Jhené Aiko

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Jhené Aiko
Jhene Aiko 2013 2.jpg
Aiko in September 2013
Background information
Birth name Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo
Also known as Jhené
Born (1988-03-16) March 16, 1988 (age 26)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2002–present
Associated acts
Website jheneaiko.com

Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo (born March 16, 1988), better known as Jhené Aiko or simply Jhené, is an American singer and songwriter.[1] Born and raised in Los Angeles, she began her career appearing in several music videos and contributing vocals for R&B group B2K. At the time, she was known as "Lil' Fizz's cousin", though she is not actually related to him.[2][3] It was used as a marketing tool, suggested by Sony and Epic Records, to promote Aiko through B2K and attract an audience.[4][5] In 2003, Aiko was set to release her debut album, My Name Is Jhené, through her labels Sony, The Ultimate Group and Epic, however the album was never released, with Aiko asking to be released from the label in order to continue her education.

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.[6] 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".

Early life[edit]

Jhené Aiko was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Christina Yamamoto and Dr. Karamo Chilombo (birth name Gregory Wycliff Barnes), a pediatrician.[7] She is of mixed race background—her mother is of Japanese, Spanish and Afro-Dominican descent, while her father is of African American descent.[8] She often states her ethnicity as "Japanese, African American, Native American, etc." based on percentages but identifies with all parts of her heritage.[9][10] 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."[11] 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[edit]

Aiko embarked on her musical career contributing vocals to several B2K releases, as well a song on the The Master of Disguise Soundtrack in 2002, while signed to The Ultimate Group and managed by Chris Stokes.[12][13]

During this time she was known as the cousin of B2K's rapper, Lil' Fizz, though she is not actually related to him.[2][3] 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.[4] She featured on tracks five through eight of the R&B group's remix album B2K: The Remixes – Volume 1.[14] "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!.[15][16] Her song "Dog"[16] appeared as a bonus track.

Aiko also appeared in numerous music videos including O'Ryan's debut video, "Take It Slow",[17] B2K's debut video "Uh Huh"[18] and "Why I Love You",[19] P.Y.T.'s "Same Ol' Same Ol' (Remix)"[20] featuring Sarai, Play's "M.A.S.T.E.R. (Part 2)"[21] featuring Lil' Fizz video and Morgan Smith's 2004 video "Blow Ya Whistle".[22] Jhené also has songs featured on the soundtracks of Barbershop,[23] The Master of Disguise,[24] You Got Served,[25] The Proud Family[26] and Byou.[27] 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.[28] Aiko later left the aforementioned labels in order to continue her education.[5]

2007–2013: Sailing Soul(s) and Sail Out[edit]

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."[29] 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.[30] The mixtape also features collaborations from Miguel, Drake and Kanye West as well as others.[31]

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.[32] On October 21, 2012 Aiko released a music video for the song "My Mine".[33] Jhene also released a video for the mixtapes second track "Stranger".[34] Datpiff certified the mixtape gold with downloads of 100,000.[35] 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.

Aiko performing at The Manifesto Year 7 Live at The Square on September 22, 2013.

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.[36] Aiko released the track "3:16AM" which was made available for digital download on iTunes September 4, 2012.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39][40][41] 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.[42] 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.[43] On January 14, 2014, "The Worst" was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio in the United States as the album's third single.[44] 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.[45] The Worst also rose forty seven to forty three on the Hot 100.[45] 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[46][47]

2014–present: Souled Out and touring[edit]

On January 18, 2014, Aiko appeared on Saturday Night Live performing the song "From Time", with the episode's guest host, Drake.[48] In a January 2014 interview with Vibe, Aiko announced her debut studio album Souled Out would be released in May 2014.[49] However the album would be delayed. On March 16, 2014, Aiko premiered a song titled "My Afternoon Dream," produced by Key Wane,[50] along with an accompanying music video directed by Aiko and Krissy.[51] 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.[52] The song was released for digital download on iTunes, the following day.[53] Following its release "To Love & Die" debuted and peaked at number forty-six on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts.[54]

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.[55] Aiko and frequent collaborator ScHoolboy Q, were confirmed as the tour's supporting acts, respectively.[56]

After three years of recording Aiko released her debut album Souled Out on September 8, 2014.[57][58] An anticipated release, the album was released to commercial and critical success.[59] The album debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200, selling 70,000 copies in its opening week, in doing so the album became that weeks second highest debut and doubled the first week sales of Aiko's debut extended play Sail Out (2013).[45][60] The album also debuted at number one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and US R&B Albums[45] and has sold 121,012 units in the US.[61] Upon its release, Souled Out received generally positive reviews from music critics, who commended its production, lyrics and themes and was ranked as one of the best album of 2014 by several publications.

The album produced a further three singles, the album's second single "The Pressure", was released on iTunes on July 18, 2014.[62] The Pressure debuted at twenty five on the US Hot R&B Songs chart, and peaked at twenty three, the following week.[63] "Wading" was released as the albums third single on December 12, 2014 along with an accompanying video, followed by the release of Spotless Mind[64]

In early October Aiko tweeted neo-soul singer SZA, which lead to speculation that the two would be working together, however on October 23, 2014 Aiko announced that she would be headlining a tour entitled "Enter the Void tour" which would be supported by SZA and The Internet.[65] The month-long tour starts on December 2 in Washington, D.C., with stops in New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Chicago, and two dates at L.A.'s Club Nokia. The 13 dates end on December 21 in Minneapolis.[66]

Personal life[edit]

Aiko is a Christian, having been baptized when she was 16 at the evangelical Pentecostal Foursquare Church.[67]

She dated American R&B singer O'Ryan from 2005 to 2008. At the age of 20, Aiko became pregnant by O'Ryan and gave birth to her daughter Namiko on November 19, 2008.[68]

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 was unharmed in the accident.[69]


Aiko describes her vocals as being Alto and takes vocal inspiration from singer Brandy Norwood particularly her "smooth tones" and "runs."[70] Aiko's voice has been described as having "gentle pop-tinged vocals [...] [a] sensually sweet voice"[71] as well as her voice being called "soft and sultry"[72] Jim Farber of the The New York Daily News described Aiko's vocals as having a "feathery tone, sky-high pitch and dazed delivery" which float "above the beat, sexy and aloof," Farber also compared Aiko to "the female answer" to Frank Ocean.[73] Jordan Sargent of Pitchfork Media compared Aiko's vocals to those of R&B singers Cassie, Brandy, Ciara and, the late Aaliyah.[74] Thermatically Aiko's work contains direct and "acute", lyrics that can be sometime "girlish."[75] Adam Fleischer of MTV described Aiko's lyrical content as being "catchy and emotive," continuing to note Aiko's lyrics as having no boundaries; which mix "moments of sensitivity and love, but also moments of confusion and aggression."[76]

"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.[77]

Jhene's musical style is associated with a new wave of music PBR&B,[78] which is described as emerging, stylistic alternative to contemporary R&B.[79][80][81][82] Besides PBR&B Aiko's explores a variety of genres including Psychedelic music, classic R&B and hip hop music.[83] Aiko has described herself as being part of this movement, she noted her own musical style as being "alternative" and a "new-generation R&B", which she compared herself to the style of Frank Ocean, Miguel and Drake.[84] Described by Erin Lowers a reviewer from XXL magazine, Aiko's music is alternative R&B, which the reviewer described had being created with the use of heavily used synthesizers and "wooly drum loops," the reviewer continued to say that her genre is caught in a "revolutionized limbo."[85] Bradley Stern of Time, compared the Aiko's musical style to the work of Sade, calling the albums genre "future R&B," Stern continued to compare the her music to the work of The Weeknd, Tinashe and FKA twigs.[86]

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.[77] 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."[87] 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.[88] 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."[88]

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".[34][89] Aiko also cites R&B singer Aaliyah,[90] Eminem and Kendrick Lamar as influences.[34] 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."[34] 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."[91] Singer Nick Jonas cited Aiko as influence during the recording of his debut album, noting her alternative R&B sound as his influence.[92]

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.[93] 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".[94]



Main act
  • Enter The Void Tour (2014)
Supporting act

Awards and nominations[edit]

American Music Awards[edit]

The American Music Awards (AMAs) is an annual American music awards show, created by Dick Clark in 1973 for ABC when the network's contract to present the Grammy Awards expired. The AMAs are determined by a poll of the public and music buyers.

Year Recipient Award Result Ref.
2014 Herself Favorite Female Artist- Soul/R&B Nominated [95]

BET Awards[edit]

Year Recipient Award Result
2014[96] Herself Best Female R&B/Pop Artist Nominated
"The Worst" Centric Award Won

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Recipient Award Result
2015 "The Worst" Best R&B Song Nominated
Sail Out Best Urban Contemporary Album Nominated
"Blak Majik" (with Common) Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Nominated

Soul Train Awards[edit]

Year Recipient Award Result
2014[97] Herself Best New Artist Nominated
"The Worst" Video of The Year
"The Worst," Jhene Aiko (Jhene Aiko Chilombo, Mac Robinson, Brian Warfield) The Ashford and Simpson Songwriter's Award


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