Trip: Jhene Aiko

WhatsApp Image 2017-10-27 at 6.12.27 PM

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.

drugs 3

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.”

drugs 2

 

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

 

 

 

American Teen: Khalid

Listening to this album, it feels like most of the songs started out in jam circles with him and his friends. If I could summarize the album in one word, it would be ‘youth’. 18 year old Khalid is aware of his youth and uses it wholly to his advantage.

‘Location’ caught everyone’s attention and put Khalid into a different lane. From being a military kid from El Paso to performing live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and contributing uncredited vocals to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Heart Pt IV’. Indeed, Young Khalid is doing quite alright for himself.

Not to patronize him, but you should notice his lisp on words like “American” and “Therapy”. It’s unendingly adorable.

Admittedly, 2 seconds into the titular track, ‘American Teen’, and I thought, “Oh no. This is going to be some cheesy Katy Perry-esque mishmash of debauchery and patriotism. Shoot me now.” But it wasn’t, and this should serve as a lesson to anyone who prematurely judges a song. At least wait for the 30 second mark before you start sharpening your pitchforks.

However, if you still wish to, you can test his patriotism with the visible folk influences in ‘Another Sad Love Song’; like it was recorded over a bayou.

He has a gritty buttery voice. Like a baby trapped inside the vocal cords of a grown man who has experienced the hardships of life; and whereas Khalid’s hardships involves too many subtweets and not enough dates over Subway, the journey feels all the same. No adversity feels more or less than the other. Khalid is like seeing a wolf with the softest shea-butter fur.

When the lyricism isn’t an ode to youth, it’s heartfelt and sombre. Always dedicated to someone in the second person, not ‘her’ nor ‘him’. ‘You’.

‘Shot down’ is for the slow dance at prom. Comparing his feelings for ‘you’ to being knocked down by a sudden powerful force.

He is a breathing example of the cultural significance of Soundcloud in this day and age, it doesn’t take much for rubies like Khalid to shine. It gives artists a platform to be heard in a world where they would have previously formed part of the ‘listen to my demo’ chatter, piled in the back of an underpaid A & R’s desk.

‘Angels’ is his personal favorite song on the project, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a divinity to it. Backed by a melodic piano that his voice uses as a platform to propel itself further up, the old-fashioned wordsmith radiates a bright halo glow, as he becomes like the angels he talks to: a transfiguration of sorts because transfigurations almost always take place at the end. He is without ego. He is honest. He is kind. Khalid is the American teen living the American dream.

We float above horizons
And sail across the seas
I hope for better days
And lately times are tough
The angels give me strength
And I’m not giving up

030617-music-khalid-american-teen-album-cover-art

Image: The Fader; Cover art

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 3.3 / 5

 

Yes Lawd!: Anderson .Paak / Knxwledge

Anderson .Paak is winning. In 2016 he got his big break. He released his debut album Malibu. He signed with Dre. Everyone wants a piece of him now, he knows this. Malibu and Venice were two very mature projects, bending and winding into the complex themes of Anderson .Paak’s life. Therefore, he deserves a little fun. As a result, we have Yes Lawd! 

With his candy paint smooth voice and Knxwledge on production, Nxworries may arguably be the smoothest duo of 2017. Signed to the iconic Stones Throw Records that has housed the likes of Madlib, MF Doom and J Dilla. Iconic producers in their own right. 

‘Suede’ being the first single to push the project, Anderson .Paak addresses the various girls who want to “ride in his car” (catch the innuendo). He differentiates the “tricks” from the bitches, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Gotta whole lot of women, all of them with it
Yes Lord!

The question here is: Is Anderson .Paak sexist or are his pimp genes too strong?

And as long as you don’t call after 6
Then there won’t be any problem

Geez, that’s cold man.

A recurring theme in .Paak’s lyrics is his difficulty of choice between commitment and dishing free loving. He asks the girls to come through in ‘Link up’ where he proceeds to pied piper them back to his place. However, In ‘Sidepiece’ he croons his devotion to one woman, for whom he would gladly give up everyone else for.

The feels take over rationality in ‘Starlite’: he’s in the process of breaking up with her when their song plays and he asks her to fuck everything he’s just said, and stay the night.

Hey, got damn, bitch, they playing our song
I wanna stay with you all night long
Forget every single word I’ve said, I was dead wrong

Before I go any further, you have to remember that this is an Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge album. While the mainstream public is generally familiar with Anderson .Paak by now, they aren’t as privileged when it comes to Knxwledge.

One thing you should know is that his first release was in 2010 and since then he has released about 80 albums and EPs, establishing himself as a legend, in a little under 7 years. If that isn’t hard work I don’t know what is.

Knxwledge is the background calm to .Paak’s hyper charisma. If their music was a club: Anderson would be wilding out at the centre of the dancefloor and Knxwledge would be standing at the back, bobbing his head, vibing to the music and smoking a blunt.

His production really shines in ‘Kutless’ and ‘Can’t Stop’, particularly from the 00:40 mark. Both sound like raw honey tastes, with Knxwledge’s snazzy loops: perfectly sliced and placed samples, as his signature.  80’s nostalgia is prevalent with that jamming Yamaha DX7 synth sound in ‘Scared Money’. Maybe .Paak singing over the first track from Knxwledge’s 2013 album Kauliflowr on ‘Wngs’ can prove to you just how great of a stand-alone artist Knxwledge is, and when fused together with another great artist, magic ensues.

Bless Lawd for this collaboration.

Rated: 3.9 / 5

Image: Consequence of Sound

Lyrics: Genius