Take a trip with Jhené Aiko

Edina Zejnilovic

Credit: Jhenė Aiko

“I took a trip to find you, I got lost and found myself.” Jhené Aiko turns her time of grief into an extrinsic album of 22 tracks. In the album, she expresses her methods of survival – through spiritual awakening and drugs along with music.

After Jhené Aiko lost her brother Miyagi to cancer in 2012, she turned to music. She wrote everything down – all of her emotions, thoughts and experiences. Trip aims to translate her spiritual enlightenment and the highs of LSD, shrooms and weed into music. The lengthy album fits the psychedelic highs that last for hours on end, and the soft, airy voice of Aiko creates an out-of-body listening experience. Her voice flows seamlessly to the light, calm ambient music, where she’s at her best. Trip is only one part of a three-part series, including a short film, an upcoming book of poetry and the album itself. We’re witnessing Aiko in a light we’ve never seen her in before. She expresses her mourning publicly in the most honest and open way she can and that’s what makes this album so unique and personal.


Trip begins with the tracks ‘LSD’ and ‘Jukai’. In these songs she notes how she took LSD and ended up in Jukai, a place in Japan where people commit suicide. Though she did not visit this place physically, she visualised it while on another voyage to ‘Big Sur’ on the coast of California. “Hell is not a place, hell is not a certain evil, hell is other people, or the lack thereof, and their lack of love.” This lyric truly captures Aiko’s relationship with others during this time of grief and the suicidal thoughts she was having at the time. “I don’t have a purpose, who am i enough for?” and “I don’t need no one” are heavy lyrics featured in ‘Nobody’ that strongly coincide with how she saw the world in ‘Jukai’.
Towards the end of the album, optimism begins to reign, and the gloom slowly fades away, similar to finding clarity from a psychedelic trip. ‘Sing to me’ is a beautiful song that features Aiko’s daughter, Namiko Love, as they sing back and forth to each other – “Mommy sing to me” and “Nami sing to me” over touching piano chords. “She’s the one that sort of wakes me up out of this whole trip. She’s the one that brings me back to reality,” Aiko explained.
‘Ascension’ is a song that’s special to Jhené, not only because Brandy Mayer is featured, but because it’s her running towards the light at the end of the tunnel. It is meditation for her as it expresses how she’s finally found direction and is headed on the right path – “I’m on my way, if I can make it out of this hell I know I can and I know I will.”

Trip is a powerful album, not only because it’s about self-medicating to get through the grief she was experiencing. Rather, it was about escaping reality, voyaging to find your identity and the meaning of life for yourself. Aiko found salvation in the people she loved. Love, the strongest drug of all, saved her.