CMU Approved

Approved 2017: Jhene Aiko

By | Published on Wednesday 20 December 2017

Jhene Aiko

Every day this week, we’ll be looking at the last twelve months for one of our favourite artists of 2017. Today, Jhene Aiko…

There’s been a trend in recent years towards longer albums, particularly in R&B and hip hop. Often this can feel like a cynical move. As if the artist is packing in as many different trendy production styles as possible to maximise potential airplay. Or maybe it’s some attempt to game chart rules for how streams are counted.

But in the case of Jhene Aiko’s ‘Trip’, its 22 tracks provide just about the necessary space to explore the album’s intertwining storylines. In fact, these stories and themes spill over into other media too, the project being a MAP – as she calls it – ie a movie, album and poetry book. The movie (or rather short film) goes some way to explaining the themes covered in greater depth on the album itself. Although, actually, a shorter monologue posted on SoundCloud does a better job of that.

Essentially, ‘Trip’ is a document of Aiko’s grief following the death of her older brother, Miyagi Chilombo, in 2012. It sees her attempt to cope through solitude, through romantic relationships, and through drugs. As the album unfolds, it becomes more than that, exploring different facets of all of those things – the good and the bad.

Along the way, she collaborates with artists like John Mayer, Brandy and Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. However, it’s performances with boyfriend Big Sean, her father Karamo Chilombo, and her daughter Namiko Love, that really pull the record together.

The album is set up with its opening two tracks, ‘LSD’ and ‘Jukai’. The former laying out the influence of drugs over what is to come, while the latter sees Aiko walking through a forest in Japan known as a place where people go to take their own lives, finishing with the line, “I made it out alive”.

‘Jukai’ also features the first appearance of a character, voiced by producer Brian Warfield of Fisticuffs, who – she told NPR earlier this year – “appears at first to be an angel, but then he turns into someone that is not”.

It’s an ambitious project and an album that delivers ever more with repeat listens.

Listen to ‘Jukai’ here:

Listen to (almost) ever artist featured in the CMU Approved column in 2017 on this Spotify playlist.