Words by Jordan Paragioudakis.
With her fourth studio album. “Trip” the remarkable Jhene Aiko take us a on a beautifully constructed journey into experiences way beyond the norm of mainstream R&B. It appears that our young Californian songstress has come a very long way from back-up vocals for B2K, luring an extraordinary essence from her depths to aid in the formation of such a complex and wildly vivid masterpiece.
Her eager listeners especially will notice a growth in conscious and expansion of musical flavour. From the infamous duo: TWENTY88’s Only Lovers Left Alive, showing a comfortable mellow flow, with milky keyboard keys singing in with noticeable reverb, to the eerie, ambient nature of Overstimulated, this album definitely taps into the trip in almost every sense of the word.
Love matters. A message that is so frequently reinforced throughout becomes the source of the album’s energy although in ways that can surprise. The symbol of her brother, first clearly interpreted in the song: New Balance, allows Jhene to use the love that she has for him as a representation of what the over-used word can mean. This allows her take the genre away from its traditional romantic clichés into new personal reflections on emotion, but also into an exploration of what goes further even than emotion itself, as well as the dangers of shutting it out.
Now to a song that does indeed deserve its own paragraph, not just due to its length, but also because of the various messages means of portraying them; Psilocybin (Love in Full Effect). Jhene takes us on a psychedelia journey expanding from light-hearted under-the-influence stories to deep, emotional, and exotic balances of sanity and insanity.
Reflecting on the unique element and themes of the album, Jhene still includes some of her old self in tracks such as OLLA and Sativa. While a dramatic leap forward in many ways, “Trip” can also be seen as the next natural stage on her long path of self-discovery and soul exploration, that she began with albums Sail Out, Souled Out, and Twenty88.
As it is Aiko’s fourth studio album, she often assumes we, as an audience, already know enough about her as an artist, that she then feels freed up to portray things about herself and aspects of her life as she learns them. This is perhaps a bold assumption, especially if this is your first foray into her aural universe, but for the committed fan, and she has many, it means we have the privilege to discover with Jhene, and anticipate her next move, establishing a powerful rapport between the artist and the committed listener. It is an exhilarating and challenging technique that pays off beautifully.
“Trip” is an instant classic for those of you interested in the idea of experimentation through music. Yet, amazingly, Aiko is able to challenge the ear and the mind, while remaining a mainstream interest and appealing to a large variety of fans. And it is for this reason that this project holds onto a spot in my personal library. For me “Trip” is a strong 9/10, and I would say in the top five albums of this year, along with Kendrick Lamar’s Damn, Chris Brown’s Heartbreak on a Full Moon, J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only, and Jay – Z’s 4:44.
But don’t take my work for it, go and stream it for yourself and see if you think the trip is worth the effort. Whatever you feel, when you arrive at your destination, I can guarantee it will have been worth the price of the ticket.