This interview originally appeared on EARSTYLE November 7th, 2011
Shortly before the release of Drake’s solo debut ‘Thank Me Later’, a song by the name of “July” leaked with a familiar voice. A year later that old voice, Jhené Aiko released her incredible mixtape ‘Sailing Soul(s)’ which garnered attention all over the globe. Talk about a comeback! Former T.U.G. recording artist is here to stay with her soft, but striking voice and sick pen game. Check out what Jhené Aiko has been up to as EARSTYLE.NET’s Zay recently caught up with the singer!
Jhené Aiko: Hi (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: Hey, What’s going on?
Jhené Aiko: Hi, How are you?
EARSTYLE: I’m good, but before we even start, How do you pronounce your last name?
Jhené Aiko: My last name or my middle name?
EARSTYLE: umm..The Aiko?
Jhené Aiko: The Aiko..yeah Aiko.
EARSTYLE: Is that your middle name or your last?
Jhené Aiko: That’s my middle name.
EARSTYLE: Oh ok, that’s your middle, so what’s your last name?
Jhené Aiko: My last name is Chilumbo.
EARSTYLE: Ok..cool. I wanted to get that out now, because I hear it pronounced so many different ways. I just want to say thanks for calling in. You have so many fans that submitted some great questions for you. Let’s get right into it!
Jhené Aiko: Cool.
EARSTYLE: You released your comeback project Sailing Soul(s) this year to an insanely positive response. Where have you been all these years, like what’s been going on in Jhené’s world?
Jhené Aiko: Um well I finished school, because I started when I was thirteen, so basically around 16 or 17, I just focused on finishing high school. I was still writing and you know like working with different producers that I had met during my time at Epic, and I was taking some community college courses and then I had my baby around 20 and yeah you know, I was always working on music, but I just wasnt like you know, I was always working on music, but I was doing other stuff as well. Um yeah (laughs).
EARSTYLE: Well congratulations on all of that, It seems like a lot and you’re still really young. What inspired your return to music?
Jhené Aiko: Yeah like I said, I never felt like I left, I think before anything I am a writer and that’s something that I do almost everyday. So it wasnt I guess public,but I still would put out stuff on like MySpace or you know whatever social networks were poppin’ at the time. Then Saling Soul(s) happened after I had my daughter. Before I had my daughter I actually wanted to do something that I could put out for free, like a mixtape, but it wasn’t going to really be a mixtape, it was just going to be songs that I wrote and release for free. After I had my daughter, I kind of got comfortable with motherhood and had time to focus on something else then I started “Sailing Souls” with Fisticuffs, who produced the majority of the mixtape. I just wanted to put out something, like it wasnt really for, you know exposure or to get a deal or really anything like that. I just wanted to, I felt like there were people who, I think all the people who had become my fans through B2K, they didn’t really know me, you know what I mean? Those songs were just like demos of just like people, you know, it wasn’t me, so I just wanted to really offer myself to those fans and just anybody that would listen.
EARSTYLE: That’s cool. I remember when you were out before, but I really didn’t know much about your music or anything. Somebody had actually put me on to your project this year and I must say that it is an incredible body of work. It’s like one of the best projects of 2011.
Jhené Aiko: Thank You!
EARSTYLE: No problem. Did you expect such a strong response?
Jhené Aiko: I didn’t really expect anything, I mean, you know I would play it for people as I was working on it and their response would be like really good. So I didnt have any expectations of going into it, just you know..because it wasnt really for a reason. You know, it was just like somethiing I felt like doing. I was pleasantly surprised when everybody responded really well to it.
EARSTYLE: I listen to “Higher” at least every night, your voice is incredible! (Laughs)
Jhené Aiko: Thank you! (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: What are some of your favorite tracks off of the project?
Jhené Aiko: Hmm..I really, I like them all, but I think the songs that I can really listen to as if they’re not even me are “My Mine”, “Space jam”, are “Do Better Blues”. Those are my top three right now but it’s funny because they change all the time. (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: I can understand. “Do Better Blues” and “Higher” are my current favorites. You recently released a new track called “Snapped”. Tell us about that record and what’s next on your new project and are you going to be working with the same team that you worked with on Sailing Soul(s)? Everybody wants to know what’s good with some new Jhené!
Jhené Aiko: Yeah, well “Snapped” happened maybe like two months after I released the mixtape. I just like took a break from recording and that was the first song I wrote and recorded after the mixtape. So yeah it was just alot of people. I think as a person, I have a whole bunch of different sides to me. I showcased the more aggressive side but, that was just how I was feeling at the time. (Laughs) Souled Out is basically not going to be a contiuation from Sailing Soul(s), but its just a continuation of me. Whatever I’m going through at the time, or not even going through, the things that I’m learning right now about life, experience and all of that good stuff. I’m working with Fisticuffs and K. Roosevelt again, and some other producers. I’ve been getting beats from alot of different people so I’m not really sure what’s going to be on this project or not. I’m just going to go with the flow. When it comes out, it comes out. I think I have patient fans that want quality over quantity. It’s more important to me that the project be the best that it can be and the realest it can be rather than rushing a whole bunch of generic songs, because I could do that. I could just put together some songs real quick that I really like. I only write and I only sing for a purpose, so if its not then, it’s not going to be rushed. Sorry that was long. (Laughs)EARSTYLE: I feel you. So speaking of fans, you also have some pretty popular people that are fans of you, like Teyana Taylor and a whole bunch of other celebrities that say they want to work with you.
Jhené Aiko: Oh Really?
EARSTYLE: Yeah. One of her fans actually just hit me up and was like “I want to know what she thinks about working with Teyana Taylor, she loves Jhené” , so what’s your response to the co-signs you’ve been getting from industry peers, because alot of people in the industry have been tweeting and been talking about you? You’re definetly making alot of noise right now.
Jhené Aiko: I mean, it’s humbling because a lot of times people think because they are the artist or the celebrity or whatever they want to call themselves that they’re above being a fan. If you like something, you can like it. You don’t have to be afraid to say that so I really appreciate it and you know, to me, people are people. I appreciate all the people that can respect and appreciate my music. I know like the Wiz Khalifah one, got me excited because I like his music, and its almost like you know I can relate to his music, so I feel like dang if he listens to my stuff and thought it was good then maybe I’m as good as him, you know what I mean? So, its like yeah. (Laughs) I’m waiting for Kid Cudi to get a hold of something. I listen to him alot.
EARSTYLE: That’s where the inspiration for “Higher” came from I guess?
Jhené Aiko: You know like, nothing really came, everything was like inspired by something, but like I don’t know, “Higher” was just being high. (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: I feel you. (Laughs)
Jhené: He was the one of the inspirations while I was doing the mixtape, because I don’t really listen to alot of music which is weird because I do music but he was someone I could listen to everyday. That was really inspiring, like ok, I want to make some stuff like this, that you could listen to everyday.
EARSTYLE: Well you definitely accomplished that. You have songs for every mood and every moment. You have a huge follow on the West Coast, being that you are from Cali. I’m from Philly and I go to school in Virginia. You have a huge following over here too. Everybody wants to know do you have any plans for going on tour?
Jhené Aiko: I would love to go on tour. I think touring is one fo the funnest parts of being a singer or entertainer or whatever. Right now, I’m doing spot dates. I’m just getting offers to do different shows. I’ll be in San Francisco next week and I think we’re working on something to do in Washington but I don’t want to speak on it yet, because I’m not sure. Everything is getting worked out as it comes to me but yeah, I would love to go on tour. Hopefully soon, maybe for the holidays I can get on somebody’s tour and just go all out there. I love the East Coast so I would love to come out there.
EARSTYLE: Well, we definitely need to work on getting you to here to Hampton University. That would be really dope. Your’re still really young and I’m sure that you have alot more that you would like to accomplish. Where do you see Jhené Aiko going? What is your utimate goal for Jhené Aiko, do you have any mainstream plans? People would love to see you out there more often.
Jhené Aiko: My main goal in life is to just be happy. I don’t compromise my happiness for anything. If I find what makes me happy I’m going to do that. That’s really going with the flow of life. As far as like the mainstream stuff, if my destiny takes me there and I end up going that route, then that’s fine. Me as a person…I’m really laid back, I’m really an on my own time type of person so its just kind of like if I have to compromise some of that for the mainstream success…to me its not really worth it. I just like to sing. You know what I mean? Of course we live in a world where we have to make money to eat so that’s always nice to be able to sing and make money but to do something I love and to be able to eat from…it’s great. I want to write some books. Books that have nothing to do with music, just some fiction type of books for a whole different audience of people. I just want to meet as many people as I can and talk with as many people as I can, but whatever allows me to do that then that’s my main goal. It’s just to understand as much as I can about life and how it happens. Because people love music, I feel it’s my responsibility to produce more of the music and to get it out to more people, so like I said, If the mainstream route does that without compromising me being happy as a person then that’s something I’ll do. I’ve been offered things from alot of different labels and stuff like that, but it’s just like, it has to be perfect. I’m not going to sign my life away. (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: Right, I feel you. It’s getting crazy out here. Do you check youtube, to watch the different choreography videos and covers of your songs?
Jhené Aiko: Yeah, I do. Sometimes I go and I’ll look at people’s comments and then responses, covers, choreography and fan videos and after a couple hours it’s like, uhhh this is a little like…I’m like don’t indulge in right now..I need to you know (Laughs), but I mean yeah, I appreciate it though because I’m glad it inspired someone to do something creative also.
EARSTYLE: That’s cool. Another big thing that everybody wants to know is- I had the fellas and the ladies asking me are you single? (Laughs) What’s Jhené Aiko’s love life looking like right now?
Jhené Aiko: I belong to the world (Laughs) I’m in a relationship with the world. That’s what you can tell them. (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: (Laughs) I don’t know how they’re going to take that news. I think your’re going to make alot of people upset. (Laughs)
Jhené Aiko: What that I’m in a relationship with the world? No, that means I belong to them.
EARSTYLE: You belong to them? So you belong to everybody? I think some of the folowers are a little selfish though.
Jhené Aiko: Yeah, that’s the thing. I’m trying to teach people not to be selfish. That’s the thing. If you have a good thing share it. Of course we’re not in a sexual relationship, you know. (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: (Laughs) I think they’ll understand. I think they got it. I know you said that you don’t really listen to alot right now but what’s currently in rotation on Jhené Aiko’s playlist right now?
Jhené Aiko: Well today I’m going to get J. Cole album so that’s probably going to be in rotation for like a month. When I find something good, I stick to it for like a month. I’m usually late on like other stuff. Kendrick Lamar, I can play that often.
EARSTYLE: That’s cool. He’s coming out here.
Jhené Aiko: Oh really?
Jhené Aiko: I really like Foster The People. Do you know who I’m talking about? I don’t want to get the name wrong. Foster of the People..Foster the people. I think they’re a band.
Ivan: Oh yeah, Foster The People. They are a band.
Jhené Aiko: I love their song, Yeah, everyday though, I’m just looking for like- I always ask people, What are you listening to? What sounds are good to you? Alot of people are in their car, in the club or on the internet looking and I just don’t do any of that. Usually if I’m out and about it’s because I have something to do, because I’m like a really big home body. If I’m at home, im watching Nickelodeon cartoons so sometimes I’m out of the loop with the cool music, but for sure I’m predicting that J.Cole is going to be good.
EARSTYLE: Oh the CD is great, your’re going to love it.
Jhené Aiko: And then, I always go to my Kanye, Jay-Z. I go back to alot of the stuff that I know for sure that I like.
EARSTYLE: And you definetly have to check out earstyle.net and we will keep you hip to all the latest.
Jhené Aiko: Yeah. You have to have a section like “I think Jhené will like this”! (Laughs)
EARSTYLE: (Laughs) So when you get away from your cartoons, you can log right into the website and see what we got for you. Maybe once a week we will do that for Jhené. (Laughs) Before you go do you have any advice for young ladies who just are looking to get in the industry, just about the pressures, about you having your child..what would you like to say?
Jhené Aiko: The first thing that I always tell people is really make sure you know why you want to do it. For me, I didnt make a conscious decision like “Oh I want to be a singer”, it was like I grew up around it, I was singing because it was just natural for me to sing. People would hear me sing and they would kind of like suggested like “Oh you should be a singer” I liked it. I didnt realize until now, as an adult that it was a means of income, beause for me I was just doing it because it came natual and it was fun. So I think that’s really really important, you can’t get in the industry, because you want to make money because number one, I don’t think money should be motivation for anything because I don’t believe that it has any value. Two, you’re going to be waiting a long time before you start seeing money from it. Just really sit with yourself and think “Why do I want to be a singer?” like really think it out and if you realize that you really need to stick with then then be really focused and have good intentions on why you’re doing it and it will work out.
EARSTYLE: Thank you so much for calling in. Definetly keep in touch because I want to make sure that everyone gets the latest on Jhené Aiko. Im telling you, you got mad fans. This might be one of the biggest responses I got for questions.
Jhené Aiko: Wow, Really?
EARSTYLE: Yeah. Definetly keep us updated with Jhené. I’m looking forward to the new project.
Jhené Aiko: Definetly. Send me the link whenever your’re ready.
EARSTYLE: I got you. Thanks again for calling in. Enjoy your day.
Jhené Aiko: You’re welcome, and thank you.