Jhene Aiko is one of R&B’s favorite. Not only is she the biggest sweetheart IRL, her music is reminiscent of an angel blessing the microphone each and every time. Taking the stage at All My Friends, Destructo’s new festival in DTLA, in between Smokepurpp and Gucci Mane, she reminded all festival-goers of her Los Angeles roots. Read more…
From her 2013 album, Sail Out — home to “The Worst,” “Bed Peace” with Childish Gambino and “Stay Ready” with Kendrick Lamar — to her collaborative effort with Big Sean, TWENTY88, to her most recent surprise album Trip, Jhene continues to bless her fans with music that not only spits the truth, but sets the mood.
With her most recent single “Sativa” featuring Swae Lee, she flexes her ability to hang in the mainstream light while staying true to her signature style and sound.
For those who don’t know, but everyone knows, who is Jhene Aiko?
Jhene Aiko is a writer, poet, mother, singer-songwriter, and just a lover.
Where do you fit in today’s realm of hip-hop & R&B?
I don’t know if I even fit in. I always kind of feel like I’m an outsider. I guess I consider myself able to hang with the boys as far as lyricism is concerned and I put a lot of effort into writing my own stuff. I don’t know if I even fit in. [laughs]
I love that you were repping LA up there tonight. Can you talk about how being from LA plays into your life and career?
It’s everything. Everything that I do is a reflection of the way that I grew up. I feel like when you’re from LA, despite popular… despite the reputation that LA people get, most people that are actually really from LA are super chill and laid back and down to earth.
[Big Sean gives side eye] Really? Santa Monica? Don’t play [to big Sean]. I just feel like that’s what I like to bring to the world, just something chill.
How does it feel to be one of the few R&B acts on this new All My Friends Festival?
It feels great. When I was looking at the lineup, I felt honored because it was such a diverse array of performers. I feel good. I feel like my music is not just R&B though, I like to experiment and play around with different sounds. It was a lot of fun and I love performing at home.
“Bed Peace” w/ Childish Gambino is so nostalgic. 5 years later, how has your sound evolved?
My sound just evolves as I evolve as a person. But I’m always feeling like the older that I get, the more open-minded I’m becoming and just more open to trying different types of music and collaborations and stuff like that. I don’t know, but I’m still on those same vibes I feel like. I’m still down for the bed peace, laying in bed all day [laughs].
It’s crazy to think Trip was only your second album. What’s your headspace now compared to when you were recording that project?
Right now, I feel a lot more happy [laughs]. And just a lot more confident — that’s something that as I get older, I feel like I’m getting more and more confident. I turned 30 this year, so I’m just a lot more sure. And with each project, I’ll be more sure of myself.
That was one of my questions, you’re fucking glowing. What’s the best part of being in the 30s?
I think that just being more in-tune with myself and just being grown. This is obviously the first year of it, but the 20’s were for all the mistakes and all the shenanigans. I feel like my 30’s are for me to really solidify and lay that foundation. And like I said, just be more confident in who I am and not apologize for who I am or try to fit in. I’m just more comfortable just being myself and I’m looking forward to feeling even more of that as I get older.
“Never Call Me” recently got the remix treatment from YG. Can you talk about how came to fruition?
His people actually hit up my people and made that suggestion: “I want to get on the song.” I was like, “Yeah of course!” I had been hitting up a lot of different LA rappers for the original song.
And you ended up with Kurupt?
Yeah. I always had Kurupt in mind for the song but it was just about who could do it in time. I called him, and he literally did it over the phone. He literally left that message. But with YG, we hadn’t worked together, but we’ve been around each other just being in LA. I had actually just done this documentary that I don’t know if he put it out yet, but it’s about LA. I was like, “So you got it, where’s the verse?” And so then he did the verse. I just think it’s perfect because we come from two different neighborhoods, but it’s all LA. It’s all LA. I relate to him a lot because he’s super authentic LA. I think we need to see more of that — and not the reality television, not the valley, not Beverly Hills, not Hollywood, but the hood of LA.
Did you purposely drop it the same day as Stay Dangerous?
I didn’t. I actually was working on the radio mix and it was supposed to come out the week before. They wanted to speed it up and I was like, “No It’s going to lose that swag.” It’s supposed to be laid back and chill. So I fought with him and that’s why it came out later. [laughs]
What’s your favorite song on Stay Dangerous?
I mean “Big Bank” because Sean is on there.
You made two music videos for “Never Call Me” — you had the Asian side and the hood side. Talk about the dynamic between the two, which one do people see most?
I think people really liked both, but the Slauson Hills Edition is the one that’s in my neighborhood, I feel like that’s the one that people really related to and really felt like they were getting to see my family and where I’m from and where I grew up and the places that I still go.
I was right behind your dad watching the show and watching him record. It was the cutest thing. I was just like wow that’s beautiful.
He’s sweet, he really is.
“Sativa” was and is a huge record for you. What’s your relationship with Mary Jane?
You know what, I smoke a lot less now that I’m older. My daughter will be 10, so she’s very impressionable and I’m just becoming more of a responsible adult. But I believe in its healing property. I believe that it’s a medicine, but with anything, you can’t abuse it. It’s definitely about weed. but everything in moderation. But I definitely love sativa more than indica.
Were you hesitant at all in naming the record after weed?
No, the beat was actually named Sativa by Fisitcuffs, who produced it. When I heard it and when I saw what they named it, I was like, “Okay, this song is going to be about weed.”
You also linked with Kendrick way early on “Stay Ready”, what other artists do you have your eye on collab-wise?
I mean, I’ve always… the first time I heard Travis Scott, I was like, “I want to work with him.” I tried and never got back to me. Who else? Even though he doesn’t like me for personal reasons, Kid Cudi is always someone I’ve wanted to work with. And then for the most part, I think a Rihanna collaboration would be really fun and interesting. Taylor Swift would be a really good one. I’m a Taylor Swift fan because she writes her music and she’s like me in a sense where whatever we go through, there’s going to be a song about it. You can tell she’s just being herself.
I was reminded of Twenty88 earlier today. How has your relationship with Big Sean helped shape you as an artist?
*as big Sean hovers* He’s taught me a lot about work ethic. He has a good work ethic so that’s inspiring. I haven’t always… I feel like I can be lazy, so working on Twenty88 I learned about working harder.
What do you want your legacy to be?
[Jhene to Big Sean] Leave for this one!
This is a deep one I have to really concentrate.
Big Sean: What was the question?
[Jhene asking Big Sean] You going to answer for me?
I want my legacy… I don’t really think about the future a lot. I just want my life to be the message. I lost my brother in 2012 and I feel like I owe it to him to live my life to the fullest and be myself unapologetically. I hope that people take away from my music the courage to be themselves, to express themselves and be vulnerable with what they’re going through. And I would love to help heal people. Not only people but heal animals because I love animals. I love cats. I’m still working on my legacy. My daughter is my legacy, so really that’s one of my main focuses. Just making sure that she has her head on straight,
What’s the #1 thing Namiko has taught you in motherhood?
She has taught me to wake up early in the morning, because I’m not a natural early riser but obviously when you have a child, you have to wake up when they wake up. She’s taught me responsibility.
3 things you need in the studio?
Kangen water, which is K-A-N-G-E-N water.
Big Sean: Tea.
I need tea — Throat Coat tea. And no one there. [laughs]
Talk about your 2 Fish and you’re career as an author.
I’ve been writing poetry since I knew how to write, so it was a compilation of poems from the age of 13 to now. I feel like poetry is my passion — most of my songs start off as poems. It’s the first of many poetry books.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
I didn’t get it to perform it. “Oblivion” is one of my favorite songs to perform, and “Jukai.” It depends on the day. It depends on how I’m feeling.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?