Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo (born March 16, 1988), better known as Jhené Aiko or simply Jhené, is an American singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, California. Aiko was formerly signed to The Ultimate Group and Epic Records, however left both labels in order to continue her education. She began her career being known as "Lil' Fizz's cousin", though she is not actually related to him. It was used as a marketing tool, suggested by Sony and Epic, to promote Aiko through the R&B group B2K and attract an audience; nonetheless Aiko affirms that she and Lil' Fizz grew up together and were close like family.
In March 2011, Aiko made her return to music with the release of her first full-length project, a mixtape titled .sailing soul(s).. On December 16, 2011, Aiko signed a recording contract with American record producer No I.D.'s record label Artium, distributed through Def Jam Recordings. In 2013, Aiko appeared on Big Sean's single "Beware", also featuring Lil Wayne, which became her first Top 40 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. In November 2013, she released her first extended play (EP), titled Sail Out, which was supported by the singles "3:16AM", "Bed Peace" and "The Worst".
Jhené Aiko was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Christina Yamamoto and Dr. Karamo Chilombo (birth name Greg Barnes), a pediatrician. She is of mixed race background--her mother is of Japanese, Spanish, and Dominican descent, while her father is of African American, Yaqui, Choctaw, Cherokee, Navajo, and German Jewish descent. She often states her ethnicity as "Japanese, African American, Native American, etc." based on percentages but identifies with all parts of her heritage. Aiko has also stated that she has French ancestry and has stated regarding her ancestry, "I'm a quarter Japanese. That's the only percentage I know for sure because it's my grandfather's. And then everyone else is pretty much like mixed." Her older sisters Miyoko and Jamila were in the R&B group Gyrl and toured with Immature, who were signed to MCA/Silas Records.
2002-06: Musical beginnings and hiatus:
Aiko embarked on her musical career contributing vocals to several B2K releases in 2002, while signed to The Ultimate Group and managed by Chris Stokes. During this time she was known as the cousin of B2K's rapper, Lil' Fizz, though she is not actually related to him. It was used as a marketing tool, suggested by her labels Sony, The Ultimate Group and Epic Records, to promote Aiko through B2K and attract an audience; nonetheless Aiko affirms that she and Lil' Fizz grew up together and were close like family. She featured on tracks five through eight of the R&B group's remix album B2K: The Remixes - Volume 1. "Santa Baby", a cover she recorded, was also featured on their album Santa Hooked Me Up and she appeared as a guest vocalist on the song "Tease" from Pandemonium!. Her song "Dog" appeared as a bonus track.
Aiko also appeared in numerous music videos including O'Ryan's debut video, "Take It Slow", B2K's debut video "Uh Huh" and "Why I Love You",P.Y.T.'s "Same Ol' Same Ol' (Remix)" featuring Sarai, Play's "M.A.S.T.E.R. (Part 2)" featuring Lil' Fizz video and Morgan Smith's 2004 video "Blow Ya Whistle". Jhené also has songs featured on the soundtracks of Barbershop,The Master of Disguise,You Got Served,The Proud Family and Byou. She released a video for her single "NO L.O.V.E" (re-recorded from Tha' Rayne version in 2002) which debuted on BET's 106 & Park when she was 15 years old. Aiko was set to release her debut album, then-titled My Name Is Jhené in 2003 through Sony, The Ultimate Group, Epic, however the album was never released due to tension at the record label Epic, which ultimately led to Aiko asking to be released from the label. Aiko later left the aforementioned labels in order to continue her education.
2007-2013: Sailing Soul(s) and Sail Out:
In 2007, she made a return to music, in an interview she spoke on the choice saying "Shortly before I conceived my daughter, I stepped back into the field and took a meeting with a label head. In this meeting, I was innocently told, to 'sell' myself when walking into these meetings. "That's when I decided I would 'sail' myself rather than sell myself." Aiko released a mixtape on March 16, 2011 entitled Sailing Soul(s) via her official website, JheneAiko.com. All the songs on the mixtape were written by her, except "July" which was written by Micah Powell and most of the songs were produced by Fisticuffs, except "July" and "You vs Them" which were produced by Bei Maejor, "Real Now" which was produced by Roosevelt, "Do Better" which was produced by J. Lbs and "Growing Apart" which was produced by Tae Beast. The album's artwork was shot by photographer Jay 3. The mixtape also features collaborations from Miguel, Drake and Kanye West as well as others.
To promote the mixtape Aiko was joined by Grammy-nominated R&B singer Miguel on a one off free secret tour on Sunday, July 15. The free tickets were given away at the Key Club box office on July 6 from 11AM-5PM on a first-come, first-served basis while. The concert started 7:00pm and finished as 9:30pm, lasting a duration of two and a half hours. On October 21, 2012 Aiko released a music video for the song "My Mine". Jhene also released a video for the mixtapes second track "Stranger". Datpiff certified the mixtape gold with downloads of 100,000. In 2011, she also began working closely with artists from Carson-based independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment such as Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul.
In 2012, Aiko met with No I.D., record producer and vice president of A&R at Def Jam, who ended up signing Aiko to his Artium Records imprint through Def Jam. Aiko released the track "3:16AM" which was made available for digital download on iTunes September 4, 2012. The song was released as the first single from Sail Out. In 2012, Aiko was also the opening act on the highly anticipated "Life Is Good/Black Rage" concert tour headlined by fellow American artists, rapper Nas and singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill. In June 2013, Aiko was featured on the Big Sean song "Beware", which ended up reaching the Top 40 in the United States. This was her first song to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100. In October 2013, it was revealed Jhené Aiko would open for Canadian rapper Drake on his Would You like a Tour? concert tour. She had previously collaborated with Drake on his third album Nothing Was the Same (2013), lending her vocals on the tracks "Wu-Tang Forever" and "From Time".
Aiko then released her debut EP Sail Out, on November 12, 2013. "Bed Peace" featuring Childish Gambino was released as the album's second single on September 17, 2013. The single's artwork was inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-Ins for Peace protest against the Vietnam War. The EP features guest appearances from American rappers Vince Staples, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul. The EP debuted at number eight on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 34,000 copies. On January 14, 2014, "The Worst" was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio in the United States as the album's third single. On May 2, 2014 "The Worst" rose from three to one on the airplay Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop, in doing so she became the first female artist to top the chart as a lead with a debut single since Jazmine Sullivan reached the same feat with "Need U Bad" in 2008. The Worst also rose forty seven to forty three on the Hot 100. The song peaked on the US Billboard Hot 100 at forty-three, becoming Aiko's first solo release to chart in the region, the song also peaked at number eleven on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
2014-present: Souled Out:
On January 18, 2014, Aiko appeared on Saturday Night Live performing the song "From Time", with the episode's guest host, Drake. In a January 2014 interview with Vibe, Aiko announced her debut studio album Souled Out would be released in May 2014. However the album would be delayed. On March 16, 2014, Aiko premiered a song titled "My Afternoon Dream," along with an accompanying music video directed by Aiko and Krissy. The song, produced by Key Wane, has yet to be revealed if the song will feature on the album.
On June 23, 2014, Jhené Aiko posted the cover art and a snippet of Souled Out's first single, titled "To Love & Die", on her official Instagram page. The single's artwork was described as "space-y" by Adelle Platon of Vibe magazine. The song was released for digital download on iTunes, the following day. On June 26, 2014, Canadian singer-songwriter The Weeknd, announced he would be headlining the "King of the Fall Tour", essentially a mini-tour across America in September / October 2014, the tour will consist of four shows and start on 19 September 2014 in New York, at the Barclays Center and end on October 10 in San Francisco, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Aiko and frequent collaborator ScHoolboy Q, were confirmed as the tour's supporting acts, respectively.
Aiko is a Christian, having been baptized when she was 16 at the evangelical Pentecostal Foursquare Church. At the age of 20, Aiko became pregnant by American R&B singer O'Ryan and gave birth to her daughter Namiko on November 19, 2008. Before losing her brother Miyagi to cancer on July 19, 2012, Aiko recorded "For My Brother" on her laptop, which was initially intended only for her brother's ears. He died soon after hearing the record. On August 27, 2013, Aiko was involved in a car accident in Los Angeles along with her daughter Namiko, older sister Miyoko, and her daughter's father O'Ryan. Aiko suffered a broken wrist, chipped tooth and had stitches in her chin. Her daughter, however, was unharmed in the accident.
Voice and music:
Aiko's voice and musical style has been described as having "gentle pop-tinged vocals ... a sensually sweet voice mixed with hip-hop-centric beats" as well as her voice being called "soft and sultry" Jhene's musical style is associated with a new wave of music PBR&B, and Frank Ocean. which is described as emerging, stylistic alternative to contemporary R&B. Aiko's debut mixtape Sailing Soul(s) was a mixture of R&B, indie pop and neo soul. The mixtape featured "smooth flow with slow to mid tempo songs" and "aggressive" lyrics. The concept of the mixtape follows the story of Aiko having a meeting with a label and she was told by people at the label "I love everything but when you come into these meetings you have to sell yourself." After the meeting Jhene came up with the concept "I'm not a slave to anyone; I'm sailing my soul instead of selling it."
Lyrics and themes:
"I write something everyday regardless if it's a one liner, a poem or a prolific thought that I thought throughout the day. When I get into the studio, people may put on a track, I listen for a while and see what kind of emotions it brings out of me. Sometimes, I have a poem or some lines to add to the track with a melody."
-- Jhené Aiko, speaking on her writing style.
Aiko writes music everyday, often writing lines or a poem, and begins to add them to melodies. She describes her writing style as "freestyle," where she just says how she is feeling, taking a day or up to a month to complete. During the recording of the album Aiko opted to freestyle when writing the album, she would have a beat or would sit with producers and she would sing a melody until she had words, she described the process as not having a lot wrote down saying "there's not a lot of writing down--I'll only write it down to make sure it makes sense after I come up with it. For the most part, I like to not have second thoughts."
Aiko revealed that whilst writing music she enjoys being high in order to use the feeling as inspiration and that for the entire writing and recording process of her debut mixtape Sailing Soul(s), she was under the influence of cannabis. When writing for her debut studio album, she did the same, but recorded while sober. Aiko places great importance on writing her own music, believing it defines her as an artist: "After each song I've lost like a piece of me, because I've put it in to (sic) the song."
Aiko cites American rapper Tupac as a major influence saying he's "a big inspiration for me just to stick to who I am and to actually stand for something through music." and "an icon for speaking your mind and being you, even if it's controversial". Aiko also cites R&B singer Aaliyah,Eminem and Kendrick Lamar as influences. Rapper Kid Cudi also is an influence on Aiko: "That's pretty much one of the only people that I listen to consistently. No matter what he puts out, I'm one of those fans. He can do no wrong in my eyes."
Aiko also cites Brandy Norwood as an influence saying "I always say the person who taught me how to sing indirectly because I listened to her all the time was Brandy. I fell in love with her voice when I was six years old. I always loved Brandy." Aiko also listens to Beyoncé to learn from her vocal technique and is also influenced by India.Arie and Amel Larrieux. Aiko is influenced by John Mayer saying "He's probably one of my number one musical influences because of his writing ability and his voice."
Alter ego and stage:
"She's an aspiring rapper. She still sings, but she's more aggressive. She likes to really talk a lot of shit and talk about things that a lot of R&B singers don't talk about."
-- Aiko speaking on her alter ego "J. Hennessy.
In 2013, Aiko revealed her alter ego known as J. Hennessy, who first appeared on her debut extended play Sail Out. Aiko spoke about her alter ego saying she experiences twelve "different personalities in my head" every day.
Aiko has received praise for her stage presence, and live performances. She has been praised for having organic sets with nothing "put on", being compared to singer Sade. Furthermore Aiko has been noted for moving "fluidly" between each song on her set list. Critics noted that when performing, she doesn't use "stiletto stomping and blaring high notes" and instead has an "ease and a calm that rides along ever so gently".