When Jhené Aiko slipped into the R&B scene with her solo project Souled Out in 2014, her name became synonymous with the spacey, luscious and dreamy production that gave her a backdrop for personal exploration. Whereas her debut mixtape, Sailing Soul(s) (2011) was a whirlwind of feelings and emotions speckled cameos from major names of the time (Drake, Gucci Mane, Kanye West etc.), Souled Out blended the inner workings of her mind and life into a solitary conceptual landscape, telling vignettes of, “Boy Stories. Life lessons. Philosophies. [And] Truths.,” according to an interview with The Fader.
Weaving her personal narratives into auditory landscapes became as much a trademark of her music as were her wispy and melismatic vocals. As she experimented with narrative styles, Jhené continued to affiliate with musicians with whom she could further develop her concept of artistry, avoiding the notion of selling herself, as she discussed in an interview with the LA Times.
After collaborating with rapper and current boyfriend Big Sean for the duet EP Twenty88 in 2016, Jhené returns with Trip, a 22-track ode inspired in part by the passing of her brother in 2012. Something of a middle ground between her debut tape and first album, Trip employs a number of mainstream features without succumbing an overtly pop style. Rapper Kurupt features at the tail end of “Never Call Me” over a phone call giving our songbird words of wisdom and encouragement; Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd lends his voice to a downtempo hook on “Sativa,” just as her daughter Namiko Love joins her for a loving duet on “Sing To Me.”
Despite the psychedelic cover art and Jhené’s usage of hallucinogenic drugs after her brother’s passing, Trip takes the lofty sounds associated with trip-hop and slowed down dance grooves to make a holistically warm and comforting project. Tying in references to her grandfather’s nickname for her (Penny) on “Jukai,” and comparing pain to seeing a “pic of Mobb Deep,” as on “OLLA (Only Lovers Left Alive),” Jhené crafts a project steeped in personal exploration without sacrificing the world around her.
Trip, and its accompanying short film are available now.