By Scott T. Sterling
Much like her music, Jhené Aiko in conversation is languid yet engaging. A welcome relief from the pomp and circumstance of most modern pop culture. Aiko takes her time when answering questions, slowly and deliberately measuring her words as she’s speaking them. It’s no wonder that the singer has taken to waving sticks of burning incense onstage during shows.
“It’s been getting pretty emotional,” she tells Radio.com when asked about fan encounters since the release of her long-awaited debut album, Souled Out. “When people connect to the songs, they are really connecting. These aren’t just random words that I’m writing, these are actual experiences, so it means a lot…Hearing people say ‘that song was really helping me to stay positive,’ it just means a lot to have them share that with me. It means they’re not just connecting with the music, we’re connecting with each other.”
Crafted with a cadre of producers including frequent Kid Cudi collaborator Dot Da Genius and longtime Chicago hit-maker No I.D., the album’s second track, “W.A.Y.S.“—an acronym for “Why Aren’t You Smiling?” that’s dedicated to her late brother, Miyagi, who succumbed to cancer in 2012—features production from renowned beat-maker Clams Casino with an assist from Flying Lotus-affiliate, Thundercat.
Part of what propelled Aiko into prominence was high profile collaborations with fellow artists including Drake, who brought her out to perform his song “From Time” on Saturday Night Live when he hosted back in January, and Childish Gambino, who, along with Drake, made a cameo during Aiko’s set at Coachella for their song “Bed Peace” off her 2013 EP, Sail Out.
Aiko thinks her and Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) work so well together because they both have “different creative minds, but they complement each other.”