Any EP that has a line item for ‘patois vocals’ in its Soundcloud credits is alright by me. Seattle-based Adam ‘Aminé’ Daniel can lay claim to this in his most recent ‘Calling Brio’ (August 2015) but also the dubious honour of being one of the first tracks that has ever been suggested to me on Spotify that I have become preternaturally invested in. Learning about the targeting methodologies of streaming services this year both in class and out of it, it is kind of depressing to realize that Aminé is Spotify’s ‘breakthrough artist’ with me almost a full year after I first signed up. On the other hand, that has to say something about the quality of ‘Caroline’. First caught up in the sort of grassroots approach to beat-making that the patois addition might have hinted at, I am now completely taken with ‘Caroline’, tight in her grips and unable to escape multiple daily plays, even a week after first unearthing her.
Another fairly good sign of someone you want to listen to is the high class recommendation that any production assistance from Canadian Kaytranada necessarily insinuates. Kaytra was doing today’s music two years ago and today, still helps soundtrack some of the most innovative hip-hop out. Providing the beats that propelled Vic Mensa and GoldLink to fame, his production sign-off is both a signal of his confidence in an artist and an indication that the track will likely be fire. He produced a third of ‘Calling Brio’ and while his name doesn’t appear in brackets after ‘Caroline’, a penchant for hard-hitting bass lines and impossibly funky synth stabs makes itself felt on this new track, too. Aminé self-produces much of his work and has a hand in this one, taking up the mantle for the kind of hip-hop that won’t challenge the DJ Mustard Supremacy but skitters somewhere on the edge of acceptability for the contemporary genre.
The fact of that margin-playing context means that ‘Caroline’ will be unlikely to ever feature in my ‘Hot New Hip Hop’ Spotify playlist – it seemingly only cut through the noise this time because my tastes are weird enough to call it forth – but that might be a good thing. Without the freedom to experiment with structure, lyricism and the concept of what a hip-hop song should sound like, Aminé wouldn’t be putting out the heat he has with ‘Caroline’. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the juxtaposition between the opening, quizzical adlib and the synth hit when Animé arrives on the scene, declaring she’s a ‘bad thing, fine as hell, thick as fuck’ might well be my favourite musical moment this year. That hilarious earnestness sets the tone for the rest of the track as we get the rapper imploring Caroline to ‘get gory, like a Tarantino movie’ and suggesting, cutely, that ‘great scenes are great, but I love your bloopers’. The songs rears violently between hilarious and crass and when the two coalesce, (as they do with the ‘if ya want safe sex, baby use the knee pads’ line) and meet a minimalist, afro-trap-inspired production mindset, well, you just might find yourself bleary-eyed, removing your earphones after nine consecutive listens.
Aminé – Caroline