Jhené Aiko has just released her third album, Chilombo.
The album feels structurally very similar to her previous release, Trip. While there is variance in point of view and state of mind, sometimes in the songs, you can feel a similar tone and arc of listening to both the projects. Yet Chilombo still feels like a successful and necessary body of work even in its repetition.
Trip was a 22 song project, whilst Chilombo consists of 20 songs. Though Trip is obviously more of a drug-influenced journey, both albums track Aiko’s path of enlightenment that leaves you with a similar feeling at the end. The timing of the progression of that mental and aural experience also really seem to line up. Both albums make sure to have a necessary weed song with “Sativa” on Trip and “Tryna Smoke” on Chilombo. Both albums have a Big Sean feature and a section dedicated to empowerment.
Aiko flexes her self love and dismissal of ex-lovers on Trip with “Never Call Me” and “Nobody” and on Chilombo with “None of Your Concern” and “BS.” Both albums are easy listening even at their length and truly take you through Aiko’s analysis and reflection over time.
The thing that Chilombo gains from staying so similar to Trip is the unforced delivery of how Aiko processes life through lyrics and melody. However, Trip mixed in an internalized and sometimes dark tone, seemingly due to drug experiences that influenced the album. These drug revelations – that seemed to question existence – appear to also represent something that felt like youthful confusion. Differently, on Chilombo Aiko seems to tackle this confusion with more of a yoga-like and meditative approach. This shows the progression of her thinking while still keeping the same essence of the album prior.
On a song like “Born Tired” Aiko dissects a release of her anger and twisted thoughts for the sake of a grateful mindset. One where she appreciates all she has figured out rather than what is still causing conflict. She sings:
“It’s been a long night / Long life, long time fighting Let out a long sigh / Alright, why am I trying? / ‘Cause look at how far you have come / And look at all that you have going / Look at who I have become.”
To end the album Aiko then transitions into a mode of forgiveness with a song like “10k hours.” The forgiveness blossoms into acceptance of the reality of moving on from someone while remembering the love and wishing them well. On “Pray For You” she sings:
“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.”
Aiko stays true to herself with recognizable quirks dotted throughout the album. She keeps the core of her process and sound on Chilombo, and we get all the energy we crave from her music that we also got on Trip.
We get a Jhené Aiko who has lived a little longer and found different ways to cope with life’s questions and uncertainty. Chilombo is easily of the best projects to be released this year, with more moments to discover with each listen. It centers you, calms you, and makes you analyze your own way you are figuring things out. Jhené Aiko has presented a body of work that you can really live with.