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Adam Fleischer of MTV described Aiko's lyrical content as being "catchy and emotive," continuing to note Aiko's lyrics as having no boundaries; which mix "moments of sensitivity and love, but also moments of confusion and aggression."Aiko’s newfound style lies somewhere between the soothing sounds of Sade and what can be nebulously described as “future R&B,” a broad spectrum of pioneering music-makers making tunes best served in the midnight hour, including The Weeknd, Tinashe and FKA twigs.
Aiko has described herself as being part of this movement, she noted her own musical style as being "alternative" and a "new-generation R&B", which she compared herself to the style of Frank Ocean, Miguel and Drake.
In this meeting, I was innocently told, to 'sell' myself when walking into these meetings.
"That's when I decided I would 'sail' myself rather than sell myself." In 2011, she also began working closely with artists from Carson-based independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment such as Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul who was featured on her EP released November 12, 2013 titled "Sail Out".
Following the release of the song "Post to Be", a collaboration with Omarion, the line "I might let your boy chauffeur me, but he gotta eat the booty like groceries" was described as a standout lyric and "the lyric of the summer, or the lyric of the year," by Rob Markman, editor for MTV News.
In March 2016, Aiko announced a collaboration album with rapper Big Sean, under the name Twenty88, their self-titled debut album was made available to stream exclusively on TIDAL for four days, and was made available for download on April 1.
She embarked on her music career contributing vocals and appearing in several music videos for R&B group B2K.
In October 2013, it was revealed Jhené Aiko would open for Canadian rapper Drake on his Would You like a Tour? On May 2, 2014 "The Worst" rose from three to one on the airplay Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop, in doing so she became the first female artist to top the chart as a lead with a debut single since Jazmine Sullivan in 2008.In 2003, Aiko was set to release her debut album, My Name Is Jhené, through her labels Sony, The Ultimate Group and Epic, however the album was never released, with Aiko asking to be released from the label in order to continue her education.In March 2011, Aiko made her return to music with the release of her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Sailing Soul(s).to sit next to her in class talk to her try to be funny.ask her if she want to go out if she says yes you can tack her out to the moves or if you want to make a move on her take her to the park in a quit spot talk to her try to look in her eyes she will fall in love with you and kiss her you can all so give her a hicky all you have to do is put your lips on her neck and suck on it lick the spot it will trun pruple and it will stay on far a few days it will tack a week to make it come off she can give you a hicky but you both have to hide it from every one.The EP was supported by the singles "AM", "Bed Peace" and "The Worst", the latter of which went on to become certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).Aiko released her major-label debut album, Souled Out, on September 9, 2014. E" (re-recorded from Tha' Rayne version in 2002), which debuted on BET's 106 & Park when she was 15 years old.On December 16, 2011, Aiko signed a recording contract with American record producer No I.D.'s record label ARTium, distributed through Def Jam Recordings.Described by Erin Lowers a reviewer from XXL magazine, Aiko's music is alternative R&B, which the reviewer described as being created with the use of heavily used synthesizers and "wooly drum loops," the reviewer continued to say that her genre is caught in a "revolutionized limbo." Bradley Stern of Time, compared the Aiko's musical style to the work of Sade, calling the album's genre "future R&B", Stern continued to compare her music to the work of The Weeknd, Tinashe and FKA twigs.Aiko writes music everyday, often writing lines or a poem, and begins to add them to melodies.