Amine’s Good For You is the perfect example of why we shouldn’t let expectations and social media jokes get in the way of a good listening experience. First things first, yes, he addresses the name thing in a hilariously similar way to how Talib Kweli handled it on “The Blast” twenty years ago. Amine leans into his goofball persona so heavily, it was off-putting for any fan who grew up in the muted, monochromatic ’90s of rap, or the ostentatious, urban goth looks of the last decade or so, which Amine takes pains to eschew. But that’s his appeal; Naruto references born of Freudian slip-like typos aside, Amine understands how important presentation is in hip-hop.
For instance, the newspaper he’s reading on the outrageously eye-catching cover of his major debut is a real product that fans can actually pick up and read for themselves; I’m a sucker for clever and interactive marketing schemes, but this takes it one step further, creating a tactile experience that gives fans something to not just hold onto and keep on a shelf, but another form of media to interact with, deepening the experience of engaging with Amine as an artist.
His glowing personality and refreshingly upbeat, off-center approach to rap music attracted high-profile fans such as Missy Elliott, who graced Amine with a guest verse on his uptempo, heart-pumping single “Redmercedes.” His unconventional visual aesthetic, bright yellow prominently featured in the majority of his media and funky dreads that radiate from his noggin like radar antennae receiving signals from whatever faraway planet he draws his weirdo inspiration from, set him apart from rappers of both the past and the present, and evoke connections with other visual rebels within hip-hop like Missy and Outkast.
But none of it would matter if the music didn’t hold up, and in that respect, Amine shines as brightly as the backdrop on his album cover photo. While admittedly he missed me with his standout debut single, “Caroline,” he did put the charts and radio playlists in an inescapable chokehold, which proves he knew exactly what he was doing. Had he dropped a more conventionally lyrical track like “Blinds” first, he may have been lost in the shuffle of rappers who want you to know they can rap; with “Caroline,” he places his mindset front and center: He doesn’t care if you know he can rap, he’s making the music he wants to make, whether that’s the poppy dance ballad “Dakota,” featuring Uncle Charlie Wilson (!) or the dreamy, downtempo introspection of “Sundays.”
And while he spends as much time on the album singing as rapping, as is the custom in the modern era of hip-hop, he’s more than willing to cede mic time to more adept guests like the aforementioned Wilson, who also appears — un-billed — on the excellent “Turf.” Amine’s unconventional tastes and approach appear in the guest list as well; while Quavo makes yet another appearance in a year stuffed to the gills with them on the lighthearted “Wedding Crashers,” Amine also ropes in unexpected names like Ty Dolla Sign, who anchors the symphonic intro, “Veggies,” and Nelly of all people on the aptly sunny-sounding “Yellow.”
Not one guest feels out of place, but the diversity on display highlights the eclecticism of Good For You‘s musical gumbo of somehow-also-uniformly-cheerful sounds. Even when Amine complains of being down, the production, including the surprising likes of Pharrell Williams, Southside, and Metro Boomin, relies heavily on bright sounds, perky synths, and rising chord progressions. Amines push his producers out of their usual dark, trap-heavy comfort zones, creating a sunny musical landscape to frolic across with his sing-rapping about love, loneliness, boredom, and seeing the highs and lows of home and the world.
When “Caroline” dropped, listeners could be forgiven for mistaking Amine for — to borrow a phrase — just another “weirdo rapper.” However, his lighthearted, bouncy approach is merely the hook, drawing listeners into a world where the rapper is not afraid to wax introspective, reveal biographical details, experiment musically to share his off-kilter viewpoint, and yes, poke fun at his own shortcomings and goofball tendencies. If you were like me, and wrote Amine off early, now would be a good time to shake off your preconceptions and check out Good For You. It’s a good reminder to give everything a chance, because you just might find something that’s good to you, too.