On her second solo album Trip, Jhene Aiko takes listeners on a very vulnerable journey. The album acts as an open diary for Jhene, as she unveils her deeps thoughts and emotions on love, spiritual enlightenment, and personal loss. Narrating from the perspective of a character named Penny, she goes on a drug-induced trip that produces both extreme highs and lows, dynamics which Aiko is able to translate into song and sound. Trip is a very good project that exemplifies Jhene Aiko’s talent to create deeply resonating art.

I love Jhene Aiko because she seems like a very normal and down to Earth individual, a special element that only enhances her music. Everyone can relate to the messaging in her music (even if you don’t partake in “extracurricular activities”) because ultimately it’s built on a foundation of raw human emotion.  In addition to being creative, even-keeled, and super open-minded, she’s also stunningly beautiful. If it was even remotely possible, Jhene Aiko would be the perfect girl to bring home to mom. Sigh. However, the closest I’ll ever get this is this far-fetched fantasy is a live concert, and Jhene wowed the crowd at The Novo in Los Angeles earlier in early December.

Jhene AIko

I had to subdue my excitement for Jhene as I was bringing a date to the show and getting overly pumped for another woman would be ungentlemanly. It was our third official hangout, which is a pivotal point when evaluating someone’s potential, so a concert like this would really set a romantic mood. Even before the show, I was contemplating scenarios on how I should I should approach my date. Do I like the girl enough to elevate our dating status?

It’s a tough dilemma that could get awkward really fast, but the show really did create a very favorable vibe. Fitting with the overall aura of Trip, the stage was very minimal and zen-like, being only decorated with a bunch of plants, Jhene’s harpists, and her keyboard/ percussion man.  The show opened with the album’s first cut “LSD”.


“So the other night, I
Took a tiny piece of paper and put it under my tongue
This white guy said it’d be fun, and it was, but
What I saw,
Oh my God, oh my God”

I got chills when she crooned “…oh my God”. At this point, my date and I were simply standing side by side. I shot her occasional glances to make sure she was having a good time. The show’s setlist almost followed the album’s tracklist, which made sense as the songs were organized to tell Penny’s story of being on a drug-induced trip, moving through different stages. I really appreciate concerts that follow a plan or tell a story versus just being a medley of songs thrown together. You can tell that Jhene put a lot of thought into the Trip tour.Jhene AIko

Jhene is a really solid live performer. She isn’t the strongest vocalist, but she can adequately carry notes with her mellow and euphoric tone, a sound that reflects Aiko’s spiritual and mindful approach to life, mixed in with some sexiness. You can’t help but be lulled into a relaxed trance when listening to her music.

“It’s me and you and we makin’ arrangements
It’s you and me and we makin’ arrangements”

When the set got to “Sativa”, my date had progressed to standing in front of me. The mood was getting better with every passing song and at this point, the pace was slowing down. I gave her a few caresses on her hip to let her I was glad she was there.

Jhene went through a couple costume changes, which reflected shifts in the show’s pace, maneuvering from Trip‘s slower ballads to a medley of her biggest hits like “Bed Peace”, “Stay Ready”, “The Worst”, and “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)”. Her Sail Out project was game-changing to me, so I knew these songs almost word for word. Instead of shouting it at the top of my lungs like some fans around us who were too extra, I kinda subtly spoke into the ear of my date.

The show capped off with the upbeat skating rink tune “OLLA” and to no surprise Jhene’s boyfriend Big Sean showed up to perform some of the couple’s duets. Big Sean is one lucky man. If a girl has a picture of your face tattoed on her tricep, that’s real.

“Everything you need to be contented is right here
Right in this minute
You can have it when you understand that all that matters is right here”

I put my hands on my date’s hips, pulled her in closer and vibed out to the closing songs.

*If you’re wondering what happened after, the girl went ghost mode on me after the show. She probably didn’t see the potential beyond 3 dates, and I sort of felt that too. I was a bit turned off that she wasn’t into music as I was. On to the next.

Listen to Jhene Aiko’s Trip here

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.