Amine delivers his Tour For You to the TLA
Portland, Oregon’s Amine has had quite a year. He dropped a multi platinum single with “Caroline”, performed on huge talk shows and festival stages, did songs with people like Nelly, Charlie Wilson and Kehlani, and was picked as a XXL Freshman. Yet on my way to his Philly stop on the “Tour For You” (a play off the title of his excellent debut album Good For You ), my young Uber driver still had no idea who he was by name. It wasn’t until he asked me to play a song by him (I picked “Caroline” of course) that the driver began singing along to the melody, exclaiming “oh, I know this, it’s always on the radio!”. He also enjoyed the other songs from the album he heard, because it’s a dope, fun project. But when people know your big song but not your name, it’s a sign you might have bought a one way ticket to One Hit Wonderville. After seeing Amine’s live show, which grew my appreciation for his work even more, I can only hope that won’t be the case for him.
I walked into the TLA during Towkio’s set, who was the only opener on the tour. I was familiar with the Chicago rapper and had dug what I heard from him. A member of Vic Mensa’s Save Money crew, he sounded crisp and clear through the venue’s system, thankfully not rapping over his own vocals. The lighting changed colors for each song to fit the mood; the particular joint I walked in on found Towkio delivering heartfelt lyrics with atmospheric ice-blue lighting filling up the stage. A stand out line: “long as that blood flows through you, don’t live life in vain”.
I took a look around at the crowd of roughly 350 (not bad for 8:30 at a rap show in Philly on a Wednesday) and realized the average age was probably between 18 and 20, being that the bar area was almost empty. Also, I noticed the crowd was about 80% white; like, kids named Skyler and Tanner white. I even noticed that I was standing in between a small white child and his mom, whom it seemed he instructed to stand 10 feet away from him so she wouldn’t embarrass him in front of the homies. Regardless, it was definitely an energetic, positive crowd, ready to participate in whatever the performers wanted them to, unlike the jaded 30-something and up crowd whom often stare down openers with their arms folded, waiting to be impressed.
The couple songs in Towkio’s set that I saw were performed well; he has a great energy, stage presence and mic control. His more rowdy Chance The Rapper-type sound was received well, and I’ll be on the lookout for his upcoming work. As the antsy crowd waited for Amine to hit the stage (which took about 30 to 40 minutes; they could have booked another opener, nudge nudge), old school hip-hop by groups like Public Enemy and NWA played over the speakers. While I love that stuff, it wasn’t the ideal transitional music at a modern pop-rap show full of suburban teenagers. Watching a bunch of Karens and Connors trying to milly rock to “Don’t Believe the Hype” is one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen. The crowd had filled in quite a bit by the time Amine’s band came on stage. It looked to be about 500 or so to me, but according to one of the bartenders there were about 700 tickets sold; not bad, Philly. A recording of Amine reading a set of rules to the audience played (“if you take a picture, tag me in that bitch”) and then the 23-year-old rapper hit the stage to join his drummer, DJ, guitarist and keyboardist to rabid applause. He opened with single “Baba”, which I admittedly didn’t know…but the crowd sure did, reciting every word at the top of their lungs. It was immediately apparent that Amine and his band had heavily rehearsed before this tour, as they were locked in with each other, weaving in and out of each song seamlessly. His voice sounded calm and in the pocket yet still hit energetic bursts when he needed to. Also, props for not rapping over vocals either.
Amine performed some great cuts from his album that translated well to a live setting, including opener “Veggies”, “Yellow” (unfortunately Nelly wasn’t in attendance to do the hook), “Hero” and personal favorite “STFU”. His band also went into a spontaneous cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs”, complete with Amine randomly rapping one of the verses from Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” over the beat. Did this make sense? Not exactly, but goddamn it was fun, which seems to be his main objective. “The first time you said my name, you fucked it up. Admit it!” the rapper joked between songs, a sign that he definitely doesn’t take himself overly seriously. Even the visual aesthetic of his show is intentionally goofy, with inflatable, marshmallow-like letters spelling “GOOD FOR YOU” in the center of the stage, illuminated by simple lighting that changed colors with each song. His fun-loving nature made his on-point performances of more heartfelt songs like “Sundays”, “Turf” and “Blinds” all the more impressive as far as versatility.
“Dakota”, one of my favorite jams from Good For You, sounded especially dope with live instruments in the mix, and album closer “Beach Boy” bumped nicely as well. After powering through extremely slept on single “REDMERCEDES” (still don’t know why that wasn’t on the album), complete with flashing siren-like lights, Amine asked the crowd what message they wanted to write on a patch to be sewn onto his “tour pants”, a pair of black jeans that he’s apparently wearing at every show until the run ends. Gross, sure, but also pretty endearing to his fans. Naturally, the crowd chanted Joel Embiid’s slogan “trust the process” at deafening levels, to which Amine responded with confusion (“oh, that’s a sports thing? That’s tight”) before having a fan write it on the patch.
Amine then ended his set with a trio of pop smashes, starting with the bouncy “Newlyweds,” which caused every woman in the building to lose their shit. Amine even rapped Offset’s feature verse himself, which was a nice surprise. Next came another of my favorites, the infectious “Spice Girl”, which the band fittingly blended into the British pop group’s classic hit “Wannabe”. Lastly, the Portland native (who still hadn’t lost his voice after performing for over an hour), instructed the crowd to light up their cell phones and sing along in a gentle, laid back rendition of “Caroline.” A tip for hot new artists with a big hit: always save it for the end of the set.
Amine’s DJ eventually dropped the beat, the crowd went into a frenzy, and Amine finished one of the best sets by a modern era act that I’ve seen in a while. Then, in an encore that I’m guessing wasn’t planned, he and the band returned to play “Spice Girl” one more time, to the crowd’s delight. He had these kids eating out of his hand before he even walked on stage, and didn’t lose their ADD-addled attention once over the course of over 60 minutes. If that type of talent isn’t good for you…then what is? Sorry, I had to.