If you’re not familiar with the airy angelic voice of Jhene Aiko, you’ve probably been living under a rock.
The 25-year-old singer began her career over a decade ago when she was just 12-years-old, but a lot has happened since then. Life has happened.
The California native got out of her old recording contract, gave birth to an adorable baby girl, released a mixtape, and under the mentorship of hip-hop super producer No I.D., Jhene inked a new deal with Def Jam.
GlobalGrind caught up with the busy singer/songwriter, who’s currently on tour with Drake, to discuss her new Sail Out EP, freestyle battling with Drake, her interest in astrology, and the misconception of her innocence.
The “Bed Peace” songstress is currently featured on Drake’s Nothing Was The Same track “From Time” and serves as an opening act on his “Would You Like A Tour?”
Check out our exclusive interview with Jhene Aiko below.
GlobalGrind: Congratulations on the success of Sail Out. You have bragging rights now, and can actually tell Drake that you sold more albums than him this week.
Jhene Aiko: (laughs) Yeah.
When I listen to you sing, I just want to float away or just disappear. What was your state of mind when you were putting together this project? Do you have a system?
There isn’t really a system. After I did Sailing Souls (the mixtape), I signed a deal and it was time to start working on the album. In between 2011 and 2013, I recorded so many songs and I write from a very personal place, so it goes in chronological order for the most part. I really wanted to release something in between the mixtape and the album, because I felt like everything needs to go in order of what’s happening in my life, so the audience is really going on the journey with me.
I wanted to make sure Sail Out came out this year. I wanted to make sure that the people who aren’t familiar with me had a piece of work that could give them a good idea of who I am. What they know me for is a lot of collaborations with rappers. The album is going to take it a step further from Sail Out and really dig into where I am now and what else I can do.
I noticed after listening to you for the past couple of years that you write like a rapper, not like a singer. Has anyone ever told you that before?
Yeah, I actually had a friend tell me that. The song, “Sailing NOT Selling” off the mixtape, he’s like, ‘you have cadence like a rapper’ and that was the first time I realized it. There are songs that are more singing songs, but then there are songs where I’m more about the words and the melodies, not really about me singing. I try to split the difference. I listen to more rap than R&B, so I guess I just feel more influenced by it.
Yeah, on “Comfort Inn Ending” you started off singing, “I thought I told you not to trust these hoes.” Most singers don’t start their songs like that, but listening to you kind of battle yourself in the song was interesting.
Thank you. I think that people don’t expect me to say the things I say. Just between me and my friends, sometimes I can be vulgar and that’s what it is with the music, I can be anything.
Do you think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about you? You’re very soft spoken and I guess for people to hear you say some off the wall sh*t, they look at you like, “who are you?”
Yeah, I think that is a misconception. People take one song or one picture and think that’s me. That’s why for the most part, my favorite color is blue. I have specific things that have been the same for me since I was young. But as far as personality traits, I go through a lot of different things throughout the day. I chose to exhibit the more calm side of myself, mostly because that’s what I like to put in the universe. Even when I’m having crazy thoughts, I much rather put it in a song then act on it. Most people think I’m super innocent, I have a daughter, clearly I’m not that innocent because I wouldn’t have been having sex. The people who follow me on Twitter and Tumblr or watch my interviews, they have a good idea of me and they know I’m all over the place.
You’re really big on astrology.
Yeah, I like to read about it.
I’m into astrology as well, and I’m also really into how the moon affects people. The human body is composed of 65 percent water, so finding out one’s moon, which correlates with the tides, is just as important as the typical astrological sign.
Exactly. It’s deeper than your daily horoscope. You find out your moon, your rising. I did this one that said where all the planets were when you put in a time and a location of your birth and all that. It breaks it down. How I explain it to people who are like “that’s not real” is that if you believe that you’re the product of your environment, you have to think of the whole entire planet as this little spec that’s in the environment of a whole bunch of other planets. So wherever you were born, everything around you was tailored or different from the person who was born the day before or after you.
I feel like I can talk about astrology forever.
Right (laughs). I got into astronomy because if astrology is based on stars, I wanted to find out more. So I got a few textbooks, I’m not a professional or a scientist, but I just like to read about it sometimes and hopefully one day I can go to school and really study it.
On the EP you also talk about getting high a lot and smoking weed, with songs like “The Vapors” and “WTH.” When you recorded the album, were you high most of the time, or do you just get high when you’re writing songs?
For Sail Out, I would say 75 percent of the time I was smoking while I was writing and recording. That helps me tap into when I want to rap and want to feel like a rapper. That’s why I say it’s the medium of the mixtape and the album, because for the album I was really working off of raw emotion. More pain and more happiness, it was just sober. Even though still sometimes I’ll smoke to just get there faster, but for Sail Out during that time, I was smoking more. Right now, I’m not smoking that much, but I definitely believe in getting high. I like doing it, but it’s all about the balance. I always go back and forth. I can be a smoker for a week and then maybe the next few weeks I’ll be like, ‘I’m good.’ Because I can remember what it’s like to be high, so I can channel those thoughts.
How were you as a kid. How would you describe your 12-year-old self?
When I was 12 that’s when I was signed to Sony Epic, so that’s when I was really doing what I’m doing now. I feel like I was more serious. I used to get very irritated a lot, I feel like I had a bad attitude. Maybe not 12, but definitely as a child. Maybe like elementary school. I was very sarcastic. I was quiet and I thought I was older than I was, I didn’t really want to be friends with kids my age, so all my friends were 3 years older and above. But for the most part, I really don’t feel like a lot has changed. Especially because I pretty much look the same. I definitely wanted to know more about things, so I was always quiet. I was shy.
Let’s talk “Beautiful Ruins.” I know that when Drake initially sent you the “From Time” track you had written a completely different song and decided to redo it and send it to him. Are you planning on doing a CDQ version of “Beautiful Ruins?”
Yeah, “Beautiful Ruins” is going to be on Souled Out. I recorded it, put it together. I sang it to a guitar. Steve Wyreman, he plays the guitar in Cocaine 80s, so that’s how we start. I don’t know if we are going to build on the beat, but right now it’s an acoustic song. I’m excited for people to hear that.
Have you and Drake battled freestyle yet on tour?
I actually tried during rehearsals just being funny and he was like “Uhhh.” When I freestyle it gets vulgar really fast or disrespectful, but it’s always funny. I don’t think he’s ready for it. He’s not ready for these bars.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram