In the past two years, Jhené Aiko has managed to completely wipe out any memory of her past musical life. When the music world first met the California native she was a sweet 15 year old girl, who wore jersey dresses (remember those?) with a matching snap back baseball cap or visor; and had a personality that fell in line with the younger pop princesses who reigned supreme in the early 2000s---the quintessential good girl with a wink. Shaped and produced by the now infamous Chris Stokes (In 2008, he was accused of molesting teenage members of his boy bands B2K and Immature), she was signed to his T.U.G record label, and billed as the cousin of B2k's resident rapper Lil' Fizz, which later would be revealed as a dishonest marketing ploy to make Aiko more appealing.
While the crux of her early career doesn't steer too far away from the albums and videos of her label mates, she landed her first solo hit with 2002's "L.O.V.E" which was a top ten hit on the Billboard R&B chart. But after some creative tug of war with her label, she found herself without a deal and a seemingly stalled career that led her back to school, and motherhood at the age of 20, giving birth to a baby girl with singer Omarion's brother, singer O'Ryan.
Now at age 24, Aiko is a young woman, mother of a four year old, and and an artist hell bent on being her authentic self. Her 2011 mixtape, Sailing Soul(s), was her breakout moment, showing off an emo soul brand of music that in recent months has attracted lazy comparisons to Frank Ocean. And while her music evokes deep thought, her music, unlike Ocean's, is not blanketed in esoteric rhetoric that leaves the listener in a state of "huh?"
On a given day, one can find Jhene in the studio or in a business meeting with her shoes off, showing off her whippet like body in Bohemian style garb, making it clear that Cali relaxed swagger is in her DNA.
Now signed to Def Jam Records via super-producer No I.D's Artium imprint, she's in the studio working on her debut album, Souled Out, which will feature production from her label head and members of Cocaine80s, the musical collective of which she is a member alongside Common, and singer/songwriter, James Fauntleroy II. Not to mention, she's been dropping a string of music videos, the latest, "Mirrors," finds her channeling Natalie Portman a la Black Swan---brokenheartedly unraveling.
What's true for Aiko now is being honest with herself, grasping the virtue of patience, and learning to embrace the world outside of her scope.
What is the biggest thing you've learned about yourself by having a daughter?
That I am not as patient as I think. I've also learned that life is about more than me and what I'm going through; it's about creating love with one another. My daughter has showed me weaknesses and the strengths [within me] that I never knew I had.
How are you managing to balance motherhood with your recording schedule?
It's extremely hard to balance the two; I just take it one day at a time.
Has motherhood changed you as an artist?
As an artist, motherhood has made me braver and more honest with my music. There's no time to be afraid of anything because you're supposed to be the superhero to your child.
How would you describe your soon-to-be-released album, Souled Out, using only five words?
Honest, Lyrical, Personal, Wanderlust, ME.
Now let's get to style. Where do you go for fast fashion?
What fashion trends are you currently into at the moment?
I'm not trendy. I just like to be comfortable.
What is your favorite piece in your closet?
My hoodie with my brother's face on it [ED NOTE: Her 26-year-old brother Miyagi died after a two-year bout with brain cancer in 2012]
If you could raid any of your style icon's closet, who would it be and why? Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. They are small like me and I like their boho chic style.
Your hair is gorgeous. What's the secret?
Thank you. When I'm wearing it straight I use Redken Heat Protector. When it's curly, I use Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner. And Biosilk Silk Therapy is my favorite.
Speaking of favorites. What is your favorite fragrance?
Falling in Love by Philosophy
What is a beauty product you can't live without?
Anastasia Eyebrow Pencil
What does every girl and woman need?
To know that they are beautiful.