Andy Mineo – Finding his ‘Happy Thoughts’ (Album Breakdown)
While fans eagerly await the promised Never Land 2 project, Andy Mineo has been sure to provide new tunes through 2019’s Work in Progress, and now, 2020’s Happy Thoughts.
The new EP had five singles released before the full project drop, because as Andy stated in a September Instagram post, “…we all need happy thoughts in 2020.”
The title builds on the themes of the first Never Land 2 EP’s, with the line “[b]ut if I lose my happy thought then I won’t fly” off I: The Arrow’s “…Lost” serving as a particular inspiration.
As was made clear on that project, Mineo yearned to find a sense of joy once again, and it seems the trip to Japan he took with the Miner League team gave him just that. Happy Thoughts is a project of sonic enthusiasm, and in a year of seemingly unending pain, it could not come any sooner.
Shibuya Roll Call w/ Wordsplayed – “Blessing all my enemies, when it’s beef, let us eat.”
“Shibuya Roll Call” is a reference to the song first made famous by the 1996 film Get on the Bus, and then reinvented in a favorite show of Andy and Wordsplayed, The Office. The two preceding versions and the Magic and Bird duo’s take are all about introducing oneself, and in this track, Andy and Words do just that.
The two former New Yorkers spit with constant suave, as Mineo recites powerful lines like “I ain’t selling narcota, just bars with a lot of…/Purpose for those who hurtin’…”
After years in the music industry, Mineo knows exactly who he is and gives a look at all of it in a lyrical embrace of marital commitment, financial freedom, and peace. He knows exactly how far he’s come, and now Andy is here to give “cold water” for “…those who’s thirstin,” a symbol that comes up frequently in the Bible as a sign of spiritual refreshment.
Of course, Wordsplayed is no slouch, including bars that provide just as much motivation as his incredible “Circle of Life” persona. In his verse, Words proclaims, “Loved by, many, secretly loved by more/[o]pportunity was late, so I went to its door…”
He then gives a vivid picture of just what sorts of opportunities he’s earned, going from “class clown” to “[t]o triple platinum on the Tik-Tok.” Wordsplayed’s definition of success is not the same as his peers, which he acknowledges by rapping, “I’ll let them keep the bag, contracts, and finger food/I’ll take my family a Emmy and a Nardwuar interview.”
“Shibuya Roll Call” is about being willing to succeed on one’s own terms, with Andy and Words embracing who they are as individuals, even if that appears strange to outsiders.
Herman Miller – “Man, I’m stressed, stressed about some things I cannot change/But I’m blessed.”
“Herman Miller” is a high-energy track named after the luxurious furniture company that shared the song. Within the track, Andy looks on his struggles with anxiety that defined I: The Arrow and much of Work in Progress with newfound peace, telling listeners, “I thought God ain’t walkin’ with me, found out it was a test.”
As Mineo alludes to, tests of faith are trials that end with a more secure belief, which the “Herman Miller” music video could be paralleling as Andy bench presses a bar while reciting the lyrics. Mineo recognizes his struggles could have been the end of him, but Andy “[c]ame upright when [he] shoulda broke down.”
Andy’s second verse on “Herman Miller” also plays into the specifics of his career, sharing appreciation to his team with lines like “[w]hole crew, everybody ten toes down,” and “It’s a lotta con artists, gotta keep the pros ’round.”
The double entendre here is a humorous one, as Andy uses the ideas of pros and cons alongside professionals as opposed to con artists, opting to keep those who are supportive and can push him positively rather than being inauthentic or overly pessimistic around him.
Of course, as one of the most popular artists in our space, Andy is always surrounded by controversy, which he counters by stating, “…bump all that bonchinche (gossip) ’cause we grown now.” The drama will always follow him, but Andy’s focus is dedicated to “[s]ellin shows” without “…sell[ing] [his] soul out.”
Mangia (Ramen and Rhymin’) – “What’s courtside? (Ayy-o) I been to the empty tomb.”
“Mangia” has some of Andy Mineo’s best bars over a smooth record with three slightly different sounds. The song is a lyrical feast, with Andy throwing shots at reckless critics, repping New York, and reflecting on his own growth.
The first verse questions “[h]ow you suburban critiquin’ G MC’s in the Yukon?/[y]ou should be slow to squeeze like glue guns,” the clever wordplay being used to distinguish between the modern suburbanite hip-hop audience from the veterans of the rap game Andy grew up with. Where many current hip-hop consumers rant about veteran emcees, Andy’s encouraging them to slow down in taking their shots, appreciating the past’s greatness rather than dismissing what came before.
You can’t talk about hip-hop OG’s without mentioning New York, and “Mangia” has plenty of love for the Big Apple. Andy’s references to the city include the iconic Brooklyn pizzeria L&B’s Spumoni Gardens, Barney Greengrass on Amsterdam Avenue in uptown Manhattan, and a special shout out to the tostones (or fried plantains) of the Hispanic-Latino population in that area. All of these food bars are wrapped up with Andy’s admission, “I always wanted abs, but, dang it, I like to eat.”
The track is also filled with introspection as Andy exposes his fears about having children, considers the dangers of relational breakdown, and begs the Lord, “…we need direction, would You send the coordinates?”
Mineo’s faith is also paired with a reference to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the Jumanji star’s wrestling name being connected to the biblical description of Jesus as “…the stone which the builders rejected” (Mark 12:10).
As Andy raps, “[a]nd I do this for the Rock, I ain’t no jabroni.” Despite the accusations of Christians looking to condemn him, Andy continues to serve God. So, as the Rock himself might say, it doesn’t matter what we think!
Momma Taught Me – “Down on one-six-two/[g]ot the Holy Ghost wit’ me, I can never be spooked.”
“Momma Taught Me” reflects back on the lessons Andy was taught by his late mother, Fran Mineo. The song is laden with phrases inspired by Fran, from “live and let live” to “it is what it is” and “I’m a hoot.” While these sayings are filled with levity, Andy recognizes “…the story isn’t good unless it got a little bad.”
Within the track, Andy traces his own struggles back to childhood, saying, “[t]alkin’ how I was a bad kid, I needed whoopin’s/[s]houtout the trauma and the teachers ’cause they always pushed me.”
Andy also bites back at critics once again, rapping, “Hate it when they got no AIM, they just all chat/Only thing you ever held down was the ‘shift’ button ’cause it’s all cap.” To Andy, those quick to share an opinion are doing so merely for the sake of being critical, when they haven’t had to maintain a career or family-like Mineo himself.
“Momma Taught Me” also has Andy’s own words of wisdom as he warns, “Don’t ya ever be the fella always askin’ where the broads at’/They can tell ya thirsty and that’s why they never call back/If you knew that you could have it, would you really want that?”
Where young men tend to be obsessed with women, Mineo is alerting them their constant need for attention is exactly why they get none. Getting something easily makes it less desirable, a sentiment extending from relationships to business and more.
The Miner League founder recognizes he’s reached a new level of maturity at this stage, and now he’s in a position to dispense wisdom like that of his mother.
Jackson Pollock – “Already know what side I choose/What’s that I hear? Sideline boos? Huh/Y’all ain’t even the game like, “Put me in, coach.”
“Jackson Pollock” takes inspiration from the painter of the same name, known for a highly improvised and creative style Andy is emulating by both rapping over and producing this track. The song takes on an aggressive, hard-hitting tone, referencing the seemingly ever-worsening COVID-19 pandemic, environmental matters like climate change and gasoline, and several sports figures.
The artist’s confidence also takes center stage once again as Andy states, “I don’t make threats, I make promises,” “[w]hen it come to the flow, I’m Pro Bowl with it,” and the series of bars, “I’m right back in it, no, I can’t lose/[c]an’t walk in ’em or tie my shoes/[a]lready know what side I choose/[w]hat’s that I hear? Sideline boos…” The song uses inspiration from its namesake to imply a clear sentiment, Andy will do as he pleases with his art.
WILLY w/ nobigdyl.
The first collaboration between Andy Mineo and nobigdyl., “WILLY” refers to artist and actor Will Smith, with the song using samples from his music. Throughout their verses, Andy and Dyllie deliver clever wordplay while balancing equally compelling content.
nobigdyl. speaks on the need for Christlike generosity when spitting, “If my brother need a dollar he gon’ get a tenner/Yeshua of Nazareth was not a penny pincher,” multiplying the amount given beyond that requested. Dyl follows this up with a contemporary rephrasing of the similar biblical sentiment, “[i]f anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2, ESV). Dyllie recognizes “…arrogance can feel like heroin inside a dome.” Thus, he chooses not to trust in his own intellect or wisdom, but his Heavenly Father who will ultimately bring him home.
Of course, this is still Happy Thoughts, and Andy Mineo is not one to be outdone. The Mineos are in no rush to have children as they enjoy the steadiness of being married and building a life together, although it sounds as though Cristina Mineo has told the Reach Records star, “let’s have a baby” at least once, to which Andy “…said ‘baby steps.’”
Andy also believes after achieving a sense of contentment through spiritual and mental rejuvenation, he can“…talk like [he’s] got ten milli’” because he’s “[i]n [his] pocket right now.” Mineo knows he’s reached a new level in his craft, so at this stage, he “…ain’t got nothing left to prove…”
Always in a Rush w/ Mez – “My mind ain’t no prison, no, it’s a playground.”
“Always in a Rush,” ironically enough, let’s Andy slow Happy Thoughts down so we can peek into his continuing struggles with anxiety and imposter syndrome. While Andy’s therapy sessions have helped develop his self-awareness, he maintains a sense of guilt at resting rather than working. Where “Momma Taught Me” declared “guess every good story got a little bad,” “Always in a Rush” exposes Andy’s paranoia, as he “…wonder[s] if [he] could break ground without no breakdown.”
Nevertheless, there are signs of growth from I: The Arrow and several of the Work in Progress tracks, as Andy recognizes, “[m]issing what I got for things I still ain’t get…/[y]ou won’t take no shots if you scared you’ll miss…”
While he continues to worry about where he wants to be, Andy realizes God has blessed him with his own rewards. In reality, obsessing over what happens if he aims high and falls short will not allow him to experience the beauty all around him.
Andy Mineo’s Happy Thoughts is perhaps best thought of as an appetizer to the upcoming Never Land 2 project’s main course. The title connects directly to the lore of Peter Pan and the story Andy’s conceptualized. Over the past three years, Andy has publicly revealed his trauma, fighting to rebuild a newer, healthier, and much like Peter Pan, childlike faith in God. All of this struggle culminating in the completion of the story, Never Land 2. Andy knows this year has been hard on all of us, so before he provides us with the fuller breadth of storytelling coming up, he elected to leave us in 2020 with some Happy Thoughts.
Be sure to stream Happy Thoughts and purchase tickets for Andy’s virtual Friends and Family Christmas Special.