In the artist’s most personal works of art to date, the creation of “TRIP” came during and after Jhené Aiko’s path to enlightenment after her brother’s death in 2012.
It’s an intensely personal album created upon the foundation of grief and experimental drugs, and while the sound as a whole lacked growth in Aiko’s musical abilities, her openness and raw emotion saved this work from feeling too repetitive.
The album’s opening track “LSD” introduces the concept of her album while she reflects on her first time experimenting with acid, which she took in an effort to spiritually connect with her brother.
“TRIP” translated the mental, emotional, and physical highs and lows of recreational drugs like marijuana, mushrooms, and acid into lyrics and sound. Aiko told the LA Times that after her brother’s death, she struggled to navigate through her feelings. Psychedelic drugs temporarily allowed her to find a sense of meaning in her life and helped her reconnect with the being she felt she was prior to her brother’s death.
The album is a journey through her grief, one that not only touches the most fragile part of her and her brother’s relationship, but also one that allowed the singer to touch base with one of her most troubled romantic relationships—one she carried with her ex-husband, record producer Dot da Genius.
“Never Call Me” features former VP of Death Row Record’s Kurupt. In this track, Aiko touched on the lack of communication in her marriage and the absent connection in her marriage that only existed when both her and her husband were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Posted on Instagram the day of the album’s release was an open-letter styled post for Aiko’s followers, where she described what this album meant to her—It was Penny, who she described as herself in her “purest, most authentic form.” Aiko went on to describe why the loss of her brother went further than him being her family. “I never thought of him as a separate person, but as an extension of myself. He was my reflection. In his presence I was confident and always so sure. I was Penny. Since that day I have been incomplete, losing all direction and sense of self. Since that day I have been lost trying to find him,” wrote Aiko in her post.
She described her relationships that fell apart after his death, romantic relationships in which she searched for pieces of her brother to feel whole again, and to be back in a mental state that allowed her to feel like herself.
While most of her experimentation with psychedelics came throughout the years after her brother’s death, “Overstimulated” presented a real-time description of her state of mind while in the recording studio.
“We were already in album mode and we had to finish, so I felt pressure a little bit. Unfortunately, I turned to the wrong method of getting something done sooner,” Aiko told NPR music.
Though surrounded by her family, including her eight year-old daughter Namiko, and her friends, Aiko described herself as feeling so lonely due to the absence of her brother who did not get to share piece of the happiness she picked up throughout the years.
“Jukai’ is a very brief but intense open door to Aiko’s suicidal thoughts, describing the dead as those that she envies. The lyric’s eeriness is camouflaged gracefully in very soft melodies that correlate with the sea of trees the singer describes throughout the song.
Embedded into every piece of lyric and music, Aiko allowed herself to feel immense emotional pain while experimenting with psychedelics, although the music production itself remained quite boring which disappointed due to “TRIP” only being Aiko’s second studio album.
Since 2002, Aiko has released various EP’s and mixtapes, all which did not progress musically. Perhaps it is the comfort she’s found in the sound, but as a whole, it was as a letdown when comparing her artistry. As a result of all that Aiko felt, came an album that blended her realities with her temporary moments of numbness, though it was presented with an outdated sound.