Jhene Aiko has a penchant for the morbid, the light, the dark, love, lust, sex, heartbreak, spirituality and drugs. When it comes to her songs, she goes through the cycle of being lost and then found only to lose herself again for the sake of her sanity, and artistic expression. The poetic R&B singer has an affinity for deep introspection.
While she plunges into the depths of her soul, her lyrical epiphanies penetrate your broken psyche. Throughout the span of her career: 2011’s Sailing Soul(s); 2014’ Souled Out and 2017’s Trip she has opened up about her trials and tribulations with love, suicide and drugs. Her late brother Miyagi — who died of a brain tumor in 2012 at 26 years-old — serves as her main muse most of time. Amid the despair, healing always seems to follow when she hits the studio.
“My mind is always so full of ideas and solutions for everyday problems,” she says over the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s not always words that I’m thinking or feeling. A lot of the time it takes me a while to put it into words cause I am a very feeling orientated type of person. But I feel like the wiser I get the more experience I get, and I will develop those words and be able to share, teach, also learn and listen.”
Jhene’s latest collection of words are more than just a collection of melancholic love infused songs. In conjunction with her latest album and short film, Trip, she has recently released a new poetry book titled, 2Fish. In all, the three components are labeled as a MAP collectively — a movie, album and poetry book.
“My brother and I were very close. We were only two years apart,” she revealed in her MAP Mission statement. “I never thought of him as a separate person, but an extension of myself. He was my reflection. In his presence I was confident and always so sure. I was Penny.”
On 2Fish Jhene resurrects Penny back to life. “I am from a land/where everyone comes/to pretend to be/something they dreamed up,” she writes on 20Fish. “While me and my fellow/homeschooled kids/pray to the stars to be beamed up.”
Through poignant revealing poems each titled with a numeral and “fish” beside it, she lets us in on Penny’s thought process. Amid her neatly crafted short poetic vignettes, there are random entries scribbled with paper and pen sandwiched in between. Some of the lyrics from Trip also serve as cleverly intertwined place holders.
“Poetry is everything to me,” Jhene says. “It doesn’t have to be a certain format. It doesn’t have to rhyme. It’s also a form of storytelling. If things are said poetically, or with a nice rhythm—then it is a poem. It’s all about the rhythm, language and even how it looks on paper to me.”
Her poetry reads like unfiltered diary entries, like when you had a crush in school but that person never has the slightest clue. There’s talk of getting plastic surgery, and feeling like she’s never enough for anyone or anything. The 29 year-old also fixates on those pubescent inchoate teenage feelings of inferiority. Nonetheless, it’s a collective sentiment even the most beautiful exhibit.
In addition to the poetry and notes, there’s also a four-page short story inspired by Langston Hughes’ morbid “Life is Fine.” The story’s main character, Sarah, grapples with depression and substance abuse; opioids and Tequila are her vices of choice. She fights merely to stay alive or perhaps find the strength to end her existence. The story was written six years ago, and Jhene still finds it relatable.
“Before I decided to compile the poems, I would always go through my old notebooks once a year to search for ideas I might have forgotten about just to remind myself of who I am,” she notes.
We also get some material inspired by late Tupac’s life. “I feel like my family has been thuggin our whole lives/ i feel like no one understands what it feels like to have a gun in their face at/ 5,” she writes on 45Fish. “so when you say “Keep Your Head Up”/i know what you mean/and though i’ve never met you/i will never forget you/so fuck what everyone else says or thinks/i am thankful for what you’ve/inspired me to be.”
Ultimately through releasing all her feelings out on paper, she hopes to reach a state of pure oblivion and bliss. Jhene yearns to go back in time when life was simple, and her mind wasn’t tainted or jaded. It’s a battle we all fight everyday in our attempt to defeat pain. Like all of us, she’s doing the best she can.
“I want to be more optimistic, and not caring about what other people think of me, or their opinions about me,” she says.“Not letting others define who I am, or define my worth. Those are all the things that I was growing up, and I just feel like I’m getting that back.”
You can purchase “2Fish” here.