Long overdue, let’s break down Jhené Aiko‘s most recent album release: Trip, a plunge into a deep unknown with everything we love about Jhené’s music, from drugs and dark thoughts to twisted desires and dream vocals.
Before we dive into her subconscious together, we need to take a look at the artist as a whole. Jhené Aiko was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, California and comes from a musical family. Her R&B career began in the early 2000’s but she emerged after finishing school in 2011 with the mixtape, Sailing Soul(s). The tape was life changing for me; tardy as usual, I discovered Aiko in 2012, when I was a moody high schooler with little interest in anything besides music, being misunderstood and altering my reality by whatever means were available. The smooth mixtape features high profile names like Miguel, Drake, Kanye West, Gucci Mane and Kendrick Lamar as well as a versatile selection of beats. For a taste of classic Jhené flow, listen to Stranger from Sailing Soul(s) on Soundcloud here.
Flash forward 5 years, after dropping the EP Sail Out (2013) and the album Sailed Out (2014), she releases a joint album in 2016 with babyboo Big Sean, as they introduce the world to the duo of TWENTY88. If you’re like me, you may have liked this self titled collaboration a little too much (I won’t disclose frequency… but, lets just say I have posted a criminal amount of Snapchat clips reciting the skit from Talk Show word-for-word).
That brings us to the present and, lets be honest: there has been nothing predictable about 2017. And so in light of her beautiful, mutually height-challenged relationship with Big Sean and the success of TWENTY88, I have to admit I was skeptical of new music from Ms. Aiko. Would it carry through her usual honest sound? Was this a project for fellow happily cuffed individuals? In the past, like many others, I have depended on Jhené for dark, raw, twisted, freaky and quite frankly depressing music, and I selfishly feared being unable to connect to whatever 2017 has done to our lovely lady.
Welp, we can cut that weak worrying crap out righhhttt now —
Trip, is a masterful compilation of 22 songs that tell a story of “Penny” an alter ego based off a childhood nickname from her grandfather. In September of this year, Jhené dropped the album out of nowhere along with a short film and collection of raw and biographical poetry. The short film is ironically enough, directed by Tracy Oliver, a writer for the film Girls Trip who, an article on Jhené for NYLON says, “She’s a brilliant writer and storyteller,” Oliver is quoted. “I was really impressed with her ability to float between so many different mediums with ease: songwriting, poetry, and screenwriting.”
Throughout almost all of her music, Jhené mentions the loss of her older brother Miyagi, and Trip is sculpted from pain of losing him to cancer and the period of self medication she underwent to numb the memories and heartache, hence the references to various hallucinogens and psychoactive drugs. Whether you’ve tripped in any fashion or are still scared to take more than the instructed dose of headache medicine, there’s no way not to connect to this vibrant and diverse collection of freestyles, collabs, love songs and long tracks.
“Came all this way to escape all our problems
Came all this way just to break every promise
Everything you said I shouldn’t do
But those things bring me closer to you
So the other night, I
Took a tiny piece of paper and put it under my tongue
This white guy said it’d be fun, and it was, but
What I saw
Oh my God
Oh my God”
Since you don’t actually need to be on acid to partake in the music, I highly recommend taking a listen for yourself. However, 22 tracks can be intimidating and there are even a few intro’s and songs with seemingly multiple versions, so I highlight a few individual songs to get you started:
- While We’re Young — A single that dropped a little before the full album, this song sounds like the moments you realize you’re falling in love with that crush. Yeah. It’s sweet, and fun and has a melody that begs to be listened to with the windows down riding past the beach at sunset. Let down your guard and fall for this song.
- Lsd — A short song that seems to be a message to her brother, in which she details the events leading up to her trying LSD, it ends with a twist and the lyrics enough can hook you into the rest of the album.
- Sing to Me (feat. Namiko Love) — If you think Twitter and Instagram are dangerous places where cute pictures and videos of beautiful babies are out to get you, knowing full well you can’t afford a child… Might as well press skip. This beautiful ballad features actual vocals from Jhene’s daughter and simple soul touching lyrics. Don’t get any ideas, though. Baby fever is highly contagious, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Psilocybin (Love in Full Effect) [(feat. Dr. Chill)] — This spooky track is that classic combo of sexy lyrics and mystical beats that will have you in a trance. The song has various parts to it, and is a bit lengthy but if you treat it like the experience it is, you might catch a glimpse of what it’s like to be on the drug the track is named for.
- Other favorites: OLLA (Only Lovers Left Alive), Overstimulated, Moments (ft. Big Sean), When We Love, New Balance and the almost hymn-like and tranquil Frequency.
All in all, the album was a pleasant surprise for me, and while I don’t always let it play through without skips, it’s found its way into my usual rotation and I cannot say I’m disappointed. As a Jhené fan, I can say (with zero authority whatsoever), that this is an album completely necessary to her discography and evolution as an artist. Aiko will leave a legacy as not just a sweet sounding feature but an artist in every sense of the word, a mother and a victim of the pain of the world. Trip is yet another exhibition of the ability of humans to take the darkest things afflicting us and transform it into love and beauty and music that we can all experience. And let’s face it, we could all use a little trip considering the current state of affairs.
Hope you enjoyed this break down. Now go break down, roll up and press play.