The Vixen Q&A: Jhene Aíko On Working With Kendrick Lamar, Calling Men ‘Bitches’ + Falling In Love With Tupac [Pg. 2]

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namcgloster / March 28, 2011

In a perfect world, which label would be the place for you to sign to?
Only because I’m a big fan of his music and I heard he might be having his own label, Kid Cudi. If [he] were to approach me to work with him in any sense, I would definitely be interested in that. Even Roc Nation or G.O.O.D. Music. I’m a fan of their music, and I believe that they would understand what I’m doing.

Now you have a couple collaborations that I want to find out more about. How did you link up with Kendrick Lamar? I know you first showed up on his O.D. mixtape.
His management is a mutual friend, and he heard that “July” with Drake had leaked. He called me like, ‘Are you doing features?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, who do you want me to work it?’ And he was like, ‘Kendrick Lamar.’ Ironically, I had just heard Kendrick like a week before that and I thought he was dope. We got in the studio like the next week and it was just so easy to work with him. I wrote the hook, literally, fifteen minutes are hearing the track and he listened to my hook and went straight in to do his verses. It was crazy. I had done like two songs and they weren’t for sure going to be on the mixtape but I had just wrote to them with Fisticuffs. And when I did the song with Kendrick, I fell in love with that whole sound that night. Like, dang! This is me, this is what I’m supposed to be singing. It was already in my mind but that confirmed it. So after that, I was on a roll with writing.

Besides Kendrick Lamar and the other artists you’ve collaborated with, which artists influence you?
I always say the person who taught me how to sing indirectly because I listened to her all the time was Brandy. I fell in love with her voice when I was sic years old. I always loved Brandy. I listen to Beyoncé for her technique. I believe she has a flawless voice. India Arie, Amel Larrieux. And I know it’s coming from left field, but I love John Mayer [laughs]. He’s probably one of my number one musical influences because of his writing ability and his voice. He’s somebody that I would listen to every single day. Kid Cudi, Kanye, J. Cole, Kendrick… I think I’ve recently fallen in love with hip-hop.

[Laughs]
Really! I thought I was a totally R&B girl until I started listening, you know. Tupac is like my number one idol. I feel like all around as an entertainer, he was the best. His songs, his poetry, what he actually wanted to do—he wanted to change the world. He didn’t want to just make music, and I think with a lot of entertainers, they don’t understand the power that they have and the influence that they have on the people that are listening to their music. Music draws people in, so once you draw them in, what are you gonna tell them? What message are you gonna give to them? Once their listening, are you still gonna tell them to just shake their butt? Of course he was controversial, but he was rapping to everyone and everyone could relate. In all his interviews, he had the same message of Black people empowering the black community and it was always a positive message. It was true and it was real and that’s why I think he was the greatest—he was more than just music, more than just a rapper.

I totally agree. And you have a track with Miguel that is very relatable called “Hoe” that’s basically about women being bold sexually and hoping the guy doesn’t think she’s a hoe. Do you think women should be the aggressor when it comes to sex and relationships?
I think if a woman is feeling aggressive, she should be aggressive and not hold back. Go for what she wants, you know? There’s nothing wrong in knowing exactly what you want and pursuing it. As long as we are responsible with our bodies and actions, it shouldn’t be a problem. The double standard doesn’t exist to me. If a woman can be a hoe, then so can a man. If a woman can be a bitch then so can a man! [Laughs] Labels don’t exist anyways.

[Laughs] I feel you. In this day and age, a lot more things between men and women are equal. Now, Do you ever feel like you’ll branch outside of the music eventually?
Yeah! I feel like writing is my number one thing. I want to branch out into books. I actually have a young readers’ series that I wanna do, kind of in the same lane as a Harry Potter or Narnia or Twilight. I want to write stuff like that. I feel like in my future, I’m going to write a lot of books. I’ve always been interested in acting but theater. And not necessarily musical theater either.

That would be dope. So, what do you want people to get from you now and from what’s to come musically?
For the future, I’m going to keep recording music. I’ll probably release something new within the next couple of months. I’m going to continue to just share my truths and myself because I feel like I have a lot to share with them about my life experience. The main thing is for [my fans] to find themselves in my music. You know how a lot of people say, ‘I lose myself in music,’ or ‘I like to escape,’ but I want my music to be more of an awakening. I want it to make people to be aware of life; I don’t want my music to be a distraction. I want to light a path. I want the music to be the stepping stone into changing the world really.

And to narrow that down, what’s one main message you want people to tune into?
Definitely the whole “sailing souls” thing. A lot of people are still confused about what that means, and it just means to stay true to yourself and go with what you feel. Feeling are really the only thing that is real. I kinda want to convey the message to just be yourself. Don’t ever lose yourself for whatever reason—because you want to make more money, because you want to be prettier or whatever. I’m not a slave to anyone; I’m sailing my soul instead of selling it.