Long the best-kept secret in R&B, Jhene Aiko finally escaped the world of mixtapes and hip-hop features in late 2013 when her exquisite Sail Out EP rode a wave of critical acclaim all the way to number eight on the Billboard Hot 200 — no easy feat for a debut set without a radio hit.
She’s grateful for the EP’s success but that’s not her end goal. “[Music] is something I’m going to do regardless of the benefits I reap from it. Because I love doing it, it keeps me doing it no matter how successful,” the 25-year-old tells Idolator. “I really stay motivated by people that come up to me and they tell me how much they’re connected to a song.”
And it’s hard for listeners not to feel attached to the singer after hearing the frank, emotionally raw tracks on Sail Out. On “Comfort Inn Ending” Jhene unleashes a stream of consciousness confessional touching on everything from past lovers to her brother’s death. “I didn’t write anything down,” she explains. “I just went in the booth and told this story. I just really wanted it to be super raw and say whatever came to my mind.”
According to the Def Jam diva, the sprawling track is a taste of what’s to come on her much-anticipated debut LP Souled Out. “I would say that ‘Comfort Inn Ending is a good sneak peak into what the album will sound like,” she reveals. “The sound is different in the sense that the music is more intricate and there are live instruments. I feel like everything is on another level. It’s deeper.”
“It’s all just me,” Jhene continues. “It’s me telling more of my story, it’s showing a different side of what I can do musically.” She’s excited to share the album but the “Bed Peace” vocalist isn’t quite finished with Sail Out yet. “I plan on releasing a few more visuals from the EP and just want to do as much as I can with the EP but the next single that will be from the actual album.”
As one of the most exciting new voices of 2013, I ask the rising star if we’re currently experiencing a revival in female R&B. “Yes,” is her unequivocal response. “I think now more women in R&B are not afraid to talk about who they are.” She pauses. “I think before it was about who can have the hot single. It was about doing whatever was considered hot at the time.”
“When you look at people like Drake or Frank Ocean, you see how they treat their music and they’re just honest about who they are and what they sing about,” she continues. “I just think that has inspired the females, especially the female writers to just be more open about their music and their life.”
A good example of this is change is the personal nature of Beyonce‘s new LP. “At one point you have to start telling your story, you’re giving more sides of you because people want to know you,” Jhene explains. “With her in particular I feel like with this album, she showed different sides of her and got a little more personal which people aren’t used to, so it’s definitely a good thing.”
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