From the first skittering hi-hat, Portland artist Aminé suggests another world, a hip-hop landscape divergent from the one we actually live in.  A world where dead prez were as influential as they should be; where the dirty south producers took as much influence from Human League and Depeche Mode as they did 2 Live Crew and Bambaataa; where decidedly Afrocentric rappers can say ‘shout out to Meech’ before saying ‘Girl, I wanna dream’.  Needless to say, its a much preferrable world in comparison to our own.

Perhaps this feeling is simply due to Aminé’s skill on the mic, and behind the boards.  The album flows perfectly, achieving the rare feat of perfect cohesion across ten tracks and over five different production credits, including Soundcloud sensation Kaytranada, and three tracks made by Aminé himself.  African drums collide with 808 kicks and thick synths and samples to further ensnare the listener in Aminé’s world.  After one complete listen, it sounds much more like an old fashioned-made in the studio together-type album, as opposed to today’s pre-manufactured ‘send me an instrumental over Dropbox’ method of album crafting.

However, this grandiose plotting would fall apart quickly if not for Aminé’s incredible writing and performing talents.  From the quicktime flow on album opener ‘Le Danse’ to the soulful-Chance The Rapper style emotive crooning on ‘Buckwild’, Aminé displays his unique skill for approaching each song differently without losing his identity.  Perhaps the multiple Outkast references are a guide to Aminé’s hip-hop education:  he certainly keeps one foot in the streets and another in the stars (this is made explicit on “Rage/Peace” with the line ‘Sometimes I’m Ghandi/sometimes I’m Boosie’.  I can relate, homie!)

Throughout the album, Aminé places himself among the growing number of Northwest rappers who refuse to play into Portlandia-style stereotypes of his community, instead repping his city as a melting pot of Black, African, and Caribbean influence; a viewpoint steadily growing in today’s Northwest music scene (much to the delight of this reviewer – we’re not all hipsters out here!).  For those of us who feel like the Northwest hip-hop community has been pigeonholed and mislabeled, there is something so exciting about hearing Aminé say something as simple as ‘Its westside/ till a n*gga D.I.E./ and where I’m from/ mutha-fucka/ 5-0-tree’.   Every Northwest hip-hop head should be proud to call Calling Brio their own.

Calling Brio drops for free on August 31st.  Follow Aminé on Twitter