Q&A: Jhené Aiko Talks Recording For Drake’s ‘Nothing Was The Same,’ New Record With Kendrick Lamar


The Internets have been drowning in their feelings for the past 12 hours thanks to a leak of Drake’s album Nothing Was The Same. While the Toronto rep gets heavy with the bars and blues on his third studio effort, only one female lyricist is featured on the 15-track offering. Singer Jhené Aiko, who has mastered the art of emo on her latest mixtape Sailing Soul(s), re-connected with Drizzy on wax for a song and some extra vocals since their 2010 duet “July.” Here, the First Lady of No I.D.’s Artium roster discussed waxing poetic with the big boys of hip-hop and even offers her best remedy to texting your ex.—Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton)

You and Drake worked together on “July” so how did the reunion happen for Nothing Was The Same?
Well, we didn’t really work together on “July.” It was Jas Prince, whose one of the people responsible for signing his deal with Lil Wayne, whom I’ve known since I was 12, 13 and he was like ‘I think you should do a hook for Drake. He’s this rapper and he’s doing his mixtape.’ At the time, I had just found out I was pregnant. I had my friend Michael Powell come with me to the studio and write a hook for me, and in that session, [Drake] heard “July” then I guess later on, he had decided to put some verses on it and make it a feature. This time around, we actually met and he played me “From Time” and I was like ‘Yeah, I wanna do this. Can I take this home and write to it?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, take your time.’ I had it for like a month and a half and I actually wrote something completely different to it. Then right before I sent it to him, I was like ‘No, I wanna say something completely different. I want it to be like this.’ I sent it to him and he was like, ‘Oh my God, I love it.’

What was the initial concept for the song?
The initial concept was “Beautiful Ruin,” which I put out on acoustic version of on YouTube that is gonna be on Souled Out by No I.D. It was one of my true life stories about a guy. I just felt like it was a little too specific to me and I didn’t wanna get on [Drake’s] record, like ‘This is what I’m going through!’ so I decided to have a conversation with him [on the record].

Were you a last-minute addition to “Wu-Tang Forever“?
Yeah, the first time we met to work together, he played me six songs. That was one of them and I was like, ‘Can I sing on that? Can I just do a note?’ and he was like yeah and I did that right away. I didn’t even know if he was gonna keep it or not. I was just like, ‘Dang I really, really like this song. I think it could use a female voice just a little bit.’ I didn’t even know “Wu-Tang Forever” was the name. I was so confused so when people were like ‘Is that you?’ I was like I’ve never done a song about Wu-Tang, let me see but that hook spoke to me and I can hear myself singing on it. When he played “From Time,” there was nothing on it and I was so compelled to write.

Now will Drake make an appearance on your debut?
I don’t know. People are busy but I feel like this was really a collaboration. I feel like [“From Time”] was equally the both of us so even if he doesn’t give me a verse, we still got to work together again.

How about the rest of the OVO crew? Any chance for a collaboration with “40” or PARTYNEXTDOOR?
I would love to. All of [40’s] beats, I would write something to anything. I used to do that all time and I would write my own version of Drake songs in my head or put ‘em out in Myspace and TouTube back in the day. I think 40’s production is perfect. I would do a whole project with him.

J. Cole recently tapped you for his last album Born Sinner. How did “Sparks Will Fly” come about?
Well he’s really close with No I.D., who’s in charge of my project right now and he was like, ‘Cole has something that he thinks your voice will sound nice on. His deadline is tomorrow. Do you think you could come to the studio and sing it?’ And I was like yeah, but I don’t usually like to sing other people’s words so it’s very rare when I listen to a hook and I’m like ‘Yeah I’ll sing that.’ I take my time when I write. If he had given that to me blank without any reference, I would’ve been like ‘Uhhhh… give me a month and I’ll get back to you with a hot hook.’ But that [song] literally happened within two days.

You’ve also placed on Wale’s mixtape Folarin and Big Sean’s album Hall of Fame so will they be returning the favor when it comes time for your album?
You know what, the only one returning the favor is Kendrick Lamar. He’s gonna be on the Sail Out EP that’s out in October but I don’t take any offense to people not wanting to return the favor. I did the songs [with Wale, Sean, Cole] because I liked everything and I would want them to want to do a song of mine. Nowadays, No I.D. told me, ‘You can stand on your own’ and I agree with him. At the end of the day, if I just take an extra week to write a hot 16, I can do it.

Will your song with Kendrick be a part two of “Growing Apart“?
No, our song is different. It’s sexy but at the same time, it’s very lyrical. It’s a smart and sexy song.

Last question: best advice for people who try their best not to text their ex during emo hours.
(Laughs) Go with how you feel. That’s my advice cause I do it all the time. I feel like it’s more work to hold back like, ‘I’m not gonna text him’ but once you do it, you can just get it out of your system. If it only happens when you’re drunk that you wanna text your ex, don’t do it like put your phone away, stay off of Twitter and hide it from yourself. But if you’re just in your feelings, are just sober and really thinking about the person and really have something on your mind that you wanna tell them, then do it. Why not?