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VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today, we’re featuring Amindi’s debut EP, nice.
Amindi is sitting in her Inglewood home, with her laptop propped up just enough to let natural light in for our Zoom call. She’s thinking out loud about how light she’s going to bleach her hair this time. Her hair is a focal point to her entire persona as a musician — she rocks her it in a low Caesar cut, with the color often changing depending on her mood. As we’re getting acquainted, we share a handful of compliments about each other’s short, near-bald hairstyles.
“I really like for my hair to be super light. Or sometimes I wake up and I want it to be pink, or blue. I just go with whatever I wake up feeling,” she says.
Her hair, currently platinum blonde, is perhaps her boldest statement but a sure sign of Amindi’s fearlessness. Born Amindi Kiara Frost, she began exploring music very young, but started pursuing it more formally at age 12 after taking lessons, where she learned to play the ukulele. Her skills began to develop, and she began toying with GarageBand on her school-issued iPad in high school. Similar to artists like Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd, she shared tracks on SoundCloud and YouTube in the late aughts, an era of near instant virality. What started off as releasing loosies for her friends at school was just the beginning of her music career. As she gained traction around school, she started to perform at small backyard shows, and began seeing her artistic potential.
“It’s been a continuous journey since I was 12 or 13,” Amindi says. “I was making music at a young age and slowly becoming increasingly serious about it. I manifested that I wouldn’t have to go to college because the music would pop off before I graduated, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Born to Jamaican immigrants, Amindi’s parents valued education, so music wasn’t their first thought as a career for their daughter. “There’s an [outlook] — especially on my mother’s side — that a creative career path isn’t the most stable,” she says. “[But] I had trust in self and spirit in the whole process that I would be able to do what I’m doing."
Conversely, music has always been a part of Amindi’s life, something impossible for her to ignore — Amindi’s mother identifies as Christian and mostly played gospel music around the house, while her father gravitated toward reggae and dancehall. Her brothers and cousins listened to hip-hop. This music that she was exposed to in her formative years created a rich tapestry of sound that she would later tap into as a musician herself.
Building on the music her family introduced her to, Amindi began to explore music on her own, and that’s when she stumbled upon Santigold, the Philly native who resisted the norm of existing in one genre and blended elements from punk, rock, hip-hop and dancehall. For Amindi, Santigold was her first encounter with alt-Black woman defying multiple genres, an iconoclast breaking down the idea of what music should sound like.
Being a Santigold fan led her down a similar path in her own music, and in 2017, Amindi’s smash hit “Pine & Ginger” was the proof. The dancehall-inspired track showed her parents just what she was capable of.
Her mother encouraged her to lean into her faith, and, according to Amindi, it’s precisely what’s brought her this far. In her first year at Santa Monica College, she was asked to perform “Pine & Ginger” for the Prime Minister of Jamaica and eventually signed the rights to the song over to Big Beat Records, a sub-label of Warner Music. “Having a dancehall song blow up was cool because it showed my mom what I was doing was cool, but it was also something that she could resonate with,” Amindi explains. “Pine and Ginger was actually a drink that she used to make for me.”
Reflecting on her ascension, Amindi is liberated and self-aware, but her entry into the music industry is what has made her so outspoken today. Though her parents’ confidence in her as a musician grew stronger, major-label backing found Amindi more restricted in her craft and the ideas and direction for her music, while she was still coming into her own and understanding herself as an artist. Her dreams fell short of the label’s vision for her sound — which, for Amindi, an archetypal Libra, wasn’t going to work. Until 2020, Warner possessed the rights to Amindi’s music, with her last track for the label being “Love Em Leave Em,” featuring Kari Faux. From that day on, she vowed to always have a deciding role in what she creates.
“I’ve always been able to see myself very clearly since I was young. I’ve always done a good job at writing and making music, and I’ve never really needed outside validation to know that,” Amindi explains. “I have good taste in music as a consumer, and so I think being able to enjoy music and still be able to make my own thing, I view it as a superpower.”
Now, with a stronger sense of self, the 23-year-old is much more hands-on with her music, and the evidence is in her debut EP, nice. It’s no coincidence that the Inglewood native’s EP sounds like it belongs on season six of Insecure (just wishful thinking). With the help of producers Devin Malik and Walt Mansa, sonically, the beats pair nicely with her innermost thoughts. She rhythmically rap-sings over mellow production, which caught the attention of Issa Rae's HOORAE Media, landing her “telly” track placement on the Fresh Prince reboot, Bel-Air.
The project is Amindi at her most raw and unfiltered, and her creative expression shines. As an avowed cinephile, nice is equal parts audible and visual. Taking cues from her favorite filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, the music videos accompanying the project feel like cinematic shorts. Some are professionally produced (the visuals for “haircut” are inspired by the 1999 film Being John Malkovich), and others are amalgamations of iPhone and Photo Booth videos.
nice is a profoundly vulnerable note to self. The eight-track EP balances between heartache, anxiety and resilience. Amindi’s emotions take center stage, but she explores them through alternative, bedroom R&B. Her surrender to the universe begins with “u got next,” where she grapples with being the underdog. Talking to herself, she reminds herself of why she started a career in music. “I have this ability to do shit in a country that my parents weren’t able to do. My parents are literally the reason I want to do anything. I’d like to be super rich, so I can give them all my money.”
She unpacks plenty of emotions on the EP, but her tone is more confident than anything. She displays a duality between her masculine and feminine sides, and “death proof” is perhaps the most definitive showcase of that. She takes a cue from Tarantino, as the song is named after his 2007 action film. On it, Amindi is with her friends preparing for a night out, and their sexiness seems to repel the men — which is great, because they can enjoy themselves peacefully. Amindi and her friends don’t follow the murderous ending to Tarantino’s flick, however, it’s a reminder of the importance of good girlfriends and, quite literally, being that bitch. “When making nice, I didn’t want any romantic songs. This was about me,” Amindi said.
Rooted in Amindi’s search for self, nice is a soundtrack to empowerment with anthems like “great again,” “nwts” and “haircut,” the self-possessed love story about her relationship with her hair. “I feel like I’ve been through more rebirths. nice was just me getting back to myself,” she said. “I love that version of me because I feel like I’ve evolved, or maybe it’s actually devolution.”
Amindi bares her soul in a way that everyone can relate to. Accepting the highs and lows of the human experience, she identifies all of the silver linings (and constant reminders of being that bitch) on “nwts,” “slideshow” and “telly,” all of which feel like turning points. Through her reflective inner monologue, she becomes fearless — and makes it abundantly clear that her time is now.
She learned to be a baddie again on nice, but the deeper message is loving yourself. “I learned how to treat myself good and not look for that in anybody else, and it was reaffirmed to me how valuable all the other forms of love that aren’t romantic are to me,” Amindi explained. “Self love, my friendships, my family. I learned how to care for myself again and ‘haircut’ and ‘great again’ are great examples of me loving on myself.”
Shelby Stewart is a writer from Houston, Texas, passionate about covering stories on Southern culture. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her championing Westside Gunn lyrics. You can follow her on Twitter @ShelbyLnStewart.