Describe Jhene Aiko in 3 words? Eclectic. Experimental. Exceptional.
Her new album, “Trip” dropped in September and proves her versatility as an artist and as a uniquely styled RnB singer who cannot be ignored. Since her earliest albums ‘Sail Out’ which dropped in 2013 and ‘Souled Out’ which came out in 2014, Aiko has been redefining modern RnB with funk, jazzy and cool atypical musical influences. Aiko follows this pattern with Trip, her latest album and also her first solo album in 3 years, with 22 songs clocking at 1 hour and 30 minutes in length and also involving several veteran features such as; Swae Lee of ‘Unforgettable’ fame, Big Sean, the classic Brandy and even her own daughter Namiko who is extra cute on Sing To Me.
In the same way that a ‘trip’ on drugs can be a soul-searching, mind-bending experience, Jhene Aiko’s ‘Trip’ is a cathartic journey through love, hate, despair and ultimately, Joy. Many themes are present in this body of work, with concepts such as motherhood, justice and morality lurking beneath the surface of the album.
Though a formidable challenge to a packed field of blossoming and established RnB artists such as Kali Uchis, The Internet, Daniel Caesar, Sza and Frank Ocean, my criticism of the album would be that the length was unnecessarily long and many of the mixtapes whilst adding character and personality to the album as a deeply personal release, were unimaginative and not pleasing to the ear. Jhene Aiko is a talented vocalist who has the ability to vibe on tracks ranging from ‘Maniac’, to her classic ‘The Worst’ and even her obscure masterpieces, e.g Growing Apart (To Get Closer) with Kendrick Lamar; that is why I was disappointed that Aiko seemingly prioritised quantity over quality with only a few stand-out tracks like Frequency, While We’re Young, Sing to Me, Ascension and Never Call Me.
“Yes your mama did, she raised a fool” Never Call Me was unapologetic and uncensored in tone, with the syrupy sweet vocals that Aiko delivers easily, atop an upbeat tune with interjections of electric vibes throughout. Aiko remarks upon her very public break-up with ex-husband, producer Dot The Genius and states “you should have called me…” Keeping it simple.
Frequency was produced by Mali Music, who Aiko has described as “anointed”. This was a mesmerising track with hymn-like vocals, with a slow beat and simple repetition. This is no traditional song structure but it doesn’t need one. Creating instant classics is a talent that is “never far” for Aiko.
This album was a powerful project that proved that Jhene Aiko owns her lane and is probably coming for yours too. Managing to be intimate, sweet and genuine whilst also showing a new meaning to love. I do feel that this brilliant project was diluted by quantity and a blurring effect of similar vocals/production, but from the few stand-out tracks on the album, it is clear that there can be no critique of her vocal talent. Trip was the album that 2017 needed.