Jhené Aiko’s debut EP, Sail Out, is a melodic ode to romance and self-sufficiency. Straying from typical R&B themes of needing love and someone else to feel fulfilled, Aiko sings about the difference between wanting someone and needing them – the difference between dipping your toe in the water and jumping into the pool. On Sail Out, Aiko introduces us to J. Hennessy, her alter ego, who is more romantically selfish and a little more aggressive. While working on Souled Out, Aiko realized she had two albums worth of material and decided to release Sail Out. The name reflects a more carefree approach to life, encouraging seeking out what will bring inner peace and happiness. The EP, which debuted at No. 8 on Billboard and is certified Gold, includes features from Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, and Ab-Soul for a more rap-influenced feel.
As a Pisces, Aiko feels in tune with all signs of the zodiac and experiences several different personalities or influences in a day; she speaks on the Pisces symbol, two fish swimming in different directions, representing duality. Pisces is the intuitive, healing, dreamer of the zodiac, empathetic to different perspectives and people – sometimes drowning in the intensity of situations. Because of this, Aiko says she exhibits versatility as an artist and is more apt to explore avenues other R&B artists don’t. Jhene developed more of a rap persona on Sail Out, and said the first rap she ever wrote was when she was five years old – she sat down with her mom and told her mom what she wanted to say while her mom wrote the words down for her.
Sail Out opens with “The Vapors” featuring Vince Staples, a track discussing love almost from the perspective of it being an addictive drug. Aiko purposely used a double entendre in the hook – “Can I hit it again? Can I hit it again?” – and Vince then floats in with a verse about push and pull in a relationship with poor communication. She follows that with “Bed Peace,” featuring Childish Gambino, which is a more lighthearted track with an accompanying video inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. When asked about the song and video, Aiko said she was inspired by Lennon and Ono because of how happy and in love they appeared in photos, and that people should be less afraid to show when they love someone.
Aiko keeps the Pisces anthems coming on “Stay Ready (What A Life),” featuring Kendrick Lamar, which is all about being secluded with the one you love, making love, and isolating yourselves from the rest of the world and making a world of your own. “WTH,” featuring Ab Soul, is an escapism track about getting way too high to cope with life and not being able to tell reality from a dreamlike state. “The Worst” is the second single off Sail Out, with an accompanying video showing Aiko having a breakdown after killing a lover who treated her wrong. She laments “I don’t need you, I don’t need you, I don’t need you – But I want you.”
Then follows “3:16 AM,” (a nod to Jhene’s birthday, which is 3/16), which revolves around not being feeling alone and abandoned, unsure of what the next step will be for her. “Comfort Inn Ending” is a singing freestyle of Jhene regretting getting involved with someone in the first place when they both knew it wouldn’t last.
The EP feels like a wild but steady ride through the different stages of a toxic and intoxicating relationship, almost serving as a cautionary tale to anyone listening. But honestly, how Sail Out makes you feel might depend on your sign.
Note: This article was first published in 2018.