If your a music head like us, then most of you have already been hip to west coast songstress Jhene Aiko (Juh-nay. Ahh-ee-ko) since her appearances and songs with L.A boy band B2K during their era from 2001-2004.
Back then, she was mostly known as ‘Lil Fizz’s cousin’ –which turns out their not even related–and she was usually seen in the their music video’s hanging out with the guys.
In 2003 Jhene debut her first single and video for ‘No L.O.V.E’ on 106 & Park at the age of 15, however due to label issues her album never came out.
Fast forward to 2008, Jhene had been out of the spotlight for a few years, no longer a signed artist, and was now a new mother to a babygirl she named Namiko Love. Soon after the birth of her daughter, Jhene began working on her now classic mix-tape ‘Sailing Souls’ which was released in March 2011. The wild success of her mixtape began to bring lots of attention to her music and solidified her spot as the lone female in the bubbling L.A music scene dubbed ‘The New West”.
Two weeks ago, Jhene surprised her fans with the news that she had officially signed a deal with Grammy award-winning producer No I.D and his Artium label through Def Jam records.
Right before the holidays, we got the chance to congratulate and speak with Jhene about her new record deal, the new album, and we got her reaction to fan concerns that her music will change now that she’s signed.
Check out our exclusive interview below!
We are huge fans, so I just wanted to let that be known that we are so happy for you, your new deal with NO I.D/ Def Jam. Everything that you have done up until this point has just been remarkable , and we are just excited for you!
Ok, so let’s just jump into our questions, Let’s talk about your latest mix-tape ‘Sailing Souls’ for a little bit. You received so much exposure from the mix-tape just by word of mouth and people really falling in love with your voice, were you expecting it to take off the way it did?
“Um, I wasn’t really expecting anything. I was just doing it to let it out and I hadn’t really put anything out ever really. Everything that I had done was through, you know, B2K and all of that, it was always like a piggy back situation. It was never really like my music, my words, so this was the first time that I was able to just write and put out my own work and I wasn’t really expecting anything, I was just hoping that I would be received well. It wasn’t really for any other reason but to express myself really.”
Oh okay, As of now we’ve gotten two visuals for my favorite songs ‘Stranger’ and ‘My Mine’, which were shot by Danny Williams of The Top Shelf Company, Will you guys be releasing any more visuals from the ‘Sailing Souls’ mixtape?
“Yeah, we’re working on more visuals for ‘Sailing Souls’ and we’re not going to stop with Sailing souls until I can do everything that I can possibly do with it [Laughs] But, yeah, more visuals as well as recording and stuff like that, but yeah, Danny actually sent me a treatment for ‘You Vs Them’ so hopefully we will be doing that one very soon.”
Yaaay! I love that one too! now with your upcoming album ‘Souled Out’ we recently got to hear your newest song ‘In Love We Trust’ Ft. Casey Veggies, Please tell us their will be a video for that song, I am so in love with your runs on that song [Laughs]
“[Laughs] Oh, Thank You! Um, like I said. It’s really like different directors who are familiar with the project have come to me and um, they pick a song like, ‘I want to do this song’, and I’m like ‘sure’, whatever you want to do, and of course i’ll have my input on it and what I see as well, so you know, definitely I want to do a visual for that one. So, as soon as I get a director who wants to do it then..”
..Then it will be done [ Laughs]
[Laughs] Yea, then It will be done.
Oh, ok, well lets stay on the topic of ‘Souled Out’ for a little bit, so can you tell us how you came up with the title?
“Basically, it’s like the next chapter to sailing souls and you know I’m saying, I’m a sail out, basically, but not sale as in for money but just like, the total opposite of that, like completely soul’d out, like I have so much soul, so it’s just a play on words.”
Right, I love that title . So how will ‘Souled Out’ be different from ‘Sailing Souls’?:
“I think its gonna be deeper in meaning The songs are gonna have deeper meanings, and it’s just about really were I am in my life right now, you know, Sailing Souls was a lot of relationship type of songs, and you will get some of that out on Souled out, but it’s gonna be more of just like everyone can relate to type songs, bigger messages and meaningful things. I mean it will be on the same tip of Sailing Souls, it’s still going to be mellow, its sailing souls times a billion, it’s more me emotion, its gonna be extra personal.”
Yay! I’m excited! Now, do you have a release date yet? and will there be any special features on Souled Out?
“I still don’t have a release date, and I’m working on some features, but yeah, nothing set in stone yet, but I’m definitely going to let everyone know through my twitter tumblr, all those social networks.”
Gotcha, Gotcha, Okay, so now we are going to dive into your boo HOPE, okay?
Compton Rapper HOPE Wright & Jhene Aiko
[Laughs] We love you two together and we just want to know, it’s been a topic of discussion, are you two working on something, some collab work or a mixtape?
“Oh yeah, all the time. we actually have an idea to do a mixtape together, kind of like ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’ type of thing. Even if were just a couple of songs we’re gonna do, put them out for free and stuff like that, but yeah we are definitely gonna put out some more.”
Okay, so we breezed over the Artium/ Def Jam deal you signed last week with No I.D, have you done anything to celebrate?
“No, I haven’t. Actually we were at the Universal Publishing Christmas Party and I knew that the paper work was being written up and all that and I was just kind of waiting to see what everything was looking like or whatever, and they just kind of surprised me with the paper work at the party, and you know, I trust my lawyer so I knew that everything was right and they were just bringing it to me to sign here at the party, and NO I.D was there just so he could be there when I signed and all that, so really no, it’s the holidays so i haven’t really had a chance to celebrate but, you know, that will come.”
Jhene Signs Deal With Producer NO I.D
Yeah, of course. You know a lot of us thought that you were going to sign with TDE [Top Dawg Entertainment] at one point –Not taking anything away from Def Jam because they have lots of huge acts like ya know Rihanna, Frank Ocean, Kanye, the list goes on. Was this really a hard decision to make?
“Well, really the thing is that I’m signed to NO I.D’s label through Def Jam, so I really wanted it to be like that because I didn’t want to really sign to a major label because I wanted to still be like an independent type of feel and I’m working exclusively with the person who runs the company, and he has the same vision as me and it’s gonna be more organic. But, with TDE, we’re all friends, my manager is really close with Top Dawg and so that relationship is still there, and it’s always gonna be there as far as collaborating and working together, so you know, there nothing lost there, and the deal with NO I.D it just felt right, and he just made me feel very comfortable and I trust he has the same business, just because he has a creative mind, he’s not really a ‘Label head’ as they would call them. He’s not just doing it because of the money because he makes money as a producer and I really felt like he was doing it because he really believes in it so, yeah.”
So are you the main artist on Artium or are there other acts too?
“I’m not sure, I know that are only a couple more people, but I know that he wanted me to be the first act to come out on his label, but I’m not sure on the other acts.”
Well, congratulations again on the deal! You’ll be the first lady of the label and we are looking forward to see what’s to come. Now, let’s talk about some of the things that were said on twitter, like how do you feel about people thinking that your going to change or sell out now that you are a signed artist?
“I think it’s just people being people. I was signed when I was 12 or 13 so i’ve been through all of that before and It’s just like, signing doesn’t mean anything now a-days because there is a lot of people who just sign and they never come out. and It really doesn’t change anything. I just think that I have way too much integrity and I would rather disappoint my label than disappoint my fans, you know? I’ve never been the type to go against my own word for anyone, in school, or with my parents, I was always the type like, If I feel this way then I’m gonna do this, If I get in trouble for it then whatever, that’s just what is gonna happen, but yeah, it’s just kind of ridiculous to me when people are saying that, then I kind of figured that the people who are saying that are just, they don’t really follow me as a person, they don’t really grasp the type of artist or the type of person I am”
Right, that makes sense. Now, Is too early to ask when an official album will be out?
“[Laughs] yeah, kinda. It may not be an official album, you know, everything is just kind of go-with-the flow type thing, there’s no dead line for me to finish anything or to put out anything. I’m just working on the music now and you know, as soon as possible I would like to put out my next project and i’m not sure if my next project will be an album or EP or a mix-tape, but it will definitely be something new coming soon.”
Great, we can’t wait. Now, what about performances in 2012. I’m so sad we missed your show at the Viper Room & the bay a few months ago!
“Yeah, I’m getting so many offers to do shows different places and I have a full band and there’s a lot of different cities that are calling me. so we are trying to set some dates in stone so I can tell everybody about it on my twitter, tumblr and all that. But yeah, for sure like next year I plan on performing as much as possible because I think sailing souls is still growing and it’s people who still haven’t heard it and I want as many people as possible to hear it, you know.”
Yeah, definitely and let us know when so we can cover it all, we can’t wait to see you live in L.A! lol Okay, so here’s a pretty generic question, with the year coming to a close in a few weeks. Do you have any new years resolutions?
“I don’t really do resolutions. Everyday I wake up I’m trying to work on different things like ‘I’m only drinking water’, “I’m going to eat more fruit and vegetables”, you know, all the things that are good for you, I don’t really set specific things, because I feel like when you do that your kind of setting yourself up to disappoint yourself, well at least that’s what happens for me, so I kind of just, you know, everyday I’m trying get better and do right, so my resolution is just to like continue to be happy and comfortable with myself.”
Well, that’s probably something I should take on as well, Thank you for that [Laughs]
Now, a week ago I saw a question you answered on your tumblr page about your views on religion. I find it very interesting that you were brought up exposed to everything and were able to choose what felt right for you. What was that like growing up?
“You know, I didn’t know the difference, I didn’t think it was weird because I’m pretty mixed up as far as like the cultures in my family, and I saw that I would go to church with my grandmother and my great-grandmother was Buddhist, and you know when she passed, we had to kind of learn all the Buddhist ceremony for a funeral so that was really kind of the moment I connected , and then you know Christianity, and my father, some of his family are jewish so I saw it all and I was inspired by everything and I found a connection between it all and a lot of my friends would be one thing or the other and I would ask them like, why do you feel this way? is it because your mother passed you this or your father told you this is what it is? and most of the time that would be the answer, like ‘yeah you know, I just grew up this way’, so I feel really lucky that my parents never forced any beliefs on me because the only thing that’s real is how you feel, you know what I mean? If I read something and I really feel in my heart and in the pit of my stomach that something isn’t right, then I’m not just going to take it as the truth because my teacher told that it’s real or that my mother told me it’s real because at the end of the day we are all just people and all these religious stories are just being passed from one person to another and we all have the same human mind, you know? so I feel like there is a divine connection between all of the religions and you just have to like stick to the root of the religion which is love.”
Nice, I’m glad you explained that for us a little bit. Now where does Jhene see herself in 5 years?
In 5 years, lets see. I’ll be 28, I’ll still be writing, I’ll still be doing music, I don’t know.. anything can happen and I’m a go with the flow type of person. I’m always comfortable with wherever i am and i’m never really trying to one up you know what i’ve done. I’m not one of those people like ‘I’ve done this, so now have to be #1’ or “now I have to make it to the mountain top” you know what I mean? I’m just like, I call it smooth sailing, I just like to go with the flow and if as long as I’m comfortable and my daughter is happy, then I’m happy. I plan on doing more schooling, just because I like school, I just like to learn new things, of course put out new music as I grow, I would love to keep everyone updated on how I feel through my music, and write books. I would love to have written a book by 28, I guess, so yeah.
Well that’s awesome, and it’s good to see somebody who is comfortable in their own skin and isn’t trying to one up anybody else. very cool.
Now, for our last question we just want to know if there’s anything that you would like to tell your fans, or anything you would like to put out there in the universe?
“I just want to thank all the fans who have supported me through the years and I remember when I had a myspace and I would tell everyone to you know, just be patient I’ll put something out soon and there were people who were really hanging on to those words and were really happy when I put out sailing souls and you know that’s why it was free because I wanted it to reach all the people who may not be able to buy a CD in the stores for however much it costs now, 15 or 10 dollars, and I don’t really like to call them fans because I don’t really like to look at myself as someone who has fans, like because I’m such a normal person, I don’t like to think of it like ‘Your my fan’ your just a person who connects with who I am, your friend, your soul mate, and I appreciate when people do understand me and relate to me and what i’m going through so, I guess just thank you to all those people who are supporting me.”
Well, thank you for your time Jhene, we really appreciate it and we will be on the look out for everything!
All Photos credit: Her twitter