You BabyKayKs know Im always listening out for some incredible music to fall into my ears. I cant deny that when my homegirl sent me this Jhene Aiko mixtape she looked out! I listened to it & posted it as you all know. I got so many emails from you guys about what she's been up to so I immediately set out to find out :)
After about 10 minutes of trying to be smarter than Skype, Jhene & I got a chance to chat about her music, being a mommy, her love for other artists, and much more. She's just a beam of light, insightful, funny, just as chill as her mixtape, and of course beautiful. We clowned a bit but eventually got to the interview. Im really excited about whats next for her. Check our convo out below.
KayKi- So I try my best to push out hot music on the site. I got your mixtape in an email from one of my homegirls.. She was like do you remember her?! My first reaction was no, but the moment she said B2K it struck a familiar chord. I remember it was said you were like Fizz's lil cousin or something like that right?
Jhene- No. He had been in a group with my oldest brother when I was like 5. We grew up together, so that was like a marketing thing I guess on the label's behalf. Like they came up with that whole thing. We did call each other play cousins, so the label ran with it, they were like, cousins.. aw ok. Then it got more into what side of the family it was on.. & the lie had to grow. So you know, thats one of the first things I like to tell people. That was just a lie. I was like 12 and I didnt know they'd take it that far, so now Im happy to dispel that.
KayKi- Well since we're on B2K, a lot of the feedback I got from posting your mixtape was "oh thats the girl who was with B2K back in the day." Unfortunately when many of us think of B2K now we think of all of the controversy surrounding TUG & Chris Stokes. Do you still keep in touch with them and do you stay clear of that because Im sure people inquire.
Jhene- Yea..I left TUG when I was 16. So Ive actually not been signed to them longer than I was. Ive known Chris & them since I was like 5 or 6. There was a little communication still because my sister was still close to them, but not really much beyond that. It was a business relationship so once that was done, it was pretty much done. I had other friends & such outside of them which was good. Usually once I tell people I dont really communicate much with them, people dont inquire about any of that. I dont really have any information. Really, when all of that stuff happened it had been years since Id been around them. So I just wished them all the best- that they'd get it all worked out or something.
KayKi- Makes sense. So, on to the important stuff :) Its clear when listening to your mixtape that your musical inclination is crazy. Do you come from a musical family/background or where does that come from?
Jhene- I think my dad, who is a pediatrician now, he grew up wanting to be a musician. He plays the guitar, he sings, he writes. He built a studio in the house I grew up in. I think his interests sparked my older siblings' interests, and when I came along I was pretty much looking up to my sisters & brothers because they were doing it. So yea! I guess you can say its like a family thing. Im really the only one who really took it seriously. I have an aunt who was in a Motown group called the Sixteens. So, I dont know. Theres some music in there everywhere.
KayKi- Ok speaking of your family, when people emailed me they called you some of everything! Lol.. the Black & Japanese girl, the Asian girl, somebody called you Hawaiian! I know youre a lot of different things sort of in one :) What do you identify as?
Jhene- Yea yea.. I identify with it all because the type of family I have, I grew up around all of the cultures. A lot of times when people are half & half of something, they usually grow up with one side of that & have a preference. My mother is mixed & my father is mixed. I never really saw it as like Black, White, Japanese, or Hispanic, because like my cousins are all mixed with something else! Lol Its weird though. I do think different parts of me are more one way than the other, but Im definitely influenced by all of it. So, its all good.
KayKi- Haahaa Its super cool though! As far as having all of these different influences, that can only help! Now back to the music. What happened to your first album because it never dropped right?
Jhene- They'd featured a few of my songs on like B2K's albums & such. At the time my A&R at Epic was replaced by someone who just wasnt doing anything. So at the same time I asked to be released from TUG I took a meeting with Epic & asked for the same thing. Just so I could focus on school & just do it on my own.
KayKi- Right. So I know Im kind of jumping, but when I think about the mixtape title, Sailing Souls I think of being liberated to be who you are. Was your situation at that time that they were trying to make you into something else?
Jhene- Umm not really. I was young & just really wanted to finish school. They started really just dragging & I was thinking, 'I could be in school right now.' I didnt want to have to put education to the side. I think its really important for a young person to finish school. You know, to have something under your belt is important.
Looking back I really didnt even know who I was, enough to even be an artist. I was singing other people's songs and dressing how they told me to dress. It wasnt even always fun, it was just like something to do.
KayKi- I think any young person at your age wouldve jumped at the opportunity too though. I also think it was wise that you took the time to step back & finish school. Now in that time you did become a mommy :) She's soo cute I can hear her in the background!
Jhene- I know! My bff is here helping she's like, 'I got her..go ahead' lol thank you!
KayKi- What would we do without Bffs?!?
Jhene- I know right!?
KayKi- How did becoming a mom change you? As an artist has it given you a deeper perspective on things?
Jhene- Absolutely. It definitely did. The biggest influence she's had on me was just to be more honest with myself. Just fearless. Once you go through like child birth, its like wow. You're the protector & care taker of this little person. When you have a kid its like youre their main example. Its like 'Who do I want her to see when she looks at me?'. I want her to feel like her mom is honest & true to herself, so that she can want to be the same. That definitely came across in the music as well. I just wanted it to be honest & brave I guess..
KayKi- Thats exactly what translates when you listen to Sailing Souls- if thats what you were trying to reflect when you recorded it. When I first listened the first thing I thought was, degg her tone is sweet!
Jhene- Aw thanks!
KayKi- Then it was like, this is a really assertive set of songs. I felt its honesty. It feels honest, bold, & reflective. What was your process for writing it? Did you specifically write these songs for this mixtape?
Jhene- Before my daughter came I had been wanting to do a mixtape. I write everyday, so it was like songs I was piecing together just to be doing it, like Higher for example. Thats probably the only one that was preconceived. When I really got ready to work I had talked to the Fisticuffs who did the majority of it & they were down. They were like, we'll give you the beats. So after having my daughter when she was like 1 & 1/2 & after getting used to being a mommy, I was like ok, let me start doing music again. So everything after that point was specific for the mixtape. It took about 9 months to do. I really took my time & sat with it. Sometimes Id go in the studio & we wouldnt even record. I went in just to get my mind right.
KayKi- Took 9 months to birth this album & as a listener you can tell that you didnt just throw it together. One thing that stuck out to me when listening is that I have no clue what lane you'd be in as an artist. It doesnt sound like anything out right now, but its GREAT! Which is a win win for you!
KayKi - Who are your musical influences?
Jhene- Because I grew up with my sisters I think Im really influenced by like 90s stuff. When I got old enough to listen to my own stuff it was Brandy, Sade.. Right now I love John Mayer, Kendrick Lamar, & Tupac. Its really just a combination of a lot! I take stuff from everybody that I love. Not even consciously. Its really a weird combination. I incorporate everything. Which is probably why you cant quite put your finger on it like you said. Im influenced by so many artists & kinds of music.
KayKi- Now as far as the lyrical content I really appreciate the storylines in the songs. Everything is such a story from beginning to end. You dont find that a lot these days. Are you a singer who writes or a writer who sings??
Jhene- Im definitely a writer who sings. Since I was a child I used to come up with stories. Before I could even write! Id have my mom write them down. I just needed to tell stories. So, writing is definitely first for me.
KayKi- So you've beeeeeen doing this basically. lol Now you have a couple of features & mash ups on this mixtape. HOPE, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Miguel, & you have the Kanye mash to name a few.. any other artists you'd like to work with?
Jhene- Id love to work with Cudi, Kanye, & John Mayer. Right now, those are the main people I can think of. Id love to work with them!
KayKi- Those would be some epic collaborations! So do you have a favorite song on the mixtape?
Jhene- If I had to pick 3, theyd be..My Mind, Do Better Blues, & You vs. Them. If I HAD to pick three, but I love them all. Im connected to all of them.
KayKi- Of course. Now I know here in Atlanta there are lots of venues for artists to come & connect with their listeners (hint hint) & Im sure there are locations like that in LA as well (hint hint) lol do you have any plans to tour?
Jhene- We're actually working on the show right now! We're on our like 6th rehearsal right now with the band. Ive always wanted to perform with a band & every set be like an unplugged show. We're receiving offers right now. So yes! Thats definitely in the near future. Anybody interested can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. So yea!!
KayKi- Girl yes. Atlanta would eat that up! We'd love it if you came! I need to know when you do!!
Jhene- I'll def let everybody know when I get confirmations! I'll be tweeting about it.. wait youre on twitter right?
KayKi- Yea Im following you. Im going to be sure to keep up with that.
Jhene- Make sure you @ me so I can follow you back.
KayKi- Cool beans! So whats next for you!? Are you working on an actual album or are you going to just ride off of this mixtape because you definitely could! :)
Jhene- Hahaaa ..Well we're working on more visuals for Sailing Souls. I just released Snapped, which is another song. Im also working on an EP called Souled Out. We're looking at like the end of September. We're pretty much going with the flow.
KayKi- Great! There seems to be an underlying theme with the title choices..Where did it come from?
Jhene- Actually I was on twitter & I made a typo with selling or sailing.. and Chase N. Cashe corrected me, and was like, ' Thats a good album name though!'.. I was like hmph.. because Im always talking about being a free spirit. A sailing soul is basically a free spirit. I had been working on the mixtape but when he said that it was like, yea..wow..this is exactly what its supposed to be named. So yea, totally accidental.
KayKi- Those are the best ones though because they are birthed out of honest moments. So at the end of the day what are you hoping your listeners can take away from you as an artist?
Jhene- I think with so many aritsts out right now that are perceived as perfect or you know.. people want to be them because they are so flawless, rich, or they do everything right or whatever..I want people to look at me & be encouraged to be who they are. I just want people to get back to real life. I dont think its fair that these images are so unrealistic & unattainable in the media. You look in a magazine & everybody is like airbrushed- so you think everybody is supposed to have flawless skin buuut its like, I have combination skin! Hahaa
KayKi- Hahaa Right!
Jhene- Yea I'll go out without make up like 'Yes, hello I have a break out today!'.. Im a person. lol Im not perfect. I want people to be cool with that. I want to change people's thinking about life really. To just embrace what it truly is.
KayKi- Well based upon this interview & the mixtape..I think thats what we get from you. I feel like this is your first real presentation to your listeners as to who you are. I mean, Im objective, I dont know you personally, but I think you hit the nail on the head. Amazing job!
Jhene- Thank you sooo much!
Kayki- Unfortunately we both have stuff to get to, and thats my time! Thank you sooo much, Im sure we'll chat again soon!
Jhene- Im sure! Thanks again!
Follow Jhene on twitter: @JheneAiko