Artist Spotlight: Jhené Aiko is brutally honest and beautiful

Jhené Aiko might be most known for her guest spots on songs like “Post To Be” and “Beware,” but the 29-year-old singer is a wonderfully creative and vulnerable artist in her own right.

Featured on songs by everyone from Omarion and Big Sean to Ab-Soul and Drake, you’ve definitely heard Aiko’s sugar-sweet voice before. For those of you that don’t know, she’s got that “eat the booty like groceries” line in “Post To Be.”

Aiko’s latest album “Trip” is an honest, painful and touching journey. The album clocks in at a lengthy hour and a half, but is a personal adventure that Aiko takes the listener on. Aiko lost her brother to cancer in 2012 and chronicles her subsequent experiences with drugs, depression, relationships with men and ultimately, finding happiness.

Aiko is as open as could be on “Trip.” She shows the joyful and the upsetting, the beautiful and the ugly, the healing and the traumatizing. She recounts a bad acid trip on “Overstimulated” and “Bad Trip – Interlude.” She sings about her very public divorce from producer Dot Da Genius on “Never Call Me.” However, she shares a tender moment with her daughter Namiko on the album, who sings on the aptly titled “Sing to Me.” On one of the last tracks of the album, “Ascension,” Aiko sings, “Found my way again…I’m on my way, I’m on my way to heaven/I’m on my way if I can make it out of this hell.”

Aiko told Billboard she was so revealing on “Trip” by design.

“I feel like a lot of people are afraid to talk about those things that make them sad or the things they're scared of, or the mistakes that they've made,” Aiko said. “I hope that this whole map helps them tell their true, true story. Not the fluffed up version or not what they think people want to hear from them, but just the honest, honest truth.”

Aiko also recently started a campaign called “Penny’s Pen.” Penny was the nickname Aiko’s grandfather gave her and the name of the character she plays in the short film that accompanies “Trip.” The campaign encourages writing among young people.

Aiko partnered with non-profit Get Schooled to run a social media campaign for people ages 13-21 to post personal writing on Instagram using the hashtag #pennyspen. Winners won a writing kit.

In a video announcing the campaign, Aiko explained why writing is special to her.

“There are days when we struggle and life seems hard, but it always helps when we can express ourselves,” Aiko said. “Writing poetry has always been a form of therapy for me. It helps me reflect and get through difficult situations.”

Genius recently named Aiko among their “unladylike ladies” winning in 2017. Along with Cardi B and SZA, Aiko was included among women in music breaking gender stereotypes for her honesty in discussing sex and her drug use.

A video clip shows Aiko being asked about the judgment that comes with female musicians discussing sex in their songs.

“I’m just aware of opinions,” Aiko said. “If I’m pleased with (my work), then that’s all that matters.”


Schae Beaudoin is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.