Jhene Aiko is not new to the music industry, but with her mixtape Sailing Souls this is the first time we’ve gotten the chance to see the true artist. With a strong sense to inspire those around her through visuals and melodic sounds, the soulful songstress takes you on a ride ocean away and still provides a sense of reality in her music.I had the pleasure of catching up with this budding rose right as she begins to bloom. Check out the interview below where Jhene discusses staying true to herself, overcoming adversity, and what inspires the directions she’s taking her sound. Enjoy.
K: Before Sailing Souls the last time we saw you on the music scene was during the B2K reign, what were you up to during your time away from the limelight?
J: Um I never really took a break from the music I was writing and finishing high school and taking some college courses I had a baby in that time and really I was just preparing myself to put out Sailing Souls which took me 9months to complete
K: Alright, going to school and becoming a mom? That’s a lot of life experience that we can hear in your music, so what was really the inspiration behind Sailing Souls?
J: I was thinking about doing a mixtape for a while, just because I wanted to put out something that was really from me, you know that i really felt like was me and it would be my first time doing that, and I wanted to reach as many people as I could so that’s why I made it free, and the inspiration was just you know life, like you said, in between that time of coming out as the B2k girl to finally being able to do it on my own, I just wanted to show people who I really was and….yeah (laughs)
K: Have you been finding it difficult to shed the “B2k girl” or “Lil’Fizz Cousin” even though your really not (laughs) have you been finding it hard to shed those titles or associations?
J: Not really because it’s probably like half-n-half, half of the people know me from B2k and half of the people are new fans that may have heard of the jhene girl with b2k and they’ll be like “oh that was her” but they weren’t really into b2k and their music so they didn’t really know who I was so it’s not hard at all i think that the fans that i did get from the b2k days they are still riding with me and are pleasantly surprised by my sound and the new comers it’s all the same, i think it’s about the music and it’s not about.. you know it’s real life and it’s really who I am I don’t think anybody is still concerned about what happened in 2001 (laughs)
K: (laughs) Yeah I definitely agree I’ve been a fan since “Gonna Love U Anyway” when I could on hear a snippet of the song on my computer (laughs) when I heard about your new mixtape I could tell it was really a staple of your individual sound, I’ve had conversations w/ my peers who often compare it to the sound of Frank Ocean, both of you have a melodic twist on R&B w/ a contemporary flair. Is this a new sound the West Coast has created?
J: what it is I think is me and Frank Ocean are around the same age and we’re also the same zodiac sign which means something also (laughs) we’re both Piscies but (laughs) anyway what I think it is, is it’s a whole new genre of young adults who have life experience maybe because of the day and age we’re living in, you know our 23 is a lot different than our parents 23. We’ve seen more especially if you’ve grown up in like a Urban place we’ve seen and gone through, not more just different things. I think that the new genre of music that me and Frank Ocean and a couple of others are doing is just like we’re kind of blending in rap and singing, and when I say that I mean the content of our lyrics are more something you might hear in a rap song, it’s not that typical R&B love song because we’re being very specific with describing the situation and more melodic, we’re doing more on top of the beat. It might be a LA thing but (laughs) I don’t wanna take credit for it.
K: Yeah both of you have the story telling mechanism down, it’s like you get a visual picture when your listening to the music, and I think it resonates closer with the listener because you get to feel exactly what you’re talking about in the song so I think it brings a lot to your music, um what artists and producers would you like to work with in the future?
J: hmm I’m open to anybody I vibe with really, because you know all day I could say kid Cudi, Kanye, you know Pharell, just b/c I know those people and I’ve heard good music from them, but at the same time I could get into the studio with like Pharell and our personalities just don’t click and I’m gonna not want to, you know not really wanna work, like I don’t care who you are if we’re not compatible we’re not compatible and so I just wanna work with people who share my same vision and wanna do the same thing which is really change the whole entertainment world and add a realistic genre to everything…yeah (laughs)
K: Okay so how involved were you in the creative process of the mixtape?
J: VERY, and that’s why it’s so hard for me now to really try to decide to deal with a label or continue to do it on my own because you know when you do it on your own you have control of everything, because I have a vision for everything, I was helping with production I don’t produce music but I know what I want it to sound like and I know on a certain part could it do this kind of sound and blah blah blah and even with visuals and photos I wanted it to be me, I have to make sure that no one else is coming in and gonna try to change it for whatever reason so I was heavily involved in everything in the mixtape. I wrote all of the songs
K: Okay that’s good so when we hear it these are your thoughts and a representation of you?
J: Yes, every song except for July, that was an older song I did like a year before but it was so popular that I had to put that song on their just because everyone knows it
K: I guess that means you find all the songs very personal to you but which song in particular do you hold really close to your heart?
J: umm.. all of them are actually but I think the one close to my hear is “Space Jam” and that was like my first time getting super personal on a song and just laying out some of the things I’m going through, “Space Jam” for sure
K: In your music you speak about overcoming adversity in different aspects what are somethings you’ve overcome?
J: I think daily we overcome so much and don’t really give ourselves credit for that, I live in LA I still live where I’ve always lived and being a young mom and trying to pursue this career in music is def. something thats like, everyday it gets more and more difficult because I have to see my daughter and music is something I’ve been doing for 10yrs and I’m still waiting for the point where it’s actually making me money to be honest, and then it’s like I grew up in a multi-cultural family were we deal with everything, our house burning down you know coming from an American story minorities go through and I don’t wanna give my pitty story but I think its something a lot of us has gone through and everyone has something to overcome everyday. i don’t look at it as a negative thing that’s what I want to connect with people have them understand, we’re all going through the same things
K: I think it speaks volumes that you’re still doing your music even after all this time, because some people disappear from the industry and give up on their dreams so I think it says a lot about your character as a person, the fight in you per-say, but you mention Tupac a lot as an artist you love, how has he influenced you?
J: He’s like a mentor to me because one thing about Tupac is he was himself no matter what even if he did contradict himself, the thing is we all contradict ourselves in our mind, it’s human, he was brave and more importantly he knew the power of music and he knew the power of words, he was a poet he was an activist and I see a lot of that in me, and watching him I’ll go back and listen to his music everyday, and watch interviews, he was so passionate and it wasn’t just music to him he had a message and he wanted to improve the human condition and he was so deep that people don’t understand when people say he was the greatest rapper that lived. It’s because he took it beyond music he wanted to change the world and I think the world can be changed through music, what I take from him is have something important to say.
K: What keeps you ambitious and inspired?
J: Just life and living day to day I believe that sharing is caring (laughs) so whenever I go through something I know that someone else is going through it and I like to sing about it, and I really believe in what I just said, changing the way people think, or making them realize theirs another way to go about living without suffering our feeling bad about your situation so that really inspires me. I don’t wanna live in an imaginary world I’m inspired by real life.
K: Are you gonna release anymore videos off of sailing souls? I really loved the perspective of the “stranger video”?
J: Yes we’re gonna do a couple more or all of them if we can get them done, but for sure we’re gonna do at least three more and in September I’m releasing and EP on my website called Souled Out and they’ll probably be some visuals for that as well, we’re still figuring out what song we’re doing for that
K: Can you tell all of the Know it all’s who haven’t checked out your music why they should?
J: I think it’s always good to have a open mind and just take in something you may not thing you like, don’t judge from what you think you know about me, I think it’s a easy listen it’s not gonna hurt your ears (laughs) I think it’s a very even mixtape if that makes sense, it’s very relateable for young men and young women, and it’s just the beginning of the journey that I’m tryna take people through, on my little sail boat.
–Jhene’s interview was very inspiring and her personality proved to be a reflection of who she is in her music. If you haven’t checked out Sailing Souls or simply can’t get enough of it listen below.
Keep up with Jhene: www.twitter.com/jheneaiko
Jhene Aiko: Sailing Souls
Watch the video for “Stranger” the first track on Sailing Souls
**Checkout the first part of this interview over at our sister site www.reddlipstickblog.com
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