Chilombo (Deluxe Video Version)

Chilombo (Deluxe Video Version)

Jhené Aiko has always exuded an arresting aura of self-possession, especially when vulnerable. Her journey as an artist so closely parallels her soul-searching path that listening to her moody, mystical meditations can almost feel like an invasion of privacy. Her first two albums—2014’s Souled Out and 2017’s Trip—peel back the layers of consciousness via sex, spirituality, and psychedelics. Her 2020 album digs even deeper into the psyche, inspiring her to christen the sprawling set with her last name. To record Chilombo, Aiko retreated to the lush hills of Hawaii and surrounded herself with crystals, incense, and singing bowls. It was an experiment in self-discovery and the healing powers of sound. Every song starts as a freestyle and features the ancient bowls, which are said to balance chakras and soothe anxiety. Aiko’s longtime producers Fisticuffs and Lejkeys effortlessly weave the transcendental tones through chill beats and keyboards that endlessly float. The bowls’ metaphysical potency seemed to have worked because, for a project about heartbreak, these songs are impressively zen. Even when she unleashes vitriol on her ex on cathartic confessionals “Triggered (freestyle)” and “None of Your Concern” (the latter featuring frequent collaborator Big Sean), she keeps her composure. Over 20 tracks, Aiko remains so entrenched in her vibe that even her heavyweight guests—which include Nas, Ty Dolla $ign, Miguel, and Future—can’t lure her out of her lulling, low-key center. On the psychedelia-tinged duet “Lightning & Thunder,” with John Legend, she’s a goddess caught in another’s spell. But mostly, she’s in tune with her power as a strong, solitary woman—as on the swaggering “B.S.,” featuring kindred R&B spirit H.E.R., and the silky “Surrender,” in which she playfully purrs, “I’m a boss bitch, how you don’t f*ck with me?” This Deluxe Version of Chilombo features nine additional tracks that expand on the album’s gossamer grooves, slithery mix of dreaminess and defiance, and big-name collaborators, with Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown, and Snoop Dogg. The collection also includes 11 videos that showcase Aiko’s myriad sides—at peak island bliss (“Magic Hour”), on gritty urban streets (“One Way St.”), and in animated form (“Down Again”).

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