Jhené Aiko might be a new artist to many of the people I stood in line with yesterday, but for me, she’s as influential as any other older artist who debuted in the early 2000’s. I didn’t plan on doing a post for Souled Out because you can hear about it just about all over. I then heard the album and decided that regardless of it already being exposed for the people to grab and find on their own, it is an important project to me as an individual and to all music, current r&b, and consciousness. And so, this belongs on the frolic. While I’m at it, I’ll also share my experience of her Amoeba Music cd signing yesterday.
I first heard Jhené Aiko simply as Jhené, a young girl T.U.G. promoted who I found was only a couple of years older than myself. She could sing with so much soul that I knew she could keep up in style with Beyonce and Aaliyah, who were a couple of the popular artists at the time. I’ve been a Jhené fan ever since, attempting to share her with all of my friends as I aged, keeping up with her newly leaked songs from online (forums and fansites were the sources then ha), waiting for that debut album which was then to be self-titled Jhené. I have followed the music of many artists, known and unknown, since those days as a pre-teen, but I can say that she is one who I witnessed growing (artistically) into the influential being that she is now. She has come far from the B2K days and this is only the beginning. After a few years of my indulging in music she made while under Epic Records/T.U.G., Jhené went off the radar to fans and resurfaced during the myspace music era, sharing songs she worked on with the Fisticuffs as well as garageband recordings. At the end of the myspace era is when she dropped the sounds that seemed to ignite the flame that had her spreading around, specifically amongst fans of underground hip hop and soul. This was her mixtape Sailing Souls, which was followed up with the EP Sail Out a couple of years later. Between then and now, Jhene made a leap from being relatively unheard of commercially, to being featured on about a dozen rapper’s songs. And now, we have Souled Out, which, besides a poetic verse from Common, features no one but herself and recordings from her daughter and brother.
So, on the 9th, I was able to finally purchase the album from the singer I waited over twelve years to debut nationally. This is divine timing and it’s even better because Souled Out is authentically Jhene. Unfortunately, we don’t receive projects this raw too often, at least not when it comes to artists under direct spotlight. I am also surprised by the consistency of the sound. The energy of Souled Out is soft and true to title. It doesn’t bounce around in between vibes but rather, coaxes us through her journey. Jhene has a way of presenting her ideas so honestly and simply that it’s easy to relate. Her writing takes us through themes of defining yourself, studying yourself, the power of love: from loving yourself to the struggles of loving others, expression, and the growth experienced from it all. Some of my favorites are The Pressure, Spotless Mind, Lyin King, and W.A.Y.S..
Each track is something that you can listen to at any time of the day and drift off into someplace soothing and beautiful. You’ll rarely find a major label debut that doesn’t attempt to cover every spectrum of a genre. Souled Out caters to senses that are constantly being explored within all of us, and because of that, it will transcend its designated genre and touch on a deeper level than any top 40 dance hit. Why do we need all of our popular music to have dance tracks, anyway? Why can’t we sit and think and reflect, whether we are with ourselves or with others?
The in-store performance at Amoeba started four hours after I left home excited and nervous to finally meet this woman whose lyrics mean more to me now than ever. What would I tell her? How do I put all of it into a few short words to be exchanged at the signing? After a while, I decided to not think about these ideas any more and just enjoy the moment as it would be, however it was meant to go down. I am glad that I did that because I might have been really disappointed by the result. After a long line seemingly appeared out of nowhere once I came out from exploring the store with my friend (it was her first time in that heaven), the show happened. It was my third time seeing Jhené live and it seemed like the most personal performance thus far, despite my being right up front the other times. I say this because, although she was only allowed four songs, she made us feel very close to her in those moments. Maybe it was the simplicity of the acoustic guitar which she flawlessly belted over so well that we were all aching for more by the final melody. Maybe it was the eye contact made while I sang along with her from across the room.
But going on, it seemed that many others were left partly unfulfilled by the experience because Amoeba seemed to rush it, after all of the waiting. They even had us tucking our phones away for the signing, preventing us from taking personal photos with her. We were being rushed with a quick greeting and signing. I was still happy and gushing as my moment came and left before I realized what a rush I felt being face to face with this wonderful being. Yesterday was a great one overall! I look forward to the full set she’ll be doing at the Hollywood Bowl coming up next month with The Weeknd and Schoolboy Q.
I found a semi-decent a video from the event and I hope you take a listen to Souled Out for yourself. Love and light!