If you’ve been anywhere near a radio lately, you’ve heard Jhené Aiko’s soulful collaborations with some of the planet’s biggest artists, including Big Sean (“Beware”) and Drake (“From Time”). But Aiko isn’t just standing on the shoulders of giants—with her latest solo record, Souled Out, she’s being dubbed a bona fide R&B star.
That’s not to say she’s feeling any pressure. “I like to keep it chill,” she says. And like some sort of anti-diva, the Grammy-nominated 27-year-old likes to chow down on Thai takeout in the studio and slip into conversations about the stars.
But Aiko, whose roots are African-American, Native American and Japanese, is all business when it comes to her art. “With work, there’s no time to waste,” she says. She asked her mom to help her write her first rap at age 4, and by 12 she’d signed with Epic and written her first album—all before going on to finish school, then give birth to her daughter, Namiko, now 6.
“People assume that because I look young, I have a young mind,” she says, “but I’ve absorbed a lot in my life. It’s all about family and good times.”
And, she says, spirituality. “I’ve always been in awe of nature and animals—I won’t wear fur.” (Yeah, No. 3 is a lie.) She’s into the supernatural, too, admitting she’s obsessed with ghosts (“I’m interested in understanding what scares people”) and considers the dragon her spirit animal.
One fiery magical creature chosen by another—how hot is that?