Artist To Watch: Jhene Aiko Has All The Soul You Need

With a fresh take on R&B, Jhene proves why she's an Artist to Watch.

Are you up on Jhene Aiko yet? Have you played her breakout hit “The Worst” on repeat? Or maybe you caught her on tour with Drake before the two performed together on “Saturday Night Live”?

The answer to all of those questions, hopefully, is yes. But if it’s not, now’s actually the perfect time to get familiar with the budding, L.A.-born songstress and MTV’s latest Artist to Watch.

She’s been buzzing for some time now, but things are about to fully take off. With big features and impressive projects already on her resume, the Sail Out star is about to launch herself to the next level with her debut album. Take notice.

Related: Watch videos, live performances, and interviews at

1.) Who She Is:

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Aiko has been working on music for over a decade. In fact, she secured her first record deal when she was only a teenager. She even prepared a debut album around that time, but after splitting with her label, it never got released. Like any real artist, though, she wouldn’t let that speed bump take control of her career.

Over the last few years, the 26-year-old has cemented herself as one of the exciting risers in R&B. But she’s not so easily definable. Her sound mixes soul, pop, and elements of hip-hop to create something rare, refined and accessible.

2.) Why You Need To Listen To Her:

You’re not just looking for the same old stuff from your singers, right? Of course you’re not. Good. You shouldn’t be.

And that’s where Jhene comes in. She’s a leader in the new school of contemporary R&B music — merging soft yet powerful vocals with catchy and emotive lyrics. Her content has no boundaries; there are moments of sensitivity and love, but also moments of confusion and aggression. The balance creates an artistic fullness that’s equal parts fun and honest.

3.) What You Need To Listen To:

You’ve got a few options here, and it’s safe to say none of them are going to disappoint.

Why not start off with her most recent stuff, like the just-released “Spotless Mind,” off of her upcoming album, Souled Out? After you’ve taken that in, dive into the album’s lead single, “To Love & Die.”

Next, take it back just a bit, to 2013, and Jhene’s breakout EP, Sail Out. Obviously, you should be listening to the whole thing (it’s only seven tracks, actually), but if you’ve got limited time (who cares, just listen to the whole thing), throw on “The Worst,” which is her biggest hit to date, climbing up Billboard and earning radio spins earlier this year.

4.) Who She’s Worked With:

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The talented singer has collaborated with a who’s who of young hip-hop royalty over the last few years.

In 2010, she appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s “Growing Apart (To Get Closer),” off of his Overly Dedicated mixtape. The following year, she kept it tight with the Top Dawg Entertainment camp, with features on songs from Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul — and would work with each again over the next couple of years.

She’s also worked with Big Sean, including on his hit “Beware,” which also featured Lil Wayne. Wale brought her on for a cut from his Folarin mixtape, while J. Cole and Childish Gambino benefitted from Jhene’s vocals on their respective 2013 albums, Born Sinner and Because the Internet. And then there was “From Time,” off of Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, where the Toronto native tapped her for a sultry hook that ties the track together.

So, yeah, rap’s most exciting young talent has taken notice, to say the least.

5.) What’s On Deck:

With momentum hitting a fever pitch, Jhene’s about to drop her Def Jam debut, Souled Out, on September 9.

Related: Download Jhene Aiko’s “You Vs. Them” for free below, and watch videos, live performances, and interviews at

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