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What do you see when you look at Jhene Aiko? Do you see a mosaic of ethnicity? Do you see years of stereotypical castings due to her racial ambiguity? Do you see a woman who can turn a lover’s scorn into anthems?
You actually see all of that and more. Aiko spoke with REVOLT TV before hitting the stage at Beautycon in Los Angeles, California about her upcoming album; if the world should expect another Twenty88 album with Big Sean, and the evolution of her relationship with beauty.
“My eyebrows have definitely evolved since I was a teenager. I used to over pluck them,” AIko revealed with a laugh. “When I was younger, I had really thick eyebrows. Unfortunately, I over [did it] so now they don’t grow as they used to…”
As of late, Aiko has began to embrace her natural style while still having enough experience with makeup to feel comfortable enough to do YouTuber Bretman Rock’s makeup onstage at Beautycon. In the past, her natural beauty limited the ethnically mixed songstress, who has been appearing on screen since B2K’s “Uh Huh,” music video in 2001. “When I started going on auditions, they would put me for roles [as] the Spanish girl, or the Japanese girl or the black girl.”
Almost two decades later, Aiko still remembers the pressure from people for her to conform to the industry’s stereotypes. “When I was 12 [or] 13, someone told my mom, ‘You should really play up one or the other,” Aiko recollected. “You should straighten her hair so she could look more Asian or you should keep her hair natural and curly, and put a little bronzer on her so she [will] look more black.”
Beyond her beauty, the recording artist exists in many people’s minds as an ephemeral voice as soft as an angel’s whisper with lyrics on love and despair. Her process of making such soulful music is as natural and organic as her beauty. “Most of my songs are freestyles. They start off with me either having something in my head and I’ll sit down with my keyboard player or [producers] Fisticuffs… I’ll tell [them], ‘I have these melodies, just give me a metronome’ and we’ll build music around what I did.”
That’s how her latest song, the scorned lover ode “Triggered (Freestyle),” was created. Her and her longtime producers Fisticuffs started the emotive, piano track with a few instruments before Aiko took the beat to her home studio to record it herself. “[I] just kept singing until [I] said everything I needed to say,” she explained.
“When I’m going through something, it actually flows out easier for me. Doing ‘Triggered’ and several other songs… [gives me] that same feeling that I have to release [it],” Aiko revealed. “It just flows out and I try not to overthink it until I want to [put] ad-libs in or background [vocals]. My new album I’m working on now is like that. Every song that you hear is me [freestyling].”
She says her new LP will be coming “sooner than later” with an update on its status coming from Aiko herself in the near future.
Does that mean we’ll get a follow-up to the Twenty88 project that she released in 2016 with her then-boyfriend Big Sean? “I mean, anything is possible… It can manifest,” AIko said before bursting out into a warm laugh.
The next time we hear the two together making beautiful music, it could very well be an entirely new decade. The year 2020 will roughly mark the first decade of Aiko’s solo career since entering the scene with her mixtape Sailing Soul(s). “I’m the same since Sailing Soul(s). I’m just a little more evolved version of myself,” the star explains. “Ever since the first grade, I’ve always known who I was. Now, I’m becoming more of who I am.”
The girl, who had to face decisions like choosing which of her ethnicities she should identify with in order to get casted, has grown into a world where Rihanna’s cosmetic line is one of the biggest in the world. In addition, one of the biggest songs on Beyoncé’s The Lion King soundtrack celebrates “Brown Skin Girls,” and different shades of beauty are finally being celebrated in mainstream media. Aiko admits “there’s still more work to be done [with] showing diverse faces and bodies.” But, she is hopeful for the progress. “Now, more than ever, we’re celebrating being unique individuals… and embracing their (women of color) unique features,” she closed.
If you love Los Angeles stars and hip hop/R&B, you’ll definitely want to join us and AT&T in L.A. on Oct. 24 – Oct. 26 for our three-day REVOLT Summit, which was created to help rising moguls reach the next level. Head to REVOLTSummit.com for more info and to get your passes now!
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