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May 01 2020 | Hip-Hop, R&B

Jhené Aiko – Chilombo

Jhené Aiko – Chilombo
Release date
March 06 2020
Jhené Aiko
Jhené Aiko – Chilombo
March 06 2020 | R&B

Chilombo is the third studio album by American singer Jhené Aiko. It was released on March 6, 2020, by ArtClub International, ARTium Recordings, and Def Jam Recordings. Following the release of Trip and her split with rapper Big Sean, with whom she formed the duo Twenty88, Aiko began work on Chilombo. Recorded as a freestyle in Hawaii, the album was inspired by the island’s natural landscape and features traditional singing bowls to create a tranquil effect. In order to create her desired sound, Aiko served as the album’s executive producer, enlisting the help of long time collaborators Fisticuffs and Lejkeys, who produced eighteen of the album’s songs. The album featured a range of guests including rappers Nas, Ty Dolla $ign and Future, as well as R&B singers John Legend, Miguel, and H.E.R.

Two years after the release of her second studio album Trip (2017), Aiko announced she has began work on the follow up album. She revealed that her third album would only consist of freestyles and focus on relationships, stating “my next album is all freestyles where i touch on many subjects and relationships… past, present and future.” In 2019 Aiko had completed three songs for the album as well as releasing the taster “Wasted Love Freestyle”. Speculation led the media to believe the album would focus on Aiko’s breakup with rapper Big Sean.

Aiko recorded the album on the big island of Hawaii, and free-styled all the songs creating what she described as one “free-flowing jam session”. Aiko was inspired by Hawaii volcanoes, which she likened herself to during the conception and recording of the album. She continued to describe the album as an “eruption”, starting with “Triggered”, creating a “flow” throughout the album. The album’s writing process followed a structure, with all songs beginning as a freestyle. Aiko would initially start the process with lyrics in her head, before meeting long time collaborators and producers Fisticuffs or her keyboard player. From there they would “build” the music around the freestyle. “Triggered (Freestyle)” was created from this process, as were all of the album’s tracks. Aiko and producers Fisticuffs started the song with a few instruments before Aiko took the production home where she recorded it herself in her studio.

During the creative process for the album, Aiko was adamant on incorporating crystal alchemy sound bowls. Her hope was to open up different chakras within the human body. The singing bowls “produce a vibrational hum that resonates throughout the body, producing a calming and tranquil effect. [... They] are a common practice in healing and meditation, as they promote chakra balancing as well as stress and anxiety reduction”. Aiko first used the bowls during a recording session at her home and went on to use them on each of the album’s songs. This inspired Aiko to incorporate more acoustic instruments and kept the process analogue, allowing the microphone to pick up sounds in the room.

“Triggered” is a freestyle rap song about Aiko’s conflicted feelings following a breakup and was interpreted as a diss track towards Aiko’s ex-boyfriend Big Sean, with whom she formed the duo Twenty88.

“Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)” features guest vocals from Miguel and Future. The song is an ode to Aiko’s 2011 song “Hoe” from her debut mixtape Sailing Soul(s) and references “Where Are My Panties?” by Andre 3000.

Release and promotion
Chilombo was released on March 6, 2020, to streaming platforms by ArtClub International, ARTium Recordings, and Def Jam Recordings. Aiko followed the same release style as Trip, which is an “off-cycle” streaming strategy. Her team released each song just outside of the window when streaming platforms typically update playlists, which Def Jam GM/executive vice president Rich Isaacson called “liberating from a pressurized playlisting strategy. It’s important to her that each track release is its own ecosystem. Jhené and her team feed each one with unique content strategies to prolong the life cycle, and over the course of eight to 10 to 12 months of steady consumption, she racks up really impressive numbers.”

To further promote the album Aiko announced she would be embarking on the “The Magic Hour” tour. The tour is set to start on May 1 and end on June 27, and will include special guests Queen Naija and Ann Marie. The North American tour will visit cities including New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Los Angeles.

On May 8, 2019, Aiko released the album’s lead single “Triggered (Freestyle)” which debuted at number fifty-one on the US Billboard Hot 100[9] and peaked at number 3 on the US R&B Songs. It’s the first official single from her forthcoming 2019 album. The freestyle discussed various topics, including her past relationships.[11] There were immediate rumors that the song might have been addressing Aiko’s ex-boyfriend, Big Sean. However, Aiko went on Twitter to dispel the rumors about “Triggered (Freestyle)” being a diss track.

“None of Your Concern” featuring Big Sean, was released as the album’s second single in November 2019. The song became Aikos first solo single to chart in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 97. “None of Your Concern” peaked at number fifty-five on the US Hot 100.”P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)” was released as the third single in January 2020 and peaked at number forty on the US Hot 100.

Critical reception
Stephen Kearse for Pitchfork felt that “Aiko’s music too often lacks a pulse”, citing that “Chilombo gestures at this larger skill set, but settles for good vibes. It’s very chill, and nothing else.”[19] In a review for The Guardian, Laura Snapes stated that “Chilombo is sexual, spiritual and wildly over-long”, also writing that “Unfortunately, neither Aiko’s narrative nor the fairly one-note production can sustain that focus across this wildly over-long record. It lacks the variety of Trip, and could do with more moments like One Way Street, which sets Aiko’s existential breakdown to a dubby gleam, or the raw Born Tired, where a simple acoustic guitar motif showcases her vocal range. And while you obviously wish Aiko happiness after her breakup, it’s disappointing, after the enjoyably visceral put-downs of the first half, that the album seems to conclude with a reconciliation, rendered in never-ending, luscious rhapsodies that keep coming like a film that doesn’t know how to end.”

Commercial performance
Chilombo debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 with 152,000 album-equivalent units, including 38,000 pure album sales, making it Aiko’s highest-charting album in the US and her highest first-week sales in the region. In its second week, the album dropped to number five on the chart, earning 56,000 album-equivalent units. In its third week, the album dropped to number eight on the chart, earning 37,000 more units that week. In its fifth week, the album returned to the top-ten, at number ten on the chart, earning 27,000 more album-equivalent units.

In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number 13, becoming Aiko’s highest charting album and first top 20 in the region. In Canada the album peaked at number seven on the chart, becoming Aiko’s first top ten there.

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