Ahead of Her Debut Album, Jhené Aiko Premieres a Single, "The Pressure"

Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

“I would consider myself a lyricist before anything,” says Jhené Aiko. That’s a refreshingly wise thing to hear from a 26-year-old singer who, without even so much as a debut album, has already been anointed as a star on the rise by many of the music industry powers that be. Aiko first gained mass attention on Saturday Night Live this January, when she performed “From Time” alongside Drake, whom she was supporting on tour at the time. But she’s been grinding away since at least 2011, when a mixtape, Sailing Soul(s), featured collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Miguel.

Since then, Aiko’s been holed up in L.A., where she was raised in an area between Windsor Hills, Culver City, and Inglewood, finishing that first full-length album, now expected to drop in September. She feels particularly akin to her West Coast brethren. “People don’t give L.A. the credit it deserves for being creative and cultured. We are just as open-minded as artists from other places,” she says. “And we are venturing . . . It’s not just gangster rap.”

If all goes according to plan, it’s going to be a big fall for Aiko: To coincide with the album’s release, she will go on a five-city tour with The Weeknd—that is, as long as she hits her looming deadlines on time. “The Pressure,” the single Aiko premieres today on, was inspired by the stress of finishing her LP. And with this much grace under pressure, we have no doubt she’ll keep winning. 

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