Just five weeks after the passing of her older brother Miyagi from brain cancer, Jhene Aiko respectfully presses on in preparation for her debut Def Jam album “Souled Out.” Her brother’s support, along with a music family upbringing, propelled her to pursue music under a label deal, even though she harbored deep skepticism after her last label deal fell through after being signed at the tender age of 12, and having her daughter four years ago.
“I grew up in a household where my dad always wanted to be a songwriter and a singer, my sisters were in a group and my brother was singing, and so they’re all supportive. Even the ones that aren’t in music are happy to see me doing something productive, ’cause when I had my daughter everyone was sorta like nervous. They didn’t know how that was gonna go,” she told the Boombox during a studio session.
That support, especially from her late brother Miyagi, makes her feel ‘unstoppable.’ Aiko penned a song “For My Brother” and played it for him during his last moments, a fitting tribute to her musical mentor. “”He was a fan of my music, he would listen to it on his own. Amazing, you know, your brothers and sisters, you’re not sure if they’re gonna make fun of you or whatever, and he was always just really supportive.”
Despite her loss, she feels more confident and empowered than ever before about moving forward with the project. “I personally feel like he’s more here than ever,” she says. “I feel like his energy was just divided between me and my brothers and sisters.” The songtress feels it’s her duty to honor his memory through music, which stem from their dreams and ambitions. “All of the ideas that we talked about, and all of the things he wanted to do, those are all mine now. That’s my job now, to get those done.”
The first thing on the to-do list is to finish her debut LP “Souled Out,” the follow up to her popular mixtape “Sailing Soul(s)” which featured guests spots by Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, and Kanye West. And Aiko wants to continue the collab trend. She rattles off the names of artists she wants on her debut effort.
“I’m looking forward to collaborating with Kid Cudi. It’s on my wish list, I’m not gonna say, you know, that he’s gonna be on there,” she clarifies. “Big Sean, some of the TDE cats may make an appearance on there. Another one on my wish list is Eminem, ’cause I love him. And, yeah, Frank Ocean. I really want to get Frank Ocean on there.” No reason why that collaboration wish-list wouldn’t make it on “Souled Out” with her drive seeded by her family and late brother’s support.