Aminé on His New Balance Collab, Bananas, Hip-Hop’s Best Dressed, and More

Take me back to growing up in Portland. What is that moment for you when you first cared about how you got dressed every day? 
There’s not really a specific moment or event that comes to mind immediately. I used to do this thing when I was a kid, and I feel like I kind of still do it now. The way I would judge an outfit before I tried it on, because I hated trying on clothes, is I would just picture Kanye West wearing it. I would close my eyes and imagine my favorite person at the time wearing that same outfit. If it looked good in my head, then I would wear it. That’s my earliest memory of outfits.

Were your parents getting you fresh as a kid?
Not really. My parents did not give a damn about swag at all. My love for it came from being an internet kid, just being on Tumblr and Twitter a lot. 

We’re around the same age. Were you scrolling through Karmaloop back in the day?
Yeah, I was on Karmaloop. That’s crazy. [Laughs.] I didn’t think about Karmaloop. I used to try and get LRG. 

Your outfits today are usually very colorful. Were you always dressing in super colorful clothes, or were you more reserved at first?
I used to always wear a lot of colors. When I was in middle school, I feel like every Ye fan had this moment, but I wore a pink polo to school and everybody was making fun of me because of it. I remember just thinking, like, “I don’t care. I love this.” That was one of my earliest memories as far as taking a risk—which a pink polo is not a risk at all, but yeah. 

No backpack?
I could not afford the Louis backpack, but I did buy a fake Louis backpack in SoHo. When I was a kid I visited Canal Street. I bought a fake Louis backpack. I think I was like 14 and I went to high school with it flexing. I did not care. I would just tell them it’s fake. I wasn’t trying to flex like it was real. [Laughs.] 

Part of your campaign for the sneakers included a note, and you alluded to design being your first love before music. Is that true?
Yeah, before I found out I could do music and, like, rap, around 17, 18 years old, I really wanted to design shoes. That was always my thing. They weren’t great. I wasn’t trained. I didn’t go to school for it. But that’s always what I wanted to do.

What’s the significance of Louis Gee?
He was part of a program that I was a part of with SEI, which was a design program for inner-city youth to design sneakers. He worked for a company that I cannot name because New Balance is the only thing that matters, but he was part of my upbringing and someone that really encouraged me and believed in me. So when I did my first billboard, it was important that we mentioned him and shouted him out just because he was the first one that thought I could do a shoe before anybody else. 

Is there a big streetwear community in Portland? You mentioned being heavy on Tumblr.
The community of sneaker culture in Portland is strong, but there’s this “he who must not be named” brand out there that creates a lot of the corniest culture of people. People who are sneakerheads, half of them just only care about sneakers, and that’s never been my thing. I love sneakers to death, but I really love clothes. I love the history of clothes; why things are made—I love that as well. A lot of people in Portland just didn’t really have swag. It was just North Face, backpack, jeans, crazy sneakers. That wasn’t really what I was into. So I kind of felt disconnected from the community of that in Portland, and I was just in my room on the internet nonstop just looking at stuff.

I know you are super involved in your merch.
Club Banana? Yeah, that’s my brand. 

Are you offended by calling it merch?
Yeah, I am offended by the name merch because it doesn’t say my name on it. People just see these banana logos on hoodies and be rocking them. Best put respect on it. That’s a brand.

Why bananas?
When I was coming up, I always knew that I wanted yellow to be a representation of me. Whenever someone saw the color yellow, I wanted them to think about Aminé, like Prince and purple. So when I was doing my first music video, “Caroline,” I knew that I could not afford anything to produce this music video. The only thing I could afford that I thought of that was yellow was bananas. I just put a bunch of bananas in the backseat of a car. When that video went viral, people were always like, “Why bananas?” and for me it was just because I could afford it. The reason I’ve used that as my brand’s icon is just because it reminds me of my come up and not being able to afford videos. Now I can. So it’s nice to just see them on my first shoe because it just reminds me of where I came from.

I feel like your visuals have been strong throughout your career. You put a lot of thought into that. Not all artists do though. Why are the visuals so important to you?
The reason I care so much about videos is just because I was that Tumblr kid and the only thing that would go viral on Tumblr was good shit. Tons of Tyler’s videos. Tons of Ye videos. I would always see rappers doing skits that were actually good. It made me realize when I started music that no matter if I have money or not, whatever we can do to make this video as good as it possibly can be is what I always wanted to do. Like, there’s Kahuna burgers in the “Caroline” video that were just a play on the Tarantino film. I printed the wrappers at my dad’s house, got some fake burgers from Wendy’s, and wrapped them myself. Rappers don’t want to put in that work most of the time because it’s just below them. They don’t want to do that much. They just want to make the music, which I completely get, but for me I always cared about every aspect. The merch. The tour flyer. I’m still heavily involved in everything that comes out that says my name on it.

Your videos remind me a bit of old Missy and Busta Rhymes videos.
That’s definitely an inspiration. Missy and Busta are like the people who had creativity like that back then.

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