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"This shit has to be a hit and if it's not, I swear to God I'm going to go crazy,” Aminé says, laughing into the receiver from somewhere in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. He’s talking about “Woodlawn,” a song named after the neighborhood in the Northeast section of Portland, Oregon, where he was raised, and the second track on his new album. “Came a long way from that Woodlawn Park / Now, Young Aminé pushin’ ‘PUSH’ to start,” he boasts over rubbery 808s and a simpering flute sample on the song’s chorus. It’s a nimble anthem of the kind audiences have now come to expect from the 26-year-old artist, but one with a sober backstory. The song is dedicated to a close friend who became incarcerated last year: “It was heartbreaking, so I was trying to make a song for him. I literally played him ‘Woodlawn’ through the phone, and he was dancing in his cell.” It was a bittersweet moment, he says, but in its combination of pop and pathos, the song is characteristic of the career the rapper has forged since his grinning, Habesha visage first grabbed the public’s attention in 2016.
But the four years since Aminé’s career-catalyzing hit “Caroline” rocketed to the top of your summer party playlist (and to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100) feel a little more like 400. In that time, the multitalented rapper has gone from a precocious, gap-toothed provocateur bouncing around in the back of his friend’s Honda to one of popular music’s most commanding and eclectic new forces, as comfortable on a track with lo-fi indie rockers Girlpool as he is with Young Thug. He’s left his native Pacific Northwest, traveled the world, and settled in the land of Erewhon. He’s made music that Rihanna enjoys. He even got a dog.
And after releasing his Technicolor major-label debut Good for You in 2017, and a quick follow-up project in OnePointFive just a year later, Aminé now finds himself on the verge of releasing his true sophomore album.