Say It With Your Chest: An Interview With Amindi

Pete Tosiello speaks to the L.A. R&B singer about the benefits of not putting any pressure on her recording sessions, instinctively knowing what she wants to sound like on the mic, and showcasing a...
By    October 11, 2023

Image via Amindi/Instagram

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Pete Tosiello once threw a drink on Eric Adams outside of Zero Bond.

With slinky melodies and roomy, unassuming grooves, Amindi’s music sneaks up on you. Her 2021 breakthrough nice was an effortless blend of neo-soul and atmospheric R&B, her slow-burn confessionals spiked with cool tenacity. She quickly became a sought-after collaborator among hip-hop’s avant-garde, lending her textured vocals to such landmarks as Isaiah Rashad’s The House Is Burning and Mavi’s Laughing So Hard, It Hurts. Her new mixtape Take What You Need explores an audacious range of moods and tempos, featuring collaborations with Kenny Mason, monte booker, and Jordan Ward.

Born in Inglewood to West Indian parents, Amindi found her voice recording DIY tapes as a teenager. In 2017 she landed a viral hit with the dancehall-inflected “Pine & Ginger,” leading to her first record deal. In the years since, her sound has both focused and expanded, with conversational verse structures underscoring visceral phrasing and rich, hazy ambience — a fertile middle ground between Badu and SZA. This month she’s headed on her first headline tour, culminating in her native L.A. on the 24th. We caught up by phone to discuss Take What You Need, producer placements, and trusting your instincts.

I read you’d recorded all the Take What You Need songs individually as loosies, rather than approaching it as a holistic album project. How did it come together as a mixtape? Did that free you up creatively?

Amindi: I make new music so frequently — when I’m with friends, whenever — and after I released the last project, and I was back in the groove making music, I was doing sessions and making songs without any real intentions for the songs. Not putting pressure on any of my sessions, just making music for the fun of it.

When it came time to come up with a project, I had this huge library of songs to choose from. There were different iterations of what I wanted to put out — I was thinking an EP, and then three EPs — and then I was like, okay no, I’d rather deliver all these songs that I really like at once. They’re all fun, they come from my experiences and my feelings, and they all speak to different points in my life.

nice didn’t have any guests, and featured work from just a handful of producers — whereas Take What You Need plays like a more collaborative affair. How did you go about choosing collaborators for the new project?

Amindi: As far as the producers, I mostly worked with people who reached out to me after nice, people I was able to create relationships with and just vibed really well with, for lack of a better word. As far as the vocal guests, they were all friends already. There are six features — half of them, we recorded the songs together live, the other half I sent out for the verses to be added. The ones I made with the artists same day were “pocket” with Kenny Mason, “big boss” with Jean Carter, and “so much better” with Frex. And then the ones I sent out were “lady” with chlothegod, “bake” with Jordan Ward, and “nightmare” with Franny London.

And these are all just literally homies who were down to make stuff. I think the first album, I was really intentional with it being like, okay, this is the world I’m seeing, this is my introduction, my first project. I think this time around, I wanted — I was talking to my friend about this last night, actually — I’ve been introduced, I was positively received, I do not want to deliver something that disappoints. I kind of intentionally made it like, it’s okay if you don’t like some of the songs, I’m sure you’ll like other songs, you know?

Do you write melodies to beats, or after choosing loops? Which comes first?

Amindi: The words come with the melodies, and yeah, it only happens after hearing the beat.

I’m interested in the way your vocals are engineered. On nice there was a lot of double-tracking — like on “slideshow” — and on Take What You Need the vocals sound more centered with reverb. How did you arrive at this sound? Have you been experimenting with different equipment or effects?

Amindi: I guess I’ve been making music for so long — since 2013 — and I’ve just kind of gotten to a point where I know what I want to sound like. I don’t even have the vocabulary for what I like to sound like, I just know what it feels like.

Like a lot of folks, I was introduced to your music in 2018 when “Pine & Ginger” blew up. Did that create expectations for you, as far as an audience and community?

Amindi: Yeah, totally — especially being seventeen years old at the time. I’d been making music for years before that, and that’s the song that just happened to do its thing. I’m eternally grateful for it, of course. However, in time — I was a young girl, and there’s a bit of pressure to be, you know, the “Pine & Ginger” girl.

I’m grateful for that song and its bigness, and all that it’s done in my life. I feel like, growing in my artistry and just as a human being, it’s a matter of not being forced to do anything. Not that it was lost — I was very certain, even then, I didn’t want to make only one type of sound. Having these two projects out now to showcase my progress, my intention is to show a fuller scope of who I am. I would love to make more music like “Pine & Ginger,” it was just really important to me to not only be known for making one type of music.

You seem to have found your stride with these short-format songs — most of the songs on nice and Take What You Need clock in around two minutes. What about this format makes you feel comfortable?

Amindi: I feel like I’m saying everything I need to say. I didn’t really come from this place where there needs to be a verse, and then there needs to be a pre-chorus, and then there needs to be a chorus, and then there needs to be a post-chorus, and then there needs to be another verse, and then there needs to be a bridge — I never really felt like that. I write based on what comes out, and if I want to adjust the beat based on what I write then I will. Growing, being older, I realize there is benefit to structure, and I’m paying more attention to it nowadays.

I saw you’re headed on tour in a few weeks. What’s the setlist? Just you on stage, or are you performing with a band?

Amindi: Yeah, it’s my first headline tour — I’ve been on tour twice as a supporting act. This time around I’ll be playing with a live band. The setlist is going to be a lot of songs from the new project, some older songs as well, but mostly from the new project. I predict it’s gonna be really fun, should be a nice time.

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