Photo Credit: Isaac Sterling
Chilombo is Jhené Aiko’s third studio album. The title comes from Jhené’s last name, which is not Aiko, – her father called himself Chilombo, and his children took it as their last name. It means “wild beast” in African. Starting with a meditative piano intro on the track “Lotus”, the album was created in Hawaii and builds a special atmosphere. Recording Chilombo was like a big jam session and spiritual experience. Jhené believes that music can heal and sound has been proven to do so. We can see examples of her applying this knowledge often throughout the album. In “Define Me (interlude)” we hear very comforting music and chant-like vocals, or during the chimes in “Surrender”, where she speaks on surrendering yourself the Universe. Jhené also uses singing bowls in “Magic Hour”, a song about the sunset. These bowls are commonly used for sound bathing meditation.
The first single of the album is “Triggered (freestyle)”, a song that was inspired by Jhené’s breakup with Big Sean. It doesn’t only focus on him, but about triggering moments in general. A remix version of the song was also released with 21 Savage and Summer Walker. “None Of Your Concern” features Big Sean, Jhené’s previously mentioned ex-boyfriend. They created this song together as a conversation on their relationship, about regret and moving on from something painful. The concept of speaking via song is quite innovative, and was possible because the two still remain friends. They have collaborated in the past multiple times, prior to the breakup. The song features Ty Dolla $ign as well, whose verse we also hear in “Party for Me.”
Another post-breakup song, titled “B.S.”, features H.E.R. In collaboration, they’re “Back up on the bullshit // Back up on the move”, feeling good about themselves out there in the game. In “Pray for You”, Jhené is finally ready to let go of her previous relationship, wishing her ex all the best. “P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)”, an alt-R&B and trap-influenced track, is second popular amongst Spotify users, right after “B.S.”. This sensual song is about the intimacy between lovers. In “One Way St.” featuring Ab-Soul, Jhené wonders if she’s on the right path, questioning everything. “Tryna Smoke” starts off with a man trying to buy marijuana, and is basically an ode to being high and seeing things clearer.
For the majority of the album Jhené preaches uplifting and positive words. In the gentle and kind “Born Tired”, she says everything will be okay, we’re all going through something. And in “LOVE” Jhené sings: “I’m feeling low (Low) // Anytime there is a void (Void) // I choose to fill it with joy.” In “Speak”, an empowering gentle song, Jhené speaks on being free and excited to be doing everything she believes in: “I’m movin’ on, I’m puttin’ on my favorite dress // The one you hated, said I look naked in // F*ck your opinion ’bout it, I’m feelin’ my best.” The track “Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)” features Miguel and Future. Jhené plays with the word “hoe”, turning it into a positive abbreviation. The inspiration comes from André 3000’s “Where Are My Panties” skit.
For the song “10K”, Jhené collaborates with NAS to tell a story about the feelings we have after losing someone, and how important it is to spend precious time with loved ones: “Every person that comes in your life // Here for a limited time // So be fair, be there.” The song “10k” is followed by “Summer 2020 (interlude)”, which is dedicated to Jhené’s brother who passed away. Next song on the album, “Mourning Doves”, continues with the topic of loss, but of a lover. Another big collaboration of the album is in “Lightning & Thunder”, a song that features John Legend. They have preformed together before, but this is their first time releasing a studio track together.
Instruments used for sound healing, meditative motives and poetic lyrics – all of this makes Chilombo a unique album. Fierce and gentle at the same time, Jhené Aiko isn’t afraid of showing appreciation for herself in this project: being open about her past lets her grow as a person.