This article originally appeared on Noisey US.
From the day the world first formally met him, Aminé was confident in his approach to rap. "Caroline," his breakout single from last year, had a playful, clever style that encompassed the way we constantly are absorbing pop culture in today's world, complete with a hat tip to Quentin Tarantino. This summer's single, "REDMERCEDES," arrived with a comedy sketch-like music video of Aminé in whiteface to match its infectious beat and light-hearted tone. Hilarious, uncomfortable, or both depending on your perspective, Aminé's videos were an electrifying introduction to the fusion of comedy and music promised by the "banana rapper" and his Banana Club, a collective made up of the Portland rapper's friends.
As the release of Aminé's debut album, Good For You, drew closer, the comedy continued with a fully costumed performance of "Wedding Crashers" on Late Night With Seth Meyers, followed by silly promotional videos. Aminé was constantly in my Twitter feed; at a certain point, I genuinely couldn't get rid of him if I wanted to. In an age of media saturation, this constant promotion could easily get annoying, but there was a genuineness and sense of fun behind it that removed any cynicism. At a pop-up installation in New York the week before the album release, Aminé stuck himself in the trenches, handing out a version of the newspaper he clutches on the project's cover while bananas, fidget spinners, and other funny gifts piled up for him in the corner of the room.
It was all in keeping with the comedic persona he had built up online, but, of course, it didn't promise anything. Hitting the mark with this kind of mixed-genre, comedic tone is difficult, and the challenge remained as to whether Aminé could continue it for the entirety of an album. What he'd done so far seemed too good to be true.
Good For You not only follows through on Aminé's vision, it proves itself to be a remarkably cohesive album as it tells a story of a young man burdened by reputation, love, and identity, in a world that relentlessly shoves various narratives in his face. Drawing on the same aspects of youth culture as those early glimpses in all the best ways, it fluidly weaves cultural references in and out of his clever verses. The resulting body of work underscores what it's like to be young right here and right now, to feel simultaneously connected and disconnected from what's going on, using famous figures, memes, and media to poke fun at ourselves and our lives.
The album opens with "Veggies," a collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign that introduces the underlying narrative of the record, including themes of losing faith, questioning sexual prowess, and adjusting to fame. These serious ideas merge seamlessly with the lighthearted atmosphere of the album and the upbeat production. Despite its depth, "Veggies" kicks the album off with immediately recognisable references, detailing a desire to fuck Emily Blunt and even mentioning "Caroline" with unabashed confidence that the listener will know who Aminé's talking about. The album pushes forward with "Yellow," a blatant flex of the rapper's enjoyable flow, somehow detailing his rise to fame in the context of Spongebob, Metro Boomin, and Prince. These lines don't stand out as forced attempts at relevance, though. They blend together to define the style of the record, which, in both its rapping and musical palette, is ultra-current.
The producer and feature credits on the album reflect an eclectic music taste, with credits that include proven rap hitmakers like Frank Dukes, who evokes a familiar grandiosity, but also Disclosure's Guy Lawrence on "Blinds," the album's highlight. Aminé goes as far as using Girlpool's grungy vocals and guitar as the backdrop to "Hero," a ballad that underscores an addictive hookup. The album bounces back and forth effortlessly between being reflective and reactive, with comedic songs like "STFU" being followed by moments like the gloomy "Turf."
In this context, the songs for which Aminé was originally beloved, like "Caroline" and "Wedding Crashers," make perfect sense, blending humour and real narratives and proving that he knew what he wanted all along. It's clear from every song, both serious and not, that that pop culture has always motivated the rapper. On the slower, more contemplative "Sundays," he highlights aspects of his childhood: "Fruity Loops and Stanley Kubrick / peanut butter jelly / cousin bumping Makaveli." Each reference is a thank you of sorts, celebrating by name the culture that shaped and continues to shape him.
These shout outs are so frequent and so smoothly woven together that they become a language of their own. Embracing the over-stimulating lifestyle that social media and Netflix have thrust upon us, Aminé uses characters and plots as reference points to contextualise life's highs and lows. The best of these might be on "Beach Boy," where he states, in what might be the funniest sex reference on the album, "When I give her Jimmy, then my baby give me Neutron." Earlier, with "Spice Girl," he manages to sing "Zig-a-zig-ah, fuck up my whole world" with a straight face – and still make a banger. Through the lens of this cultural trivia, each song details a new experience, detailing portions of growing up and getting older that dance between personal and broadly relatable. As much as these lines are silly and fun and perfect for fans to scream back at Aminé live, large parts of the record are reflective, exploring money, fame, and losing touch with parts of life at a young age.
This attitude will appeal to the sensibilities of just about anyone who has grown up devouring various media and scrolling the internet. Although we're all at the mercy of these cultural stimuli slowly taking over our lives, Good For You provides an example of how young people can take it in stride, indulging ourselves in comparisons to those we watch, listen to, and admire while interpreting those thoughts with a certain objectivity. It's easy to get caught up and lose yourself in that context, but Aminé humourously and cleverly celebrates his place in today's hyper-connected world. It's a clear picture of his strengths and anxieties, presented through images we've all seen before and delivered with the unwavering assurance that you'll know exactly what he's talking about.
Aranya Tatapudi is rolling deep like Adele at all times. Follow her on Twitter.