Words by Megan Ambers
Jhene Aiko graces the first digital issue of Nylon, after the announcement that the publication will discontinue their print magazine. In the interview, Jhene opens up about the loss of her brother Miyagi, her tattoo of boyfriend Big Sean and using psychedelic drugs.
Jhene Aiko has always been a woman who presents her art with her music and more noticeably her tattoos. Last month, Aiko made headlines when she got a tattoo of her boyfriend, Detroit rapper Big Sean. The portrait of the rapper sits above her left elbow . The tattoo features a strikingly handsome Big Sean dressed in a tuxedo and bow tie. When asked what was the motivation behind getting the tattoo, Aiko answered with a cute high-school like response. “I just love his face. I think his face is perfect.”
Showing off two tattoos that she got in honor of her late brother’s memory, “Miyagi Hasani Ayo Chilombo” in red cursive and one of his last tweets, “Why aren’t you smiling?” on her right wrist, Jhene speaks candidly about the effect of his death on her.
I never thought of a life without him. That was not something I ever thought was possible, you know? Sometimes I’ll have a great understanding of life, and understand he’s still here, that’s he within me and my siblings and my daughter and my parents and in the stars. And then some days I wake up, and I’m like, ‘Wait, what? Where’s my brother?’ And it’s literally like, I don’t know what kind of day it’s going to be, and because we were so close, it feels wrong when I start to fade.
Miyagi was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010, and succumbed to cancer two years later, at the age of 26. His death and the birth of her daughter, Namiko Love are the defining moments of her life.
Dealing with the death of her brother, Jhene admits to numbing the pain with different drugs, including over-the-counter (sleeping) pills, valium, percocet and cocaine. Aiko shares that her habits caused her body to become hypersensitive to the drugs that she consumed, including birth control. She developed a habit of performing live while under the influence of alcohol.
Like, literally drunk. I would have a drink on the stage to the point where I was just sick.
It wasn’t until discovering psilocybin, a psychedelic mushroom, that Aiko was about to quit on all of her other habits. It was during her solo trips to Big Sur and Hawaii, that her vision for Trip started to come true.
Sometimes I would talk to trees and hear them say things back. But to me, it wasn’t a hallucination. It was me being open enough to receive what they really were. There was a real world all around me.