A Trip With Jhené Aiko: The Unveiling of M.A.P. in Los Angeles
“I wrote these poems," Jhené Aiko said on Friday (September 22) with pride. "I made this movie. This is my vision. I want to thank everyone. You guys are the reason why.”
I attended Aiko’s interactive, artistic unveiling of her M.A.P. at the EB Gallery. Samsung sponsored the experience.
Following the release of her short film, Trip, Aiko dropped a voice clip on Soundcloud called “M.A.P. Mission.” The clip gives us a glimpse into the struggles she’s been facing after the death of her brother in 2012. She explained she tried many different ways to cope with her loss but could never quite escape the pain.
"I try to get closer to my brother by doing different drugs, hoping that if I get high enough I can reach him, but they only take me further away,” she revealed. “I distract myself with work, which buys me things I wish I could share with him. I distract myself with work, which causes stress I wish he were here to help me with.”
Aiko later began documenting her journey in a series of notebooks. She turned her emotions into what she refers to as a “M.A.P.” which stands for “Movie, Album and Poetry” book. The M.A.P. helped her navigate through her sorrow and led to the creation of her album Trip, which she also dropped Friday.
“This is my art,” Aiko said as she held back tears dressed in multicolored satin gown.
Aiko’s exhibit was separated into different spaces: an outside area for socializing with elegantly lit trees, a crisp white room where attendees could listen to her "Mission" in addition to view her art and notebook, a Photo Booth, and a theater with an array of ottomans to watch her short film. Each captured the essence of Trip with quotes and notes from her creative process.
Aiko’s gentle voice filled each room of the gallery. Her album played on repeat while guests like Jermaine Dupree and Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee sipped champagne. Trip, the film, stars Dante (played by Ben Whalen) and Ayo (played by Alex Benjamin), who also made an appearance.
As I sat back to take in the magic of it all, I noticed Aiko walk over to my general area. As I held back tears I managed to tell her how inspirational her project is and that my favorite song is “Sativa” featuring Swae Lee, she immediately embraced me and asked if I wanted a photo. We snapped up in true millennial fashion (all smize, no teeth) and she even asked to see the photo afterwards.
To many Jhené Aiko fans, like myself, this is her best work to date. On the album, laced with 22 tracks, it’s easy to empathize with her suffering and agony. You accompany her on her psychedelic journey via thoughtful production and raw lyrics. Her vulnerability is palpable--often revealing details of instances so rough it’s hard to believe her peers could do the same.
Jhené showed how she turned her pain into beauty and even how to possibly to deal with your own.
Trip is now available for download on all major streaming services.
Written by Robyn Merrett
Photos by all images by Jose Cervantes