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Writing About Music (Honors 345A)

This guide features essays written by students as part of the class Writing About Music (Honors 345A, Fall 2018).

Aminé (Justin Bao)

The music scene in Portland has always been more centered around indie rock and folk music. Music culture in the city is more of a counterculture, playing into the hipster persona inspired by the “Keep Portland Weird” slogan. But in this hot spot of underground talent, not every genre is equally represented, especially in a state with the same cultural history as Oregon. So, in a world where hip-hop has become such a prominent member of the world’s culture, where does a young rapper find his place in a town like Portland?

In the streets of Portland, such questions arise more and more. The youthful energy of hip-hop has begun ushering in a brand new fascination with current musical trends in the age of Drake and the Migos. And at the center of this revolution was Benson Polytechnic High School, an extremely diverse school on the east side of Portland. Adam Daniel, like many of his peers at the time, was just beginning his creative career. With big dreams as an even bigger figure in the music industry, his rapping started at a much more organic stage, simply dissing rival schools around the area in complete jest.

But after a wild journey of ups-and-downs through record labels and hip-hop journals, Aminé has gone from the kid from Portland to one of the cities’ new musical and cultural faces. His style, a hip-hop take on modern pop music, stands in stark contrast to the typical Portlandian sound. Yet at the same time, this contrast represents his close ties to his home city. Aminé’s fervent goofiness and happy-go-lucky brightness show through his dance-bop hits and colorful merchandise, a far cry from the bleak materialism and misogyny that inundates so much of hip-hop. It’s hard not to attribute this energy to Aminé’s upbringing, one of cultural acceptance and exploration encouraged by Portland’s millennial attitude.

Aminé knows how to keep Portland weird. But now that he’s pioneering the rap industry for an entire city, he has a heavier weight on his back in the limelight of the country. The now 24-year-old is known for being unafraid to stand out and sticking up for what he believes. Fresh off his breakthrough single “Caroline” and its astronomical rise, he utilized his platform on national television to comment on the Trump presidency, cheekily throwing a harsh line into his performance on The Tonight Show. “Someone talking about the country and the people who live in it that way when this country is made up of immigrants, I don’t get how that can even resonate with people” said the rapper, no stranger to the diversity present in many areas of the country and the consequential oppression of certain groups.

Dancing around in glitter make-up, shiny pants, and his trademark dreads, Aminé jokes to the crowd as his crew digs up his “tour pants” filled with messages from stops around the country. With a smirk on his face, he surveys the crowd. “What should we write?” A swarm of responses fill the Roseland Theater as one catches his fancy. “Fuck gentrification. Fuck gentrification!” And soon, the whole crowd is chanting alongside the kid from Portland with big dreams.

At his core, Aminé is a refreshing intersection of hip-hop and social change. But really, he just wants to make goofy music and live his life. Just the way he started.

By Justin Bao, Winter 2018

 

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