V Exclusive! Jhené Aiko Talks Tupac Collaboration, Inspiration From Kid Cudi and Being a B.I.G. Fan

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By: Adelle Platon / September 15, 2012

Friday night isn’t exactly prime time for Twitter beef, yet Def Jam signee Jhené Aiko has been mentioned.

“I can’t believe Jhené got knocked up by the biggest flop of them all, O’Ryan. Like she couldn’t even pull LDB?,” a tweeter posts regarding the soulstress and her baby’s father, former R&B singer O’Ryan. A third party gets into the mix with an F-bomb-laced shot at O’Ryan.

Within minutes, Jhené answers. “umm, we’ve known each other since elementary , before either of us were “singers” so th@ comment holds no weight.” Soon after, the same e-shooter says that the comment must’ve struck such a nerve that a “D-lister” had to respond. “D list?! Wow… I didn’t even think I was on a list at all! Thanks !,” responds Jhené.

After one listen to her sonically liberating mixtape sailing soul(s), the female crooner would never strike you as the sarcastic type. She visited the VIBE offices dressed in a tank, pants and chucks with no make-up yet bared as much about her emotional past as the tattoos on her body. She discusses collaborating with rap’s big boys, and how the self-proclaimed Tupac stan used to root for a B.I.G. east coast legend.

VIBE: Rumor has it Curren$y and you are going to be collaborating. Is something in the works?
Yeah, he actually tweeted me and I hit him back. It’s gonna be for his upcoming project. I’m just waiting for him to reply because he wants to redo some songs or something like that.

How about Chase N. Cashe? I’ve seen him trying to tweet you too.
I’ve known him. He actually helped me with the mixtape’s title. I was talking on Twitter about selling out or something and I spelled it like S-A-L-E. He was like ‘you mean S-E-L-L?’ and I was like ‘oh yeah’ and we just went back and forth and at the end of the conversation, it was like “Sailing Souls.”

You also work closely with the TDE family, you were on Ab-Soul’s and then you got Kendrick Lamar on your mixtape. How did you all start knowing each other?
We’re all from LA but it was like through a mutual friend who’s a part of TDE management. I guess he had heard the Drake feature on “July” and he was like “I think you would do something well with Kendrick.” And I hadn’t heard of him at the time. At the time, I wasn’t really listening to new music. I’m like a 90s R&B and Hip Hop [fan]. I listen to John Mayer too, it’s random. So I listened to Kendrick and I was like, ‘He’s dope’ and I hadn’t even started my mixtape yet. When I did “Growing Apart” with Kendrick, I met with Schoolboy and everybody. Just their work ethic and what they were all about it really put me on a more clear path as to what I wanted to do because I related so well to them.

Now is there any chance for you to appear on Kendrick’s upcoming album?
I mean I should be [laughs]. But I’m going to make sure that he is on Souled Out. I’m gonna hold him at gunpoint [laughs].

You were also featured on Big Sean’s mixtape Detroit. Talk a little bit about how that collaboration came about.
Well, we are both signed to Def Jam and he works closely with No I.D. No I.D. is a major part in his project so we’re always in the same studio together and it’s like a family over there. I did a couple of songs with Big Sean actually, so hopefully those are on his album as well. For sure I am going to have him on Souled Out.

Now I know that you are a huge Cudi fan and a track with you two would make perfect sense. Do you think that you can get Sean to call in a favor?
I’ve heard [Cudi] works kind of like how I do, just randomly. He’s a very creative person and creative people can be a little all over the place but I know he’s really busy so I’m not going to get my hopes up. I haven’t met him. I was listening to his album Man on the Moon II when I was writing and going through my problems in life. He was a very big inspiration. People can’t really hear that because it’s not like I was trying to copy his style or anything. But it’s just how honest he is. He just sounds like he goes in and talks about whatever and sometimes he doesn’t even rhyme but it sounds tight.

How about Kanye West?
Same thing. I haven’t met him. On the mixtape, we kind of jacked him for that verse real quick. I would love to work with Kanye but I understand for my first project I’m not going to get whoever. But I would love to work with him. I feel the same way about his honesty with his music and he’s just super creative. His production is crazy too. One of these days!

Today is September 13th, which is the death anniversary of Tupac, who I know you’re a huge fan of. After Drake doing his posthumous collaboration with Aaliyah, do you think that’s something you’d want to do to pay some type homage to ‘Pac?
I have so much respect for like him that I wouldn’t even want to touch that. I just feel like, leave it. A fan actually mashed one of my old songs with “Are You Still Down” a few years ago. It’s own YouTube and you can search it. It actually sounds like a legit collaboration. It’s really tight to hear our voices together. But I don’t know. I don’t think I would.

You also wrote him a letter a while back on Tumblr about never having met him but still being so moved by his music. What was your earliest memory of him?
I’m the youngest of five [children] and we’re all two years apart from each other. So when I was born, my siblings would play all of the ’90s Hip Hop and I knew all the words to The Chronic album and I was way too young to be listening to all of that but I knew it. My siblings were already in love with [Tupac] and I just remember in elementary, I was actually because of this woman over here [points to manager], she is like my older sister. She listened to a lot of Biggie and Junior Mafia and all of that

So she put you on basically?
Yeah. I never told anyone this either but me and her would go back and forth and I would say Biggie was better and she would say ‘no, it’s Tupac’

Really? So you were a B.I.G. fan first?
Yeah because I knew all the Biggie songs but as I got older, I loved them both. As I got older, I really got into Tupac’s poetry, his books and just learning about his life and what he was into. It was so similar to how I felt and the stuff I was into and what I wanted to do through music. Then when I saw The Resurrection movie, I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s amazing, the best thing ever.’

Click on to read part two where Jhené discusses signing to No I.D.’s label, and why she could never be Beyoncé.