Jhené Aiko

During her first appearance at SXSW, the pintsized songstress held her own in a room full of vets.


Kendrick Lamar ft. Jhene Aiko “Growing Apart (To Get Closer)," Overly Dedicated (2010)

Growing Apart (To Get Closer)

“L.A. is a small place. If you’re in the entertainment industry, it’s really small. [I’ve known] Dave Free, who is a part of TDE. And I didn’t meet him as a manager of Kendrick Lamar. We were friends and he had heard the Drake song, “July,” which wasn’t even an official song. It was my song and [Drake] took the hook. Basically, somebody leaked it and everybody started hearing it. So Dave called me and [said], ‘You know what? You need to do a song with Kendrick. I think you guys would work well together.’ And [at the time] I hadn’t heard of [Kendrick Lamar] yet. This was before Overly Dedicated. Then when I listened to [Kendrick Lamar] I was like, ‘Wow, you’re right. I love what he’s doing.’ So we went in the studio, we picked the beat together, I wrote the hook, and he heard what I was saying and he immediately went in the booth. And that pretty much set the tone for my whole mixtape because at that time I was only two or three songs in, but once I had that session with Kendrick, I was like, ‘Okay, like, this is how it needs to go.’ We were pretty much on the same wavelength.

“We immediately start talking some other stuff. I can’t have a regular conversation and everything always relates to either astrology or government, and [Kendrick’s] the same way. This is before we started recording. We were just talking about a whole bunch of offbeat type of topics. We talked about this documentary Zeitgeist where they pretty much break down the connection between astrology and religion. They talk about 9/11 and the Illuminati.

“And then we were like, ‘What are we recording to?’ [At the time] Taebeast had just dropped his beat tape so we both sat down and agreed on the same exact track. They looped the track for me and I started writing the hook. It only took me 15 minutes ‘cause ‘Growing Apart’ to me is one of the most thought-provoking songs [for me]. I still write new stuff to it because it extracts deep thoughts.

“At one point, [Kendrick] picked up my notes thinking that it was his stuff. He was like, ‘You write like me. I thought this was my song.’

“After I laid my hook, he just went straight in and it was so painless. We took a quick picture on Photo Booth and we put out an unfinished version, which was pretty dope. He’s very productive in the studio and that was a big motivation to me.”

ScHoolboy Q ft. Jhene Aiko “Fantasy,” Setbacks (2011)


“I think everybody was in the studio the day I did ‘Growing Apart,’ and everybody was there to witness how I work. I was a fan of Kendrick after that [session]. So, my friend and me would go to their shows. We went to [a] couple [of] shows and just got familiar. [ScHoolboy Q] called me up personally and was like, ‘I got to get you on this song. Are you going to work with me?’ So, yeah, we went in. He had it written out, he knew what he wanted me to say. I liked the song and ScHoolBoy is a great person. They’re all so different, but they’re all really cool. There are two different types of L.A. people—the people who aren’t really from L.A. that try to act [the part] and in doing so they put on their Hollywood stuff. And then there’s the other person that’s really from L.A. And TDE guys are of the latter. They’re from Carson, Compton, and Del Amo. My grandfather was born and raised in Compton. So, I was familiar, even though I’m a mixed girl and I live on the other side of L.A.

“Q likes to smoke a lot. I smoke. And Kendrick doesn’t. So, when it comes to having a loud presence in the studio, it’s actually the opposite I feel. When they’re working, because Q is high, he’s a little more laid back, and Kendrick is a little more talkative. As far as the energy level they were both pretty much the same.”

Ab-Soul ft Jhene Aiko “Nothing New,” Longterm Mentality (2011)

Nothing New

“Ab-Soul’s my favorite. He is probably the most laid back out of all of them. He’s very warm and he’s a Pisces like me. We have the same astrological sign so there’s something that automatically aligns him and myself. He’s quiet, but you can tell that he’s not just being quiet. There’s a lot going on in his mind. And the first song we did for Longterm Mentality, he already knew, he had it all written out like the rest of them.”

Schoolboy Q ft. Jhene Aiko Habits & Contradictions (2012)

Sex Drive

“Q called me up like, ‘I have another one.’ He was saying I put him on to a lot of girls. ‘Cause all the songs we do are sexual, or sexy. We came in and it was the same thing. He pretty much knew what he wanted me to say and what type of hook he wanted, we just went in there and did it. They’re super fast workers. They’re very productive in the studio. We got in there and knocked it out.”

Ab-Soul ft. Jhene Aiko “Terrorist Threats” Control System

Terrorist Threats

“I listen to Control System everyday. By the time we worked on those songs, we knew each other a little more. I think that night it was a real clear night and I was telling him, and explaining to him which stars were what ‘cause I’m really into astronomy. ‘That’s Mars right there,’ he would say. We were talking about something that was really bright. And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s actually Venus.’ We just started talking about 2012, and having deep conversations. He’s amazing to me because he can put so much information and truth in a song, but make it sound so good. You still want to ride to it, but at the same time you’re getting educated. I think that’s genius. He’s a genius to me.

“We did both ‘Soulo Ho3’ and ‘Terrorist Threat’ on the same session. For ‘Terrorist Threats,’ he was like, ‘Okay, I need you to rap.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, okay.’ It’s weird because I don’t like to hear my talking voice for some reason. I would rather sing, but he definitely convinced me to it. In that session, he played me pretty much the whole album and I was just like, ‘Wow. I think you’re a genius.’

“[For the video], I was supposed to be there the first day. When they shot with Danny and Ab I think I was out of town. It was real random. They called me up like, ‘Would you be able to come tonight to downtown L.A?’ I said, ‘Cool, whatever,’ but I was actually having a long, long, long day. I was really tired. So, I came down there and we were just in downtown L.A, burning money, making sure nobody came and tried to stop us. We were sneaky with it ‘cause it was after hours, so security was looking at us weirdly. And they see flames going up and stuff like that, but it was cool.”