Jhene Aiko has already had a storied career. When B2K posters were on the walls of teenage girls everywhere, Jhene Aiko was there—signed to the T.U.G. imprint at the age of 13. Before Kendrick Lamar was acknowledged as one of the top rappers in the game, and releases from the other members of the Black Hippy Crew were annually some of the most anticipated nationwide, Jhene was a frequent collaborator with them all. Now, with increased in popularity of some of her long-term collaborators, and appearances on some of the year’s biggest Hip Hop albums (J. Cole’s Born Sinner, Big Sean’s Hall of Fame, Drakes Nothing Was the Same) there’s probably no time better than now for Jhene to release her retail debut. Sail Out, an EP, follows up the 2011 mixtape “Sailing Souls” and is meant to hold fans over until her full-length album Souled Out. While Sail Out meets expectations of what Jhene fans have come to expect, it’s unlikely to convert doubters.
On Sail Out, four of the seven songs find Aiko paired with rappers. Of the four, her two TDE collaborations (“Stay Ready” featuring Kendrick Lamar, “WTH” featuring Ab-Soul) are two of the strongest songs on the Extended Player. “WTH” finds Jhene singing of drug induced paranoia. Jhene’s subject matter and lyrics often stray from the “innocent girl next door” image most songstresses cling to. On “Bed Peace” Jhene sings, “If I had it my way, I’d roll out of bed, say / ‘Bout 2:30 mid-day, hit the blunt then hit you up, to come over to my place / You show up, right away / We make love, and then we fuck, and then you give me my space.”
Sail Out is essentially a continuation of what listeners got on Jhene’s “Sailing Souls” mixtape; emotions, mostly sadness, over instrumentals that would just as easily fit her frequent Hip Hop collaborators. With the kick of the bass drums in between hand claps on “Stay Ready,” the instrumental could have been a Kendrick Lamar song, and the artists formerly known as K Dot sounds at home on the track, which sounds like a counter to the previous Aiko/Lamar collaboration “Growing Apart.”
Jhene’s Hip Hop influenced R&B music gives her an appeal a lot of current R&B singers don’t have. While many put forward the effort to gain that appeal, or do songs in an attempt to ride that wave, Jhene gives off a feeling of authenticity. While Sail Out does sound like more of the same, the obvious counter argument is if it isn’t broke, why fix it? Jhene doubters won’t be converted, and Jhene fans won’t be blown away, however in sticking to what has worked for her, she avoids disappointing the fans she has already gained, and may gain new ones with the notoriety of some of her collaborators.