How Jhené Aiko Became One Of R&B's Favorite Songbirds

Explore Jhené Aiko's journey to stardom, her R&B career milestones, and life with Big Sean, as she captivates fans and redefines the genre.

BYErika Marie
Jhene Aiko Performs At Koko

Jhené Aiko has become a staple of the contemporary R&B scene, captivating audiences with her soulful voice and ethereal presence. The sultry songbird has managed to carve out a unique space for herself in the music industry and has continued to dominate the charts since her debut in the early 2000s. Although her romance with Big Sean often overtook headlines, Aiko remained steadfast in her journey.

Her spiritual practices are reverberated in her music, and the singer uses her platform to help heal others. However, Jhené has also developed a reputation for putting it all on the table lyrically, and often, it's not always sunshine and rainbows. Jump in and learn about Jhené Aiko's rise to stardom.

From Humble Beginnings To R&B Sensation

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: Singer Jhene Aiko performs onstage at BET AWARDS '14 Debra Lee's Pre-Dinner held at Milk Studios on June 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Jhené Aiko's path to success began as a young girl, singing backup vocals for boy bands and providing vocals for several B2K tracks. Despite facing early setbacks, including being dropped from her label, Aiko never lost sight of her dreams. Her determination paid off when she released her mixtape, Sailing Soul(s), in 2011. The project, which featured collaborations with major artists like Kanye West and Drake, gained traction and led to her signing with Artium and Def Jam.

Aiko's critically acclaimed debut EP, Sail Out, was released in 2013 and showcased her unique blend of R&B, Hip Hop, and Alternative music. The EP, which included the hit single "The Worst," set the stage for her to solidify her place in the industry.

Career Milestones & Artistic Growth

Jhené Aiko's debut album, Souled Out, released in 2014, cemented her status as a leading voice in R&B. The album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and featured songs like "To Love & Die" and "The Pressure." Her dynamic transcendental sound resounded deeply with fans and critics alike. In 2016, Aiko collaborated with rapper Big Sean on the joint project TWENTY88, which changed the game. The duo's undeniable chemistry resulted in a sound that blended their respective styles to create a memorable experience for listeners.

Her 2017 sophomore album, Trip, marked a turning point in Aiko's career. The album dove deep into self-discovery themes, and later, Aiko would release a poetry book. She continued to make waves in the industry by releasing her third studio album, Chilombo, in 2020. The album was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. It also boasted collaborations with artists like H.E.R., Ab-Soul, and Nas.

Life With Big Sean & Their Creative Synergy

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: (L-R) Jhené Aiko and Big Sean attend the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

The singer's relationship with Big Sean has been a significant part of her life and career. The two began dating in 2016, and their chemistry was evident in their collaborations. While they briefly split in 2018, their love story continued when they reconciled in 2019. Since then, they've remained a powerful musical force, collaborating on multiple tracks, including "None of Your Concern" and "Body Language."

In November 2022, Aiko gave birth to her second child. She and Sean welcomed their son, marking their first child together. However, Aiko is already the mother of a daughter she shares with entertainer O'Ryan. He happens to be the brother to former B2K frontman Omarion.

Jhené Aiko's Lasting Impact

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 01: Singer Jhene Aiko performs on Day 2 of Sol Blume Festival 2022 at Discovery Park on May 01, 2022 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images)

Throughout her career, Aiko has been a trailblazer in the world of R&B. She's consistently pushing the boundaries of the genre and introducing new themes. She has become a role model for many with her candid approach to discussing mental health and personal growth. Additionally, her openness about her spirituality and incorporating healing sounds, such as singing bowls, into her music has brought these practices to the forefront.

Her determination, artistic growth, and willingness to explore new territory have solidified her place in the industry and helped redefine R&B for a new generation of fans. As Aiko continues to evolve as an artist and influence pop culture, her impact on R&B and beyond will undoubtedly endure.

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About The Author
Erika Marie is a seasoned journalist, editor, and ghostwriter who works predominantly in the fields of music, spirituality, mental health advocacy, and social activism. The Los Angeles editor, storyteller, and activist has been involved in the behind-the-scenes workings of the entertainment industry for nearly two decades. E.M. attempts to write stories that are compelling while remaining informative and respectful. She's an advocate of lyrical witticism & the power of the pen. Favorites: Motown, New Jack Swing, '90s R&B, Hip Hop, Indie Rock, & Punk; Funk, Soul, Harlem Renaissance Jazz greats, and artists who innovate, not simply replicate.