Trip: Jhene Aiko

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Trip is a 4 sided dice that never stops rolling and you never know which side it will land on.

Side A- grief; the loss of a loved one. Side  B- experimenting with psychedelics. Side C- falling in love. Side D- falling out of love.

It’s about losing yourself and finding yourself all over again.

This project arrived with a masterful short film in which Jhene plays a fictionalized version of herself: Penny the Poet.

And how could I review something called Trip, without sprinkling some trippy imagery here and there?

Enjoy the trip.

drugs 1

 

We open with grief and psychedelics in ‘LSD’. Jhene’s brother, Miyagi, passed away in 2011 after battling cancer. On this track, she talks to him and tells him about her experience with the drug. How that tiny piece of paper made her feel closer to him, almost like she could talk to him and he’d talk back.

Everything you said I shouldn’t do
But those things bring me closer to you,

So the other night, I
Took a tiny piece of paper and put it under my tongue
This white guy said it’d be fun, and it was, but
What I saw
Oh my God, oh my God

‘Jukai’ is a forest in Mount Fiji, also known as suicide forest, where people go to die peacefully, amongst the sea of trees. She relates this forest to escapism; her need to run away to a place where she can never be found.

In an interview on Beats 1 Radio, she broke it down like this:

One night I was in [the studio] with the Fisticuffs and we were partaking in marijuana and we were watching a documentary about Aokigahara, the suicide forest in Japan. My great-grandmother was born in Hawaii, but she’s actually Japanese. My grandfather is Japanese, too. So I’ve always wanted to go. After my brother passed — actually, my whole life — I’ve been very interested in death. Not afraid of it, but interested and intrigued. I was watching that [documentary] and it was such a beautiful forest. Maybe people go there and they just feel at peace. Of course, everyone has different reasons for making that decision.
It’s definitely a place I’ve been in my mind: ‘Hmm, if I were to decide to do that, how would I do it?’ So we started with a guitar and I wanted to write a song about that place and go there in my mind. I know that sounds morbid, but it was true. It was a fantasy of me going there. It’s not super obvious in the song, but I say how my feet keep touching the ground [and] it’s not working for me. Then I’m saved by a guy. But in real life I was on a hike in Big Sur and I was getting emotional. Then I looked up through the trees and I saw the sun. It felt like the sun saved me, which, in itself, is [symbolic]: the Son of God or the sun in our solar system. It just felt like a love story.

‘While we’re young’ and ‘Moments ft. Big Sean’ are a summer of falling in love- with someone else, with yourself, with life. All guards and inhibitions thrown to the wind. The free-est you’ve ever been. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is an upbeat pop synth number about fighting for that same love.

‘When we Love’. When falling into a love that seems too good to be true, be mindful- it just might be. It usually is.

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But seriously, who is this man who keeps giving her drugs. Big Sean, is it you?

She gives us something for the aux in ‘Sativa’ ft. Swae Lee. Staying true to the substance theme, if this song was a drug (I know, it’s called Sativa), it would be lean. It’s a drowsy eyes-closed slow-bumping banger.

‘New Balance’ is a heartfelt poem, originally posted on her tumblr, dedicated to finding that someone who will patiently help you heal all your wounds. Guitar courtesy of John Mayer.

jhené aiko efuru chilombo new balance

‘You are here’ is getting to know this person deeper and finding out who they really are. Yeah this is fun but are you sure? Are you sure you won’t hurt me? The same sentiments are echoed in ‘Newer balance freestyle’

Shit hits the fan in ‘Never Call Me’ and her eyes are wide open now. She sees it, she sees that it wasn’t really love. It was mostly just drugs. Also taking this opportunity to land a few jabs at her ex-husband, producer Dot-da-genius.

So let’s stop pretending like we were in love
We never shared anything but the drugs
We were both numb, never had anything real between us

Ironic because the next track in the album is produced by Dot da Genius. ‘Nobody’ is learning how to be alone again. However, the drugs switch from psychedelics to prescriptions, partly at fault is Dr. Chill.  (Dr. Chill’s identity will be revealed shortly). How the issues in her life are mostly resolved with a “Here. Take this. It will make you feel better.”

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Okay, so far we’ve met Lsd, Sativa, and prescription pills. ‘Overstimulated’ is coke.  The highs are short and fleeting. The come downs are cruel and unforgiving. Her addiction is rising. It’s an enchanting R&B feel and we get to swirl through Jhene’s mind along with her. She talks to the drugs like they’re a bad lover.

Why you never stay for long? You always go so fast
Who’s gonna hold my hand when I’m crashing

She’s coming down in ‘Oblivion’. That feeling of emptiness after it all ends. When nothing can fill the void. This one is my personal favorite- the sounds wave in and out of each other and the reverb makes it all the more ethereal and heavy. Everything from the percussion to Dr. Chill’s verse is a hovering darkness.

I love how direct she is in ‘Psilocybin’. Incase you had any doubts, yes. She is talking about shrooms. It’s calming (the song not shrooms idk I’ve never tried it) like a mantra i’d recite to myself to remind me I’m here. This is where I am and exactly where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. It is the right place. It is the right time.

Dear Dr. Chill, how have I lived without your smooth jazz wisdom all this time? Someone please give this psychedelic man a record deal and an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. (Right. Dr. Chill is Dr. Chilombo a.k.a Baba Jhene)

dr chill

I’m from the Universe soul
We’re all from the Universe soul 

Mummy and baby sing together on ‘Sing to me’ ft. Namikolove, her daughter. It’s as adorable and endearing as you think it is. Scratch that, it’s more. The beauty and vulnerable power in the image of a mother-daughter duo vs. the world moved me to tears in a feeling I haven’t felt since I finished watching Gilmore Girls.

The album moves through the stages of grief, finally ending in acceptance with ‘Frequency’. A prayer and a thanksgiving. And ‘Trip’ ft. Mali Music. Love pays but it also collects taxes. *shrugs* It’s a trip.

Life is a trip. Death is a trip. Family is a trip. Love is a trip. It’s all a constant unending journey. Breathe it all in, look around, learn, keep moving forward.

 

Rated : 4.3 / 5

 

 

 

Depression and Music

We don’t take artists as seriously as we should.

Creating music is a process that, ideally, should come from within. This is why rappers get so much shade if they are found or suspected to be using ghost writers. It’s considered wrong because music should be an artist’s impression of their own life. If someone wrote for you the words that we, as listeners, take to be true, it feels like betrayal. Kendrick spoke about peer pressure and we take all of his Compton adventures to be true and solid. If we find out, years from now, that he never wrote what we actually listen to then he would lose his value and standing as an artist.

As an exception to this, we give artists creative freedom. You can lie and give us all the bullshit you want as long as they are your lies and it is your bullshit.  Artists can bend and will their reality as they please because that’s what being an artist means. It means being creative and telling us ordinary things in a meaningful and poignant way. There’s a very thin line between being honest and creative and letting someone else be honest and creative for you. This is what we demand from our artists. That they give us truths as long as these truths are from them. Not ghostwritten.

This artistic independence means that a lot of the time, we don’t take artists as seriously as we should. Music, as myself and Chia have written about, is background noise to us these days. We don’t sit and listen to music, we ‘vibe’ to it. What this means is that we end up listening to the music and not the artist. We miss their cries for help because that drop after the second verse was insane. We don’t empathize.

Joy Division was an alternative band formed in England in 1976. Their lead singer was Ian Curtis, a soulful singer with a very gritty voice. They achieved a moderate amount of success in the late 70’s. On 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide. Thing is, his lyrics were dark. To quote his wife after his death ‘His lyrics were dark. So very dark.’ His bandmates knew this. But because of the opaque banner that is ‘creative license’ we take these words and shove them under the carpet. We vibe but we don’t empathize. I mean, if this is not a cry for help then what is?

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Chester Bennington, the lead singer for Linkin Park, died a week ago.

I may have appreciated the artistic works of Prince and Michael Jackson and mourned for them when they did, but I didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t feel their deaths the same way that my parents did. They were not part of the culture I adore, they were only idols to it. But I grew up with Chester. At 13, I knew every Linkin Park song from every Linkin Park album that existed, I shit you not. Through their music, my angst and frustrations with the absurdity of life had a voice. Their music was loud and filled with pain but it warmed my growing soul. But, just like Tyler the Creator’s coming out, all the signs were there.

Somewhere I belong (2003) Meteora

I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

Easier to Run (2003) Meteora

It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone

Crawling (2000) Hybrid Theory

Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real

I’m not saying we should overanalyze everything we hear because our favorite artist is going to kill themselves. Sometimes people don’t mean what they say and that’s fine. What I’m saying is that we should listen. Show compassion. Realize that creative license is just that. James Bond has a license to kill but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a alcoholic womanizing gun-toting murderer.

If you have or know a person going through something and expressing themselves in whatever creative manner they choose, reach out. Life’s a bitch and then you die but friends are friends and you will miss them when they are gone.

I started this blog to appreciate artists while I could. Chester, I’m sorry it took me this long. I hope you find peace.

When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me and, when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest