Jhene Aiko bares her name, heart and soul on her latest album, Chilombo

by Yonela Gasela

ALBUM: Chilombo (2020) ARTIST: Jhene Aiko MUSIC LABEL: Def Jam Label

The day finally arrived in which Jhene Aiko released her latest LP, Chilombo, and it is giving us all the feels. If you happened to hear any of her singles before Chilombo’s release, they do not even begin to illustrate the beautiful, healing masterpiece that is this album.

Jhene stated in a recent Billboard interview that she made use of sound bowls in each song to help the sound resonate in key areas of the body. This includes the heart, the mind, the soul, one’s sex organs and one’s third eye.

From feeling your sexual organs come alive during Pu$$y fairy to singing about still having and wanting to receive love even after loss and heartbreak in LOVE, Chilombo will not leave any one of your Chakras feeling unhealed and imbalanced.

Photographed by Gizelle Hernandez for the March issue of Billboard magazine

Easily one of the best albums released so far this year - the vision, detail and planning of the album is visible throughout. The first thing that captures our attention is the title, “Chilombo”. Chilombo is Jhene's surname and originates from the Lovale tribe found in Zambia.

According to author Siboma Mubita Lukama, the surname refers to a fishing camp where fishermen coverage, which makes total sense as this album has got us hooked. Jhene makes use of Africa as an inspiration with the track Surrender which contains an African tribal beat.

Chilombo, is a 20 track album, with the opening track Lotus, a simple yet beautiful piano-led ballad about a woman born from beauty who was destroyed by a man but still blossomed. Define Me and Summer 2020 are two interludes that serve to further the narrative heard in Lotus. The story of personal growth that has happened and allows for cathartic and healing release.

The songs on the album are all very reminiscent of an old 90s R&B soulful vibe, mixed in with splashes of modern alternative R&B and hip hop beats in its production. The album also deals with common themes such as heartbreak and loss. Specifically, how difficult it is to come to terms with those emotions and learning how to deal with them. The album also looks at how these emotions help to shape who we are.

The photo is the album cover for “Chilombo”. Photographed by Jay 3

Chilombo does not stray away from the usual sound that Aiko is known for - mellow and at times dreamy, alternative R&B. This can be heard in songs such as Tryna Smoke, that begins with a bass guitar with a 1,2 beat followed by snapping that appears from the beginning of the chorus and onwards.

Jhene Aiko also collaborates with other artists on this album, including Big Sean on None Of Your Concern and other artists such as Ab-Soul, Nas, Ty Dolla $ign, Miguel and Future on Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.).  

Traditionally a 'hoe' is someone, usually a woman, who sleeps with anyone and does anything when it comes to sex. The word 'hoe' is usually used to describe women in a demeaning manner . However, in this song, the word 'hoe' has a positive connotation and refers to someone who knows what they want and what they need.

All in all, this was an amazing album and that is coming from a first-time listener. `As previously stated, 20 songs may seem like a lot, however, it really passes by quicklyto the point that it makes you want to relive the experience again. Each song is an experience within itself that takes you on a journey with Jhene and yourself. Much like in One Way Street, in which she breaks down her whole existential crisis to a sweet tune.

She may be doing the same in terms of sound but she’s not doing the same auto-tune thing that seems to be irrevocably popular nowadays. She showcases her incredible vocal range in Born Tired accompanied with a simple acoustic guitar motif. She taps into healing through music for the heart, soul and mind. A beautiful masterpiece.

RATING: 8/10 A list of standout tracks: B.S. featuring H.E.R., Triggered (freestyle), Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.), Surrender, Born Tired, Tryna Smoke, Mourning Doves and Party For Me featuring Ty Dolla $ign.

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