A few well-chosen cameos is usually a surefire way for a new artist to lay groundwork, but it’s the other way round for R&B singer Jhené Aiko, who had Drake, Kanye and Kendrick step into her world for spots on her 2011 mixtape .sailing soul(s). In the thrillingly diverse independent release, which was mostly produced by duo Fisticuffs, her honeyed voice cruises across the stuttering perspective shifts of “Stranger” (“I meet them every day, they seem to be the same,” she intones resignedly) and the self-reflexive sex-jam “Hoe”, which features Miguel and Gucci Mane. She’s a musician’s musician with none of the aloofness.
Aiko’s talent was spotted at an early age; she signed to Epic Records at the age of 12, supported torso revealing boyband B2K on tour and released the passable pop single “NO L.O.V.E”, before leaving the label at 16 to finish school. A few years later she gave birth to her daughter, Namiko. After Aiko decided to do things her way and put out her mixtape herself, Def Jam signed her and released the soul-searching and quietly epic “3:16 AM”, the first single from the 24-year-old’s debut album Souled Out, due this spring.
How’s the album going? Are you still working with Fisticuffs? Yes, for sure! .sailing soul(s). was an introduction to what I can do melodically, but with Souled Out I’m looking at it like this is my one shot. This is it. Kendrick Lamar is on a few tracks, and I have Ab-Soul and the entire TDE rap crew. I’m going to do some more stuff with Miguel. I’ve talked with Drake and we’re meant to be in the studio this month, but my whole thing is just have it be organic. There are a few more people, but right now I’m gonna keep ’em a surprise.
You supported Solange in West Hollywood recently. Do you feel a similarity with her, as an artist that also left a major label to pursue an independent route? I met Solange in those early days! It’s ironic: we both started out doing music we weren’t as into, and we’re both young mothers. But she had some control when she first came out – I didn’t. I didn’t even know what type of music I wanted to do, or the type of person that I was. I had to experience life and go through some stuff before I could figure out who I was as an artist. But it wasn’t all negative. I got to tour around the United States with B2K, I got to meet a lot of great producers and great people, which laid a strong foundation. Everything came full circle and I’m working with some of the same people now, but on my terms.
You also do a dark cover of Drake’s ‘Marvin’s Room’ called ‘Do Better Blues Part 2’. Is it about rape? Yeah, it is. I took some personal stories and mashed them all up into this one night. The line ‘something was slipped in my drink’ had to do with one of my close friends. Date rape is something people don’t really talk about – unprotected sex, then you’re late, and you have a boyfriend and you have to tell him that you went to this party and you don’t know what happened, and now you might get pregnant… It’s not that uncommon a story, you know? I thought it would be good to take a song like that and talk about something that really happens.
Head over to dazeddigital to read the entire interesting interview!