The most recent quote on Jhene Aiko’s Tumblr reads, “Sunshine all the time makes a desert.” This arab proverb is perfect for Aiko’s attitude towards life and music. To paraphrase from a past interview she’s said, “I just believe in progressing through life..I really take things that most people would see as negative as motivation..tradegy etc., those are the things that make me even more motivated and inspired.” It can be easy for some to hear her music, her voice and instantly be drifting away in a kind of bliss. But there is darkness, and complexity within the beauty.
Jhene is about a year older than me, a Pisces, born March 16th 1988 (raised in LA). While I was trading Pokemon cards and playing video games in 2002 (Jhene was probably doing that too:)), she was getting her music career started, contributing vocals to past R&B group B2K. It was fun to realize I had heard her voice way back then and not noticed. You can spot Aiko in their video for “Uh Huh” (my favorite of theirs).
She toured with them for a bit, and took a break from the music industry for several years. During this time, she had a daughter and had a record label meeting that would influence the future creation of the Sailing Souls Mixtape, Sail Out EP and upcoming debut album Souled Out. She was told the classic tale, that you need to sell yourself if you want to get somewhere in the business. A play on words would change “sell” to “sail”, and that attitude of freedom and artistic integrity would fuel her future work.
I admire her energy and perspective on the world within and around her. She doesn’t believe in setbacks and takes each moment good or bad, as energy for her music. It’s that roll with the punches feel that’s helped give her this angelic, as well as raw presentation as an artist and person. In her Sailing Souls mixtape (Prod. by K. Roosevelt, Fistcuffs, J.LBS, Bei Maejor and Tae Beast), the relationship songs are all about one particular, unnamed person. The audience has a window into her life, and that vulnerability and honesty has connected with a massive and diverse group of individuals. That mixtape’s had over a quarter of a million downloads, and features Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Gucci Mane, Lite, H.O.P.E., Roosevelt and Kanye West.
Her productions on that mixtape were smooth demonstrations of R&B, soul and pop, some of my favorites being “Stranger”, “Hoe Feat. Miguel & Gucci Mane”, “Real Now”, “Higher” and “Space Jam.”
Jhene lost her brother Miyagi to cancer in July 2012. She wrote “For My Brother” solely for her dying sibling, and he passed away shortly after hearing it. That fall, “3:16 AM” was released as a single from Sail Out.
In 2013 she was featured on Drake’s “From Time” off his marvelous Nothing Was The Same album, was involved in a car crash with her daughter (who was thankfully unharmed) and released her Sail Out EP (Prod. by Fistcuffs and No I.D., via Def Jam and Artium) in November. With each release, from the mixtape to this EP I hear a mighty evolution that further puts Aiko in her own creative space. It’s refreshing, organic music, that doesn’t sound anything like current mainstream cheese. The same labels that brought Sail Out are now prepping Jhene’s debut album, Souled Out (out May 2014). I’m itchin’ to hear where she takes us next.
* You can catch Jhene Aiko at Coachella 2014 *
– Jimi Jaxon