relationship … It's the place where I grew up and I love it to death, but it's also a place that never made me feel like I was welcome.
Have you been involved in the Portland efforts at all, whether through protesting or donating?
In Portland, I've only really helped my friends and spread the word. For me, there's a lot of other places and Black people that I can support, whether it's feeding the Black people in Portland or supporting Black businesses; I've given money to Black businesses in Portland.
I love your song "Mama" on Limbo. Does your mom like it?
Yeah. [Laughs.] My mom loves it. She cried the first time she heard it, which was cool.
What made you want to write a song for your mom?
I had been trying to write a song for my mother, to be honest with you, for years. I tried to put it on Good For You. I tried to put it on OnePointFive. But you only really get one shot at making that kind of song, so I cut those songs because I didn't feel like they were good enough. This was the first time I had made one that felt really perfect. The beat was so joyful and soulful, I was like, "We have to put this on this album."
The features on Limbo seem very full circle. For example, you collaborate with Young Thug and team up with Injury Reserve and Charlie Wilson again. Was that intentional?
I didn't really plan them out, it was more so like I was a big fan of all of these features. Like J.I.D, he wanted me to send him the beat to "Roots" for a while, and I wouldn't text it to him because the music meant so much to me that I wanted him to record his verse in person. So seven months later, he pulled up and recorded his verse, just 'cause he's my homie and he knew how much this album meant to me.
Were most of these collaborations recorded pre-quarantine then?
Yeah, all of these songs were made like a year and a half ago. There's been like 50 different versions of them. I've treated this project like it's the highest of importance. It meant a lot to me, so I gave every song the time and care that it deserved … I couldn't have made the same album if I'd only had six months to make it. Songs like "Roots," there's a line that people really love right now where I say, "Eritrea, Ethiopia, Habesha utopia." I didn't add that line until a year later. Things like that, making the perfect verse, takes a lot of time.
Where were some of the places you recorded Limbo?
All over the place! We recorded with slowthai in London. We recorded with Vince [Staples] in L.A. We recorded "Easy" with Summer Walker in Jamaica. We recorded "Compensating" and "Can't Decide" and "My Reality" and "Shimmy" in Toronto. We recorded in Portland, too; we did "Pressure In My Palms" there.
I know you direct most of your music videos, and I've read that you're interested in film. If your career were in "limbo" or you wanted to try another artistic outlet, what might that be?
Definitely movies and TV shows … I've had a couple ideas for a couple years now, so it's just about trying to maneuver it in the right way. I think being on "Insecure" this past year was a great start for my acting debut. I'm just trying to be selective with the things I do because I wanna do as well in film as I do in music. It just takes time, but hopefully we reach those levels in the next coming years.
Where did the name Limbo come from?
It was just really where I've been at in my life. I think a lot of people expect rappers, artists and just anyone who's put on a pedestal to have all the answers. Limbo was a title that I felt was a perfect definition of where I'm at personally in my life and to let fans know that I'm literally in limbo—like, I don't know what the fk I'm doing. I'm still growing up and I'm still just figuring it out.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup
Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December
Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.
This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, Young Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.
L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.
The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.
Some of y’all not ready for these moshpits https://t.co/3nlaudjapq— Randy (@randyt0321) October 1, 2019