After starting her career as a high school student, Amindi is releasing her first full-length album, ‘nice.’ Photo Credit: Myai Anthony
Amindi’s debut album nice is a product of years of self-reflection and ups and downs within the entertainment industry. It’s also the beginning of a new chapter for the genre-defying rapper .
Amindi began her career as a teenager dropping loosies on SoundCloud in high school. Now, just a couple of years later, she’s about to embark on the most monumental week of her career: She will be featured on Isaiah Rashad’s forthcoming new album, The House Is Burning (July 30th) and she is releasing her first full-length album, nice (out today, July 28). An intimate look at her emotional state and acknowledgment of her feelings, nice is, in Amindi’s own words, “just reflections, honestly.” The latest single from the album, “nwts,” is indicative of that, as the artist examines her career trajectory and the idea of building her artistry from the ground up, while also addressing the past experiences she’s had with men in the industry who’ve tried to take credit for her work. nice is a debut that explores self-love, resilience, and fleeting emotions: an inner monologue set to music that’s also a rallying cry for creatives who’ve spent years feeling like the underdog.
“I think since I started making music, even when I didn’t have as much life experience as I do now, my intention has always been for people to feel me,” she said from her colorful Los Angeles home during a Zoom conversation. “[nice is]…kind of like the bridge between where I was and where I’m about to be.”
Sonically, nice is the polar opposite of “Pine & Ginger,” Amindi’s 2017 breakout dancehall single that landed her on music blogs and culture sites like Vice and Fader. As a full-length release, nice allows Amindi the space to flesh out her songwriting capabilities, as is evident from the opening track “u got next.” The song finds her grappling with making mistakes and staying consistent with music-making despite being scared of failure.
“I stripped myself bare to be my only fan. I laid it all out,” she says during the closing lines of the intro track.
Amindi grew up in Inglewood, CA. Her parents, who were both born in Kingston, always had music playing in their separate homes. While her father loved Sizzla and Bob Marley, her mother typically played Kirk Franklin and Hezekiah Walker. On her mother’s side, she spent ample time with her older brother and her cousins who were mainly boys. Their love of hip-hop also heavily influenced her. All of these different tastes created a melting pot of sounds that the young, budding music lover grew an appreciation for.
At nine, Amindi was introduced to Santigold and she became fascinated with the genre-defying vocalist who fused reggae, dub and pop to create a distinct sound.
“I had never seen a Black [woman] do what she was doing and make the type of music she was making. It just opened my mind up. That was the first example that I saw of an alternative Black woman existing,” she said. “I want to be somebody’s Santigold, I want to be a little girl’s Santigold.”
Amindi began writing songs and rapping in grade school. Alongside building her songwriting skills, she enjoyed English class and read a lot. She recalled constantly asking her mother to take her to Barnes & Noble to buy new books like Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. By the time she was in middle school, Amindi had also become passionate about films, a hobby she takes directly from her father who is a fellow cinephile.
When she entered the ninth grade in 2013, Amindi signed up for ukulele lessons after her mother suggested she join an afterschool club. Now, Amindi was juggling playing the ukulele, writing songs, and rapping, all of this serving as the beginning of a new chapter of her musical journey. By now, she’d taught herself how to use GarageBand with a free iPad she received from her high school and began releasing cover videos on YouTube. In 2013, she dropped her first few songs on SoundCloud including “why,” a cheeky confessional track centering her vocals, and “idky,” a beat-driven cut. Two years later Amindi began doing live shows.
“I quickly was taken into the DIY, backyard show scene. I did a bunch of little local venues in high school,” she said. “I’ve made a bunch of friends that I still have today just from being a part of that scene in high school.”
Amindi yearned to be a professional musician. When reflecting on these moments, she remembered being interested in making enough money to survive without having to attend college. But, as a child of immigrants, she felt indebted to her mother to attain a degree and become her family’s first-generation graduate.
After high school, she was accepted to Loyola Marymount University, but to enter as a sophomore she had to spend a year at Santa Monica Community College and maintain a certain GPA. In December of her first year there during finals week, she was asked along with the other creatives who’d crafted “Pine & Ginger” to perform for the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Amindi’s day-to-day life dramatically changed after she went on the trip and finally made the decision to prioritize her music. The success of the track led to her, producer Valleyz and Jamaican artist Tesselated signing the rights of the song to Warner Records under the sub-label Big Beat Records. However, this didn’t fare well for her; Amindi left feeling stifled over the lack of control over her own artistry under the label.
“I wasn’t fully myself yet,” she said. “It was just frustrating, but I appreciate the time that it took because I was 17 at the time. I had no idea who I was.”
Warner held the rights to each single Amindi released up until 2020, with the last one being “Love Em Leave Em,” an energetic, drum-heavy song featuring artist Kari Faux that finds Amindi flexing her ability to shapeshift from rapper to singer. From 2017’s “Pine & Ginger” to 2020’s “Love Em Leave Em,” Amindi’s musical sound and aesthetic evolution are evident. While speaking on the visuals for “Pine & Ginger,” Amindi shared that she doesn’t relate to it anymore, and has tried to be as hands-on as possible for many of her videos that have followed it.
“Since then, I’ve made sure that I’ve had my hands deep in whatever video I’m putting out because I am such a visual person and I love videos,” she said. “I felt so out of control and I never want to feel like that again, so that’s why at this point I [write] everything or I’m conceptualizing or I am doing set design [for my videos].”
Name-dropping John Singleton, Quentin Tarantino, and Spike Lee as some of her favorite filmmakers, her love for film and cinematography are reflected in her music videos, the artist is heavily involved in the brainstorming process and production of each of her videos.
Her latest music video, “haircut,” is a testament to that. Directed by Dylan McGale, the video centers around Amindi’s journey of self-love. She’s spotted playing a waiter, a love interest, and her own barber. There’s a nod to Spike Lee when a fisheye lens is used to switch from one scene to another: there’s a moment where Amindi is on a romantic date with herself, but then in another scene, she’s in her bedroom watching a movie after the successful evening. Thematically, the visual exemplifies that she has no issue with showering herself with love and affection.
The majority of nice was written, produced, and recorded at the beginning of 2021, with Amindi putting the finishing touches on it up until March. Taking a hiatus from making her own music to working with other artists last year allowed her to cultivate relationships with new people that ultimately became an important part of nice. Such was the case with Devin Malek, the executive producer of nice. Amindi met Malek during studio sessions for Isaiah Rashad’s The House Is Burning.
“Everything was pretty organic,” she said. “We made sure that every song that I decided was set in stone for real, and then decided which ones would be the singles, and then kind of made a schedule based on that.”
“nwts” was the first beat Malek created for the album. He was so impressed with Amindi and her work during Rashad’s studio sessions, that he DM’d her the beat on his finsta. Upon hearing the beat, she put it on loop in her car and freestyled the entire song as she headed to get her eyelashes done.
Amindi also has production from Walt Mansa, who crafted the beat for “telly.” On the track, Amindi raps effortlessly about having options when it comes to dating, with each interest constantly blowing her up and wanting to cater to her. It’s a feel-good song that sways a bit into the alt space without trying.
The closer on the album, which also serves as the title track, is fitting. Throughout it, Amindi declares, “I ain’t even in my prime.” This realization is proof that her hard work and dedication over the past eight years have led her to this exact moment.
In addition to the idea of laying herself bare, Amindi is equally transparent about the notion of not setting specific expectations for her music. She says this might point to the fact that she doesn’t like disappointment. “I’ve trained myself to just not have any expectations and just do things freely and because I want to do it. I enjoy [creating music] and everything else that comes with that is [a] bonus,” Amindi said.
Equipped with her years of experience and expertise, Amindi describes nice as music that feels like her. The thoughtful songwriting heard throughout proves that she’s most at ease when she’s expressing her ideals, inhibitions, fears, and even her successful moments through her music. It’s admirable that she has leaned into this skill rather than shy away from it as some musicians and artists do, preferring to not reckon with their innermost musings.
“Even if a couple [fans] only feel me, I just want to be felt,” she said. “I want to be felt through listening. That’s really my only intention.”