Portland-bred rapper Aminé loves cars. In his video for “Caroline,” the buzzy breakout single that soundtracked summer 2016, the newcomer rode around the city goofing off with friends. Sunshine and bananas both abundant, the video took place largely inside or around a mid-2000s Honda Accord.
But a year later, things are different for Aminé. After the success of “Caroline” and “Baba” (a track in which he raps partly in Amharic), he’s poppin’ — so naturally his car has to reflect that. Now the precocious artist is back with a video for “REDMERCEDES,” a track with bold, hypnotic production that matches its confident lyrics (“With my niggas in my red Mercedes / Attitude like fuck you, pay me”).
In the retro-styled video, he plays both Thad, a black car salesman, and DeAndre, a white customer. With cameos from Kari Faux and Leon Bridges, it follows a satirical encounter between DeAndre and the black employees of a car dealership Aminé teased in a video released Wednesday (featuring the same friends who flanked Aminé in “Caroline”). The video’s moments of racial tension offer tongue-in-cheek commentary: At one point, DeAndre’s friend threatens to call the “NWACP” on a black woman employee (Kari Faux) after she asks to shorten his name to “D” because “It has a nice little ring to it, homie.” Thad later explains to her that the acronym stands for “National White Association for Care and Pleasure.”
“REDMERCEDES” is boastful and fun, and the video magnifies the song’s effect with surprisingly mature comedy. Watching Aminé rap “tint so black, look like my complexion” while in whiteface is both hilarious and striking. The Ethiopian and Eritrean American rapper’s attention to race is pointed but unsurprising given his past willingness to confront the issue on a national stage. Aminé, who turns 23 later this month, brings both youthful energy and a surprising gravitas to his work; “REDMERCEDES” is no different.