Chilombo is an interesting album by an fascinating artist. Jhené Aiko occupies a unique place in the R&B continuum; hers is a career with countless starts and stops, unreleased projects and a star energy that feels forever under-realized. Chilombo is an act of “big mad” energy, a reflective project that underlines lives unlived, dismisses ex-lovers, reminisces on past connections and looks forward, while it acknowledges the missteps that came before.
Chilombo is Aiko’s last name, and the project reclaims her identity and reflects her “sound healing” — the act of incorporated crystal alchemy singing bowls on every track, with the aim of “physically and mentally healing on the cellular level.” Whether you buy in to her spiritual process or not, Chilombo is worth your attention.
There’s a fearlessness and a trippy, ethereal R&B vibe that manifests itself in an intense sexual, emotional and mental energy; the slinky “B.S.,” featuring H.E.R., channels a Drake energy as it muses on a “doing me” approach to love and relationships (“I just seen your new bitch / It boosts my self-esteem”). The sexually charged “P*$$y Fairy” is catchy and ribald as all get out. The guest spots feel random and varied: John Legend (“Lightning & Thunder”), Nas (“10k Hours”), Ab-Soul (“One Way St.) and Future and Miguel (“Happiness Over Everything”). But there’s a method to the music: each track showcases Aiko’s versatility, range and ability to create and collaborate.
Whereas 2017’s Trip felt more structured, Chilombo is lyrically “freestyled” by Aiko, creating a breezy, trippy, unapologetically independent effort that shines a light on her continuing musical growth and quest for self-determination. (Def Jam/Universal)