“TWOPOINTFIVE” is a much-needed reminder that you will never be Aminé

With his latest “point five” album, Aminé somehow makes you feel good about the fact you that you can never be like him.

twopointfive

Aminé’s latest album makes you want to get up and dance like an idiot—but in an intellectual way.

Samuel Hyland, Staff Writer

In a musical landscape where complex rollouts, deliberately “leaked” snippets and social media gimmicks determine so much of an album’s breadth before it’s even on streaming services, the concept of an “in-between” release is a breath of fresh air—for both artist and audience. 

Over the course of this year specifically, American hip-hop audiences have already played host to a number of unconventional pre-drop endeavors. This past June, for one, Tyler, the Creator discreetly plastered cryptic signs all around his native Los Angeles. The advertisements bore only the words “Call Me If You Get Lost” and a phone number that, upon being dialed, proceeded to play a recorded conversation between the rapper and his mom. No more than two weeks after this made waves on social media, hip-hop Twitter was exploding with first-person accounts of sacred, inconspicuous invite-only release parties Kanye West had apparently been holding in unsuspecting locations, one of which was a Las Vegas church. These were, of course, followed by the three separate performance-art-heavy listening events he would go on to host at various sold-out stadiums across the country.

In a way, putting out a body of work has become a music industry-specific means for artists to prove that they are still alive. Whereas all that was necessary to achieve this effect 30 years ago was an XXL cover story and a legion of fans who would pay good money to read it; times have changed and both parties have pivoted to social media. XXL makes its money asking fans “WHICH ALBUM WOULD YOU PLAY ON THIS SPEAKER!?” three times a month, and if the fans aren’t paying for physical CDs anymore, they definitely aren’t paying for print magazines. Sure, cover stories do still exist: but for the most part, the only people reading 6,000 words on the internet are other writers.

With his “point five” releases, meant to serve as sonic in-betweens to larger projects, Portland-born rapper Aminé has somehow found a way to subvert such ebbs and flows in the ever-changing rap arena. In terms of proving he is still alive, yes, Aminé has proven his maintenance of homeostasis by releasing another project. (Congratulations, Aminé! Now we wait for Frank Ocean). But in an even greater scope, the sounds on “TWOPOINTFIVE” give rise to even better news for Aminé fans. Aminé is alive. But he isn’t just surviving—he’s thriving. And with an entire album’s worth of room to work with, he wants nothing more than to let you know that he’s Aminé and you’re not. 

I don’t really listen to albums for the first time while doing my homework—the last time I made this decision, I had nightmares of dystopian county fair hauntings to contend with on top of the nightmare that is AP Computer Science (Ladies and gentlemen: let’s make sure we’re not listening to Slint’s “Spiderland” at 4 a.m.). Clocking in at 26 minutes, “TWOPOINTFIVE” was supposed to be a quick on-my-way-to-class type thing, where I pretend I’m strutting in a music video whilst actually walking to a far more boring lecture. This plan changed when, last Monday, my earbuds got caught in the railing of the 21st Street overpass while I was speeding past a group of slow walkers. Scrolling through social media with a long-procrastinated reading on my desk, I was confronted with reminder after reminder of “TWOPOINTFIVE”’s release. I wasn’t going to risk losing my headphones to 21st Street traffic again. I opted to give the homework/album thing another shot. 

The thing about “TWOPOINTFIVE” is that, because its very crux already asserts that it’s a discography-filler, a lot of the typical pressures with full-length releases are taken off. Aminé sounds like a free man.

“The ‘POINTFIVE’ projects are the breaks in between albums where I give myself the freedom to make music without expectations, focusing instead on spontaneity and the best of what comes from stream-of-consciousness creation, which is why they arrive unexpectedly without a long rollout,” Aminé said in a statement shared by his publicist. “It’s an opportunity to create for my day-one fans the way I used to in my bedroom.”

By tangible metrics like proper studio production, a major label and millions of listeners, “TWOPOINTFIVE” definitely isn’t bedroom pop. But for what it lacks in homemade recording equipment and shouts of “Aminé, dinner’s ready” next door, it makes up for in an imagination only conjurable within the poster-adorned walls of an early-stages music freak. It paints a familiar portrait of minds both inspired by the possibilities, and energized enough to translate them into real life. 

This weightlessness is very literally what the album wastes no time dictating: the very first seconds of the LP see a high-pitched voice giving an expletive-filled directive, where the unsuspecting listener is ordered to essentially drop everything and dance. 

“Fuck all the bullshit you going through right now,” we are instructed. “If you feeling sad, alone, depressed, upset / Fuck that, it’s time to get up, go have some fun / Shake some ass, ow.”

I would be writing a very different review right now if these instructions were not as easy as they were to follow. I’m not a dancer by any measure—in our last Life section meeting, I pretended to read an article on my phone while everyone else played “Just Dance” to one of my favorite Black Eyed Peas songs. But somehow, as the command of boisterous 808s and a seductively-intonated rhyme scheme flooded into frame all at once, here I was, doing the famed “Drop It Like It’s Hot” dance in front of an opened book chapter I was supposed to have finished reading two hours ago. It’s one of several moments on the LP where Aminé’s youthful, ceilingless lust for life seems to stick its tongue through your headphones and tickle the spot you never knew your ears had. And if you didn’t like the nature of the last line, lyrically speaking, this probably isn’t the song for you. For most of the minute and 45 seconds he has on “YiPiYaY,” he’s flaunting his wealth and his women—with an added emphasis on the extracurricular activities partaken in with said women. It’s easy to get mad at Aminé for either his cockiness, straightforward obscenity or both. But the point of a track like this is to remind you that you’ll probably never be able to tell him to his face. He’s Aminé. You’re not. Learn the difference. 

“Charmander,” the first single released in support of the album, is a stringent indictment of anyone still unwilling to overlook the miles and miles of economic (and swaganomic) distinction between Aminé and the rest of the world. In the song’s visual accompaniment, for one—which has been hailed by GQ as ‘the Most Menswear-y Music Video of 2021”—the rapper oscillates between cartoonishly wide eyes and caricature-esque facial expressions, doing everything from chopping carrots, cutting trees and hopping backwards in 1.5x speed. 

What “Charmander” goes to prove is that if anyone has, one, the capacity and, two, the hyperactivity necessary to run through all these undertakings like the Energizer Bunny’s much-younger grandson, it’s Aminé. And if it’s the last thing he does (which, judging by his energy, it certainly isn’t) he wants to make sure you know. “(I’m) Sipping champagne,” he reports to an unnamed detractor at one point, before telling them he does his “damn thing.” The instrumental backing feels like it’s taken a swig from the same eternal energy drink Aminé must have consumed for the music video shoot, bouncing from octave to octave, note to note, boast to boast. “People be so phony, that’s why I be on my lonely,” he croons near the song’s end. When we’re “on our lonely,” we’re probably having daydreams about wherever he happens to be on his. Malibu? Paris? LA? No matter what gold-plated pillow he rests his head on at night, he’s Aminé. You’re not. Seriously, learn the difference.

As someone who grew up more easily amazed at lyrics than soundscapes, this is an album that shows me not only how much I have progressed as a listener, but also how much hip-hop writ large has progressed as a culture. Aminé is one of several rappers currently standing in the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. When you show some people a track off of “TWOPOINTFIVE,” they will scoff about how he’s only talking about girls, money and cars. (They’ll probably go on about how the words are meaningless without the beats and, by the time you decide to walk away, start asking you if you’ve heard of a guy called Joyner Lucas). Other people, upon hearing something off of the same tape, will scoff about how you hadn’t heard it sooner. Much like blues-happy grandparents when Pete Townshend smashed his first guitar, and classic rock-raised moms and pops when their kids came home with Nirvana records, the time has come for audiences to realize that times are changing. Which side of history will you be on?

If you asked me this after showing me “TWOPOINTFIVE,” I would choose the side with the gold-plated pillows, the drop-everything-and-dance mandates and the youth that never dies.