Jhené Aiko Travels Through Love and Loss on Psychedelic Album ‘Trip’
R&B singer Jhené Aiko has been creating noise in the music industry for some time, including showing up on songs with her now boyfriend Big Sean and collaborator Childish Gambino. She’s even popped up on tours with Drake and J. Cole, further solidifying her underground success. Aiko saw great solo success, with her debut album from 2014, entitled “Souled Out,” which topped the third spot on the Billboard 200 chart. Back now with her follow-up, she’s taken her already moving, psychedelic sounds and doubled-down, creating a lush landscape musical on “Trip” and preceding the release with a 23-minute video of the same name.
It simple enough to decipher from the album’s title and tie-dyed cover art that “Trip” is about psychedelics. This is true, but reductive. “Psilocybin (Love in Full Effect)” feels like an ode to the naturally occurring compound but goes deeper than surface feelings. She described it as a “Spirit party” and “Sweet delirium” over equally eloquent beats spanning seven-plus-minutes. “Sativa,” named after the upwardly mobile strand of marijuana, features Swae Lee, one half of Rae Sremmurd, in a melodic trap cut that’ll have you “feelin’ some type of way.” “Mystic Journey (Freestyle” is vibey track with sparkling synth loops, even featuring delicate lyrical whispers underneath the verses not unlike Jim Morrison’s famous “Riders On The Storm” lyrics.
Keep in mind though, for those readers thinking this album may the perfect companion to your next trip, that you’ll find much more than you bargained for beneath the surface. In fact, while much of the album would fit perfectly alongside a Saturday-sink-into-the-couch-night with a bag of weed, sprinkled throughout are incredibly emotive songs tackling serious issues.
Aiko said much of the album was inspired by her brother’s passing from cancer in 2012, making “Trip” dedicated to the concept of grief. The first few lines of “LSD,” the opening track, find her reaching out to Miyagi (her brother) in the afterlife, imagining his experience, then detailing her grief which lead to psychedelics. “LSD” is so artfully done, that in the span of less than two-minutes, Aiko brilliantly describes her stages of sorrow, leading to the moment when she “Took a tiny piece of paper and put it under (her) tongue.” “What I saw,” she said, “Oh my God/Oh my God.” “Trip” feels cinematic, or literary, in a way. With story after story (song after song), some intertwining, to create an overall narrative involving heavy emotions and drugs. While “Overstimulated” is a gorgeously dreamy stream of consciousness about intoxication, it ends in a haunting realization. “Bad Trip (Interlude)” picks up where it leaves off, once again going from wavy drug-infused lyrics to an almost disturbing comprehension that the trip has gone bad.
“Trip” is one of those albums that requires your full attention. Many fans tweeted following the release that they needed time to fully absorb the record. It’s one of those ‘lie on your back on the floor and stare at the ceiling’ type of albums. Even the lead-single “While We’re Young,” a love-song, feels more than just that. With its many contemplations and realizations, Aiko has crafted something truly worthy of your head space. Whether you’ve lost a loved one or not, whether you’ve experimented with psychedelics or not, “Trip” will take you there.
“Trip” is available Sept. 22 on Apple Music.