Jhené Aiko Talks "Sail Out", Storytelling, Influences, and More
Tue, 03 Dec 2013 10:33:32
Jhené Aiko's world is utterly enchanting. Her debut EP Sail Out coasts along on hazy electronic vapors fortified by sexy R&B flavors and elegantly harmonious hooks. It's unlike anything else in pop, R&B, or hip-hop, and that's what makes Sail Out really take off.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Jhené Aiko talks Sail Out, storytelling, influences, and so much more.
Did you approach Sail Out with one specific vision or vibe in mind?
I honestly didn't. It was all supposed to be a part of the album. I was recording from 2011 until now. When it came down to the timeline of putting out the project, they liked the album, but they were going to wait to put it out. However, I was like, "Well, I promised my fans I was going to put something out in 2013. What if we take these songs that have this sound and put them here?" It ended up that the older songs are on Sail Out, but "Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)" is one of the newer songs. They really were all songs that were going to be on the album. I didn't expect them to flow into each other so nicely because of the different times I had done them in.
So, it's a happy accident that it worked out?
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with the songs?
Yeah, that's how I started writing. Fourth grade is when I really started falling in love with writing. In sixth grade, I took this creative writing class, and I started writing short stories. I always loved to read fiction and young readers series like Harry Potter and things like that. I know my music is nothing like Harry Potter, but I'm really into painting pictures, giving details, and things like that. The more I write, it's going to get even more detailed and creative. Right now, I basically talk about what I'm going through or what I've been through.
What's the story behind "Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)"?
That's my favorite from the EP. Really, No I.D. gave me this CD with beats on it, and that one spoke to me. That's how I write. I will just write around his track and wait until I start saying or singing something along. I couldn't write anything to it. I was like, "I love this track so far" so I went into the studio and just freestyle-d it. I was really going through it. I had just went through this heartbreak. I really felt like I wanted to tell that story. It was a freestyle. I have more to that story. Each time that I go into the studio, I add more, and they switch up the beat a little bit. There's definitely more to come for "Comfort Inn (Ending)".
What can you reveal about it?
I'm going to basically start from the beginning of when I met the guy who I'm talking about. Then, I'll probably go into our story. Our story is going to lead into my first relationship ever because he reminded me of my ex. That's why I ended up liking him. I met him at my favorite store, which is Urban Outfitters. I went him, and I told him, "You remind me of my ex that's crazy! That's not a pickup line either!" I showed him a picture, and we laughed about it. I left, and I ended up seeing him again. Basically, I'm going to sing about all that. That's going to lead into him becoming my ex. I'm going to tell these stories about guys and how it ended. It's like a Trapped in the Closet type of thing [Laughs].
When did the title Sail Out come to you?
Keeping with the theme of sailing, it's a play on words. Obviously, it sounds like "Sell Out" in terms of money. I've always been a fan of writing and words. Wordplay is something I've always loved. I love it when things have double meanings. The album is going to be called Sold Out, and the mixtape is called Sailing Souls. Sail Out was a happy medium between the two titles. The cover is me walking into this hopeless-looking place. Clearly, I don't have on any clothes. I'm just fearless like, "Who cares?" The boat looks abandoned, and it's a scary situation. I'm going into it being free. I feel like that's what sailing out is about. It's going with the wind and trusting that you're going to end up where you're supposed to be.
It's like letting go and allowing the wind to take you wherever it may...
What's "The Vapors" about?
Okay so I had just gotten a G Pen [Laughs]. It's a vaporizer pen. The song started out with me talking about a guy and how I couldn't stop thinking about him. I was also writing the song while I was under the influence of this G Pen. For me, vaporizers give you a cleaner high. It's in small doses so it's not like you're out of this world, but they make you feel a certain way. I wanted it to be a double entendre. That was one of my favorite songs to write. I wanted to convey my feelings of how "The Vapors" make me feel. Keep in mind it could be about a guy also. I wanted it to represent how I felt about both without compromising or lying about the other. If you take it as I'm talking about vaping weed or talking about a guy, it makes sense in both cases.
What artists shaped you?
I'm the youngest of five. My brothers and sisters were always playing music. My sisters started singing when they were like five-years-old. They were always in girl groups. I was looking up to them and what they were listening to which was TLC and Brandy. Those were two my favorites as a baby. In the nineties, I was listening to Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, and Lil' Kim. It's a lot of mixed-up things. Then, there was Tupac Shakur. As an adult, I started listening to random stuff. It's John Mayer and Sade. India.Arie was somebody I'd listen to all the time. Also, I'd say Kid Cudi and even Eminem. When I got stuck on an artist or an album, that'll be the only thing I listen to. It definitely influences my music, writing, and style.
If you were to compare the EP to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
This is a hard question [Laughs]. I'm trying to think of one of my favorite movies. It'd be something in between Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, and something a little more hardcore—some type of gangster film. That's a really good question! I need to think! Oh, it'd be like Boyz 'N the Hood. That's a weird combination of movies, but if you put them all together, it'd make a good EP.
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