Intertwining a natural, new sense of self and her undeniable confidence, R&B singer-songwriter Jhené Aiko released her third studio album “Chilombo” March 2 with features from John Legend, Future, Miguel, Nas, Ty Dolla $ign and on-again, off-again boyfriend Big Sean.
Prior to the album, Aiko released the singles “Triggered (Freestyle),” “None of Your Concern” ft. Big Sean, “P*$$y Fairy (OTW),” and “Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)” ft. Future and Miguel.
The twenty track album was extensive and excessive, but I did not grow tired of her voice, and the highlights of the album outweigh the downfalls. The album has a natural sound that automatically evokes peace upon listening.
The concept of “Chilombo” comes from Aiko’s surname. She explained in an interview with Billboard that her father gave himself the last name. The name translates to “wild beast.”
“As I come into my womanhood, I feel extra strong and confident. I’ve always been a little wild and I’ve always been a beast,” Aiko said.
The first song on the album “Lotus - intro” perfectly introduces the album. A lot of “Chilombo” is about finding strength in choosing yourself and rising from the ashes to find the warrior or “beast” within. Aiko sings, “There was a woman born from a Lotus / Her heart was golden, deep as the ocean / And this one man, he came and broke it / ‘Til it was open, just like a Lotus / Oh, yes there were explosions / She found her focus, the beast awoken.”
All of the songs were originally freestyles that were later doctored to better fit the sound of the album, but one in particular sparked controversy. The song “Triggered (freestyle)” portrayed the feeling of resentment after a failed relationship, but also the vulnerability of wanting a second chance. Many fans believed that this was a direct shot at her flame, Big Sean, but Aiko disputed that.
The involvement of Big Sean in this album was a controversial choice considering their past. His featured song “None of Your Concern” shocked me. It seemed like real-life dialogue that happened between the two artists as they navigate through a breakup. Aiko sings, “I am not your girl anymore, you need to watch your tone / Don't worry about who it is I am lovin', just know that it is not you / This isn't up for discussion, I wish you good luck, man.”
Other sad girl anthems accompanied by the Big Sean feature include “10k Hours” and my personal favorite, “Lightning & Thunder.” The song “10k Hours” ft. Nas reflects on the one that got away. Nas raps, “How many soulmates we get in this lifetime?”
The song “Lightning & Thunder” ft. John Legend is a masterpiece that ponders the power of love. Legend and Aiko both sing, “What kind of spell do you have me under? / Oh, what in the hell, I'm starting to, starting to wonder / I am not well, I'm going under.” Their voices complement one another beautifully and I hope to see this combination again in the future.
The sad girl always rises from the ashes. In tracks like “B.S.” ft. H.E.R., “Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)” ft. Miguel and Future, and “P*$$y Fairy (OTW),” Aiko is a new beast. She channels her inner baddie in these songs and finds comfort in her sexuality; she gains ownership. Aiko sings, “I am on my own now, I am in control now / I need you to go now, I can fix my own crown.”
Aiko displayed a versatility of artistry throughout “Chilombo,” which proved to be a success. However, the commitment to the hour-long run time may scare you out of listening.
“Chilombo” is now available on Spotify, Apple Music and all other streaming platforms.