Jhené Aiko: “Chilombo” Album Review

jhene aiko chilombo

Over two years since the release of her Trip album and our soulful, free-spirited, sensual favorite is back! That’s right, Jhené Aiko is back with her third album, Chilombo! Since “Trip,” Aiko has definitely been under the media’s public eye. Most of the attention comes from speculation about her on again-off again relationship with rapper, Big Sean. Minus a few here-and-there singles, the two never officially made any statements in regards to their relationship. However, it’s very safe to say they are much stronger than they have been before.

On “Chilombo” Jhené channels all of her feelings into a collective body of healing for listeners all across the world. Containing 20 songs, Chilombo is a full length project, holding features from greats such as H.E.R., Nas, Miguel, Ab-Soul, John Legend and more! Experimenting with singing bowls, Chilombo takes Jhené’s feelings of anger, sorrow, pain, love, loss, etc. and allows for fun, healing, and peace. While reflecting on her life and past relationships, Aiko ushers in a familiar yet refreshing aura that is pleasing to the ear.

She sets the atmosphere beginning with her intro, “Lotus.” In my opinion, her voice is at its purest here. Her delivery is so beautiful and warming to the core as she sings over minimal production. She ushers in this sense of protection and serenity as she effortlessly hits each and every run. From there, we immediately flow into one of the album’s hottest singles, “Triggered.” Although the song was released in 2019, it still hits like never before.

To this day, “Triggered” is still one of the best songs Jhené has ever created (and it’s a whole freestyle). Jhené is usually at her best when she is able to express her anger, sadness, and frustrations. Instead of being bitter and angry, she uses the song to reflect on her life, past relationships, and vulnerabilities. Aiko uses the songs as her means of strength and self-discovery. The theme continues on “None of Your Concern.” Throughout the Big Sean-assisted track, Jhené transitions from anger to moving forward.

She tells this story that most will resonate with of getting past the point of being angry about a previous relationship and progressing past it. She is no longer held bondage to her past feelings over even to the control of her partner. Jhené makes it clear that that once essential part of her is no longer a concern to her anymore. Instead of questioning herself, she allows her feelings to flow without them crippling her. Big Sean contributes to some (rather unnecessary) background vocals (along with Ty Dolla $ign) before delivering his… revealing verse. He reflects on his partnership with Jhené, his personal flaws, their physical encounters, and their connection.

One of the standout tracks from Chilombo arrives with “Speak.” The song showcases a freed, carefree Jhené at her best. She bellows about not caring about her lover’s opinion, putting on that dress that makes her happy, and being in love with herself over anyone else. She celebrates this new found freedom that she has tapped into. Her voice feels like the rays of the sun shining on you as she executes. It is actually one of the best songs on the album. By the end of the record she continues to chant:

“I’m movin’ on, I’m puttin’ on my free.”

As the story continues to unfold, listeners continue to witness more of this… liberated Jhené with “B.S.” Another top track, “B.S” is nothing but pure flames. Whoever came up with the idea of both Jhené and H.E.R. together should be paid millions on top of millions. The theme of the song is simple: Both ladies are back up on their bullsh*t! Jhené’ sets the tone for the track flowing unapologetically. Realizing her worth and her value, she goes off literally!

“It seems like I give so much and don’t get nothin’ back
I really thought it was love but you’re so f*ckin’ whack
Always get caught up in love, but I am done with that
I can’t get caught up in lust, so now I’m—, yeah.”

Meshing both singing and rapping, Jhené undeniably talks her sh*t but completely backs it up. H.E.R. follows up channeling this same sensual, cocky bravado  many have never heard from her before and it just comes together so well! The two get right to business making it clear that they will not be undervalued, unappreciated, or used. Instead, of being played, they switch to the players of the game.

As listeners continue through the album, Jhené switches forms yet again and we see… Jhené the freak on “P*$$Y Fairy (OTW).” Another one from the string of singles released prior to the album, “P*$$Y Fairy” brings out the vixen that we usually hear on many of Jhené’s songs. The message again is simple: She craves physical attention (if you know I mean). While she is still on this path of confidence and strength, she still desires her lover in more ways than one. Aiko knows that her sex is entrancing and larger-than-life; she has no problem acknowledging it either.

Following “P*$$Y Fairy,” the energy maintains with the arrival of the mellow “Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.).” Tapping into Miguel and Future, Jhené. reworks the chorus from her debut Sailing Souls mixtape but reinvents the sound to equip a stronger meaning of liberation. Aiko takes the power away from the word “Hoe” and empowers women while Future and Miguel encourage the ladies letting them know they will not judge or critique them.

By the time we reach the second half of the album, listeners begin to experience the various eras of Jhené.

Songs such as “One Way St,” “Summer 2020 (Interlude),” “Born Tired,” “LOVE” exhibit vintage Sail Out / Souled Out Jhené. The lyricism, production, and style of the songs feel familiar yet new. The meditative, melodious, healing tracks such as “Define Me (Interlude),”Mourning Doves” “Surrender,” “Tryna Smoke,” and “Magic Hour” flash listeners back to the stimulating TRIP era and also show Jhené’s experimentation with singing bowls.

The next standout track comes with “10k Hours.” With the help of Mr. Nasty Nas himself, he and Jhené come through with a pure gem. In their first collaboration, the two reflect on the element of love and loss. Reminiscing on past relationships, Nas brings the classic flow looking back at these various encounters and the feelings they brought him. It is definitely a favorite from the project.

Chilombo ends on such a serene note. Final tracks like “Pray For You,” and “Lightning and Thunder” are out of this world. “Pray For You” brings that familiarity seen in TRIP  in terms or production. Jhené sends her former flame off in a respectful way wishing nothing but the best for him. Maintaining her peace, she lets him know she is not upset and even prays that he finds everything he needs and more that he could not find in her.

I pray you find your confidence
Pray you find a confidant, pray you get everything that you want
Pray you get everything that I could not give to you
I know that it may seem weird to you

“Lighting and Thunder” almost sounds like a movie track. It gives off heavy cinematic, theatrical appeal. John and Jhené create beautiful harmony together. They tell a story of longing for their lovers to the point it feels like they are under each other’s spell. Even when trying to rid themselves of these emotions they simply cannot. The love they have for their partners is overflowing and no amount of distance or obstacles can stop it. It quickly transitions to the tranquil “Magic Hour” (almost without listeners even realizing). This is one of my absolute favorites on the album. Jhené’s voice soothes every bone in your body. Her usage of the bowls again is shown here and implement such a healing property throughout this melodic beauty. It is as if Jhené heals us all as the song plays from beginning to end.

On “Party for Me,” Chilombo’s last song, Jhené taps friend and frequent collaborator Ty Dolla $ign to commence the celebration and end the album on a positive note.. The two celebrate making it through their trials and tribulations. Jhené also tells her listeners to party hard for her even when she is gone! Instead of being sad and down, she wants everyone to celebrate, be free, and be happy. She reminds us that life is too short and to really live in the moment, love one another, and enjoy the times we have with each other. In the same voice, both she and Ty rejoice in their existence and simply being alive. So what better a way to do that than to party, right? With pure West-side production, the two pour up and toast to more life and happiness.

Overall, Chilombo is the full embodiment of healing, fun, and positivity. The album takes all feelings of pain, anger, suffering, and more and transforms it into peace. Jhené is honestly at her best her. She is one of the most consistent artists when it comes to her sound and projects. I mean really, how does one sing essentially about the same topics over and over and still manage to keep it fresh and captivating. Many do not possess the skill she has. Over and over again Jhené delivers. She brings the feels, the sex appeal, rawness and more that have caused many of us to fall in love with her craft. Chilombo traces back to her beginnings but also displays exactly where Jhené is headed. In this chapter, she is free, confident, and strong. Her voice is beautiful, her energy is rare, and her artistry is truly one-of-a-kind.

Chilombo does not aspire to be some chart-topping mainstream, radio-heavy project. It is authentic and transparent. It tells Jhené’s current story while making way for the future. While some songs may not get as much play as others, they’re definitely many playlist worthy tracks to toss into the rotation. Chilombo still is very much worth the wait and further solidifies Aiko’s legacy. It is definitely A+ material.

While she has not announced an exact date, Aiko is already preparing to drop a Deluxe Edition to Chilmbo! “#CHILOMBO deluxe coming soon,” she tweeted, Thursday (Mar. 12) with a plethora of emojis. Keep it coming Jhené!

Top Tracks from “Chilombo:”

  1. B.S.
  2. Speak
  3. 10k Hours
  4. Lightning and Thunder
  5. Surrender
  6. Pray For You
  7. None of Your Concern
  8. P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)
  9. Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)
  10. Triggered
  11. Morning Doves
  12. Magic Hour