Chilombo is Jhene Aiko's third studio album that was released on March 6, 2020 by ArtClub International, ARTium Recordings & Def Jam Recordings.
Two years after the release of her second studio album, "Trip" in 2017, Jhene Aiko announced she has began work on the follow up album. She revealed that her third album would only consist of freestyles and focus on relationships, stating "my next album is all freestyles where i touch on many subjects and relationships... past, present and future."
In 2019, Aiko had completed three songs for the album as well as releasing the taster "Wasted Love Freestyle". Speculation led the media to believe the album would focus on her breakup with rapper Big Sean.
Aiko recorded the album on the big island of Hawaii, and free-styled all the songs creating what she described as one "free-flowing jam session".
She was inspired by Hawaii volcanoes, which she likened herself to during the conception and recording of the album. She continued to describe the album as an "eruption", starting with "Triggered", creating a "flow" throughout the album.
The album's writing process followed a structure, with all songs beginning as a freestyle. Aiko would initially start the process with lyrics in her head, before meeting long time collaborators and producers Fisticuffs or her keyboard player. From there they would "build" the music around the freestyle. "Triggered (Freestyle)" was created from this process, as were all of the album's tracks.
Aiko and producers Fisticuffs started the song with a few instruments before she took the production home where she recorded it herself in her studio. Speaking about the whole album process, Aiko said: ”I’m still in transition, but I’m still me. I still love to write all types of songs and listen to all types of music, but Chilombo definitely has a lot more acoustic instruments because I wanted it to be music that you can feel.”
During the creative process for the album, Aiko was adamant on incorporating crystal alchemy sound bowls. Her hope was to open up different chakras within the human body.
The singing bowls "produce a vibrational hum that resonates throughout the body, producing a calming and tranquil effect. [... They] are a common practice in healing and meditation, as they promote chakra balancing as well as stress and anxiety reduction".
Aiko first used the bowls during a recording session at her home and went on to use them on each of the album's songs; this inspired her to incorporate more acoustic instruments and kept the process analogue, allowing the microphone to pick up sounds in the room.
"Chilombo" consists of 20 songs and features a variety of guests including rappers Nas, Ty Dolla $ign and Future, as well as R&B singers John Legend, Miguel, and H.E.R.. It is an atmospheric R&B album, that takes influence from quiet storm. The album production features soft and dulled percussion and drifting keys.
The album's lyrics focus on the ups and downs of life after a break-up and vaguely tells the story of a woman who has suffered heartbreak before emerging stronger.
"Triggered" is a freestyle rap song about Aiko's conflicted feelings following a breakup and was interpreted as a diss track towards her ex-boyfriend Big Sean, with whom she formed the duo Twenty88.
"P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)" is a trap-influenced alternative R&B song. The song's title was inspired by Jhené's relationship with boyfriend, Big Sean.
"Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)" features guest vocals from Miguel and Future. The song is an ode to Aiko's 2011 song "Hoe" from her debut mixtape, "Sailing Soul(s)" and references Andre 3000's song, "Where Are My Panties?"
- Triggered (Freestyle)
- Name Of Your Concern (featuring Big Sean)
- B.S. (featuring H.E.R.)
- P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)
- Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.) (featuring Future & Miguel)
- One Way St. (featuring Ab-Soul)
- Define Me (Interlude)
- Surrender (featuring Dr. Chill)
- Tryna Smoke
- Born Tired
- 10k Hours (featuring Nas)
- Summer 2020 (Interlude)
- Mourning Doves
- Pray For You
- Lightning & Thunder (featuring John Legend)
- Magic Hour
- Party For Me (Outro)
"Chilombo" debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 with 152,000 album-equivalent units, including 38,000 pure album sales, making it Aiko's highest-charting album in the US and her highest first-week sales in the region.
During its second week, the album dropped to number five on the chart, earning 56,000 album-equivalent units. In its third week, it dropped to number eight on the chart, earning 37,000 more units that week. In its fifth week, it returned to the top-ten, at number ten on the chart, earning 27,000 more album-equivalent units.
On May 13, 2020, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for combined sales and album-equivalent units of over 500,000 units in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, "Chilombo" debuted at # 3, becoming her highest charting album and first top 20 in the region. In Canada, it peaked at #7 on the chart, becoming her first top ten there.
Stephen Kearse for Pitchfork felt that "Aiko's music too often lacks a pulse", citing that "Chilombo gestures at this larger skill set, but settles for good vibes. It's very chill, and nothing else."
In a review for The Guardian, Laura Snapes stated that "Chilombo is sexual, spiritual and wildly over-long", also writing that "Unfortunately, neither Aiko's narrative nor the fairly one-note production can sustain that focus across this wildly over-long record. It lacks the variety of Trip, and could do with more moments like One Way Street, which sets Aiko's existential breakdown to a dubby gleam, or the raw Born Tired, where a simple acoustic guitar motif showcases her vocal range. And while you obviously wish Aiko happiness after her breakup, it's disappointing, after the enjoyably visceral put-downs of the first half, that the album seems to conclude with a reconciliation, rendered in never-ending, luscious rhapsodies that keep coming like a film that doesn't know how to end."