Jhene Aiko: I was very conscious of like, “Well, you should go in this direction more or this direction more” But for me I feel like I’m just myself and that is many things. You can’t really tell me, “Oh you should stick to this type of sound.” “We want to hear you do more turnt up songs.” I have that here and there, but for the most part I’m just doing me, so you can’t really tell me I should try to do more of this or that. For the people that know me and know my personality and my whole catalog they know that it can go anywhere. I came up with the hook first. Fisticuffs actually started just doing just… And I just kept saying “hop on that dick like a maniac.” [ laughs ] Oh, yes. When my friend heard “Maniac”, she was like, “Oh my God! This reminds me of how you were in elementary school.” Second, third grade, we had these nicknames And so my best friend her nickname was “Freaky Deaky” and my nickname was “Freaky Deaky Junior.” We just were out of control when it came to language and the stuff we would talk about. My older siblings were always teaching me about stuff that I shouldn’t have known about. And I used to go to school and tell them stuff and do nasty… I would take smoothies and… I don’t even want to go into Rob: You already started! Jhene Aiko: …all the crazy stuff I used to do as a kid. But I knew stuff that I wasn’t supposed to know. Rob: But you know, a song like “Maniac” is sexual, it’s super sexual, and it’s a theme that I feel like has been running through your music. I remember in 2011 on ‘Sailing Souls’, you had this song called “Hoe,” and you had this lyric on there that was just so striking and it kind of made me a fan of you very early. When you say “Don’t be scared of my aggression. I just don’t want you to get the wrong impression.” I feel like that’s key here, it’s almost like it’s cool for guys to talk about sex in music and nobody bats an eye, but when women do it and express themselves, it’s all type of judgment. Because you’ve been in the music business for a very long time. Even before ‘Sailing Souls’. We know you were touring with B2K and there was the major label. Were you this aware back then? Is this something that developed? Jhene: You know, I was sort of thrown into it. It wasn’t something that I really worked for. I was just young and it was a relationship type of thing. My mom knew this person and we did this and it was just like, “Yeah I love to sing. Yeah, I’ll sign a contract.” Rob: But when as an artist did you find kind of that freedom and being able to block out what everybody says and be like “You know what? This is who I am.” Jhene: I feel like I’ve had periods where I felt it more than others. Like, when I did my mixtape. My daughter was like 1 or 2 and I wasn’t signed or anything so I had the freedom to take my time. In the EP and the album, I was more concerned about what people expect of me or what people want from me and blah blah blah. I would say where I found true confidence and freedom and just total ‘I’m gonna do me’, was this year, really. I’m just aware of you know, opinions. If I’m pleased with it, then that’s all that matters. This looks like definitely something that I would wear. Rob: It’s a throughline behind your entire discography. Everybody has sex Almost everybody. I know a couple people in the comments, I don’t know if they’re actually living their life like that. But it’s a natural part of life and we’ve been singing about it since the beginning of time. Jhene: My whole thing is there’s a few sides of me, but I would say that things that tend to come out a lot are when I’m sad or angry. And then there is the sexual part which, as a Pisces woman, we are… They say that it’s Scorpio… Rob: That’s what I heard. Jhene: Ehhhh. I would say it’s the Pisces. Because we’re very… I don’t know. Just go find you a Pisces. Oh it’s getting a little naughty. Woah. Rob: Are these toys something you get into? Jhene: I’ve tried before. Like I said, maybe I’m not there yet in my adulthood. Because I’m just like, well, I just want the real thing. You know, you see a lot of like, younger artists talking about sex and stuff like that, but it’s like “You are 23!” I just feel so grown right now. I’ll be like “You don’t even know. You don’t have as many years I’ve had.” Rob: You know songs like “Vapors”, the opening track. I remember listening to it for the first time and when the hook came like, “Can I hit it again?” And “Bed Peace” even “Bed Peace” was just like, and with the video.. I was afraid of you in “The Worst” video. You were in the lingerie. You had just killed your man. And you were eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drinking red wine. Jhene: It ended up being so many songs that I split into the EP and the album. I wanted to explore every type of sound that I’ve ever liked. Me and Fisticuffs, who we work closely together all the time, we would literally just get in the studio and they’d start a little part of the beat and I would just start singing and then we would be high and we all just say something and be like, “That’s tight!” and we would just keep going and going. Rob: I think when you talk about that raw emotion and almost a folk vibe with “Comfort Inn”. What was that session like? It sounded like it was freeing or something. Jhene: The only thing I wrote down was the names. Rob: Dominic, Brandon… Jhene: It was basically a freestyle. What’s funny is I had a whole bunch of names and I had a category like “These guys fucked up. These guys don’t deserve to be in a song. I don’t even want to give them any shine.” Back then I was always going through crazy relationship shit. Rob: Look at ‘em now. Where they at? Jhene: I have no idea. Rob: You started off the year with a bang. 2016 you and Big Sean dropped ‘Twenty88’ and it was the story of relationships and sex and love and we got this mini-movie with it. Talk about going into that project, because that such a creative turn. Jhene: Me and Sean have been friends for a while. So when he came to me with the idea, I was just like “Yeah that sounds fun. This sounds like I can explore different sounds and different topics that maybe I haven’t really gotten to dive into.” Like, the real sexy songs like “2 Minute Warning”. I haven’t written with a lot of people. I haven’t co-written with a lot of people, so it meant something to me that we actually were compatible in that way, to where we could feed off of each other and go back-and-forth. Bondage tape!! You know, “Maniac” I got to experience the rope, which is a Japanese bondage art form, it’s not super harsh, like regular rope. We had an actual artist, he did it on me. While he was doing it I’m like oh, like I can see how people get pleasure out of this. Rob: When you started writing this song, “Maniac”, what happened that day? What was going on that day, that you went into the studio? Jhene: I played it for Detail, him and me sat down and wrote two verses, and I played it for Sean, it was some stuff that he wanted me to say that I was like, “No I’m not gonna say that, I’m gonna say this.” Rob: What was Sean’s reaction? Like I can just imagine a “Woah there.” Jhene: No he loved it. He loved it. Rob: Was there one specific lyric that he contributed? Jhene: Dick long as a ruler. Cause he knows that, that’s how I like them. Rob: Shout out to Sean, man. Jhene: Yeah, I don’t wanna see my man in that. I have to try a pair of these. Easy access. Rob: It just feels like you’re gearing up for something big. What are we foreshadowing with “Maniac”? Jhene: I like to really take my time and put the pieces together. Like, create the pieces and put the pieces together to have this big picture. And, I would say in 2017 you’ll see the big picture. One song, like “Maniac”, it took so long for me to feel like, “OK. It’s fine. We can share it now.” And that’s how I am with every single song. So you can imagine one project for me is like… It’s gonna just take all of my effort and energy and that’s how I like it.