A familiar hip-hop duo emerges with new release of EP, Twenty88

No longer are music fans held by a string as artists slowly promote new music over the course of six months. Within the last couple of years, we have seen the music industry transition from an extended promotional extravaganza to an instantaneous body of work that can constantly grow with just the click of a button. Just a few days before the release of their first joint EP, Jhene Aiko and Big Sean would release clips of a music video for a single from their EP, “Memories Faded.” As the two promoted the April 1 release on their personal Instagrams with mysterious videos and album covers, it was hard not to consider their past collaborations, which embody a template that is duplicated in the EP, Twenty88. The EP opens up with the telling of a love story with “Deja-vu.” The R&B driven track tells a story of two past flames who have crossed paths once more. Big Sean tells the story with slight hostility. “I’m trying to recycle the time you been missing, you drinking that Sean John/ that’s your favorite,” he says. Aiko, who has become a force to be reckoned with as she has stacked features with some of the industry’s biggest rappers and singers, uses her soft voice to seduce her victim as she begins to criticize him for humiliating her. Her voice creates the illusion of a lullaby as she plots his demise in the second verse. “Playing with your emotions/like I’m Chris Tucker on Friday/do it mind with you.”

The criticism continues in “Selfish.” “How could you be so selfish?,” Aiko says. Although the song is not very short in length, it represents more of an interlude as they follow a free-flowing format with Aiko’s voice singing freely. With “Talk Show,” the duo showcases their creative ability as they engage in what seems to be a very personal conversation broadcasted on a talk show. The audience lends their instantaneous opinions with every comment in a musical skit. Mirroring the intensity of a Love and Hip-Hop interview, things go dark as we are shown that everything is not what it seems on television. Aiko starts the show by introducing herself to the crowd, leaving her man in her shadow.

However, the interview quickly goes bad as she puts Big Sean on the spot for his infidelity on air, as the audience gasps in the background. She cuts off the host, as he gives Sean props, “let’s not front in front of all these people nigga/don’t act like just a couple weeks ago/you wasn’t fucking with all those bitches.” Sean is taken aback as he responds aggressively, “I hate talking about what’s private when were not in private/cause I don’t want to say anything to piss your mother off/since we inviting everyone into our bedroom then let’s take the covers off.” The animosity is clear, as the lovers quickly fall out of love in the limelight, and Aiko walks off the stage as Sean says, “Fuck this shit.” In the final track of the EP, Aiko tells a story of a girl still in love with her man. Her wisdom shines through as she comes to terms with the possibility of this relationship falling apart, saying, “hopefully the end ain’t near.” Her need for this relationship brings a familiarity to the lyrics as the melody follows a familiar nursery rhyme, “London Bridge.” “I don’t mean to sound hysterical/but baby if you left/it would be a historical disaster.” She compares the disaster to the London Bridge falling, just as it does in the nursery rhyme.

Out of Love, a short film directed by Lawrence Lamont, serves as the visual aide to the album, as the two lovers’ dark fairy tale is told through a series of situations and encounters. Sean and Aiko’s connection is evident, as they seem like the perfect couple; however, it is clear that there is something not quite right about the two of them as the film shows what seems to be their robotic features. As the film progresses, their celebrity couple status begins to fail, as they begin to unravel in front of the lights and cameras. Their artistic choices are daring, as they choose to focus on details and the music that will stand the test of time—instead of appealing to a larger audience and kneeling to marketability.

Both Sean and Aiko have taken a less commercial path to success. They seem to lack the fear many artists have, choosing more creative projects and collaborations over the course of their careers, which has given them more silent success. These choices have given them the chance to push their creativity to new heights, and choosing a story line and alternative persona to tell a story only furthers this endeavor. As Aiko takes on an alter ego, wearing an orange wig and more flamboyant attire to replace her more fairy-like persona, Sean becomes a man with taste, as he leaves his rapper aesthetic behind.

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