Jhene Aiko says she noticed ‘potential predators’ when she entered the music industry at 13

Jhene Aiko, Teyonna Taylor, Kehlani and Summer Walker are the latest Billboard Magazine cover girls and the women had a lot to say about working in the music industry. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
Jhene Aiko, Teyonna Taylor, Kehlani and Summer Walker are the latest Billboard Magazine cover girls and the women had a lot to say about working in the music industry. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

Jhené Aiko got candid with Billboard about dealing with racism and predatory men during her early days in the music industry.

“I started in this industry when I was 13, going through puberty and my own identity crisis,” she shared in a joint interview with Teyana Taylor, Kehlani and Summer Walker for the music magazine, published Thursday.

“I’d show up to photo shoots and be told, ‘You’re going to get your hair bone straight, and we’re going to put this kind of [bronzer] on you.’ Only in the last couple of years have I become comfortable with my natural hair texture,” she said. “And dealing with men, my mom was always around to keep that in check. But looking back, I definitely saw the potential predators and inappropriate things, like how producers and writers would want to collaborate with you but never talk about music. Would you do that to the Migos or Lil Wayne? That kept me from being super friendly with anyone.”

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Kehlani also talked about how women are treated differently in the industry.

“There’s also a certain respect level that men uphold for each other in this industry that they don’t do with us,” she said. “Why is the respect level knocked down just because I’m a woman? Why do men feel able to talk to me any type of way when I’m handling business?”

Walker added that female artists are expected to stay silent, which is why she avoids going into the studio altogether.

“But as a woman who likes to speak her mind, I do think it’s kind of weird that if I show my a** or post a half-naked picture, it’s totally fine. But if I want to speak on systematic racism, religion or politics, then it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re doing too much.’ They kind of want you to just shut up and sing, which is an issue for me,” Walker explained.

Taylor, Aiko and Kehlani went on to talk about how being parents has influenced their respective careers. Taylor revealed that she purchased an RV to allow her family to be with her no matter where she went. She also gushed about daughters with husband Iman Shumpert — Junie, 4, and Rue, two months.

“Junie’s 4 going on 40,” she declared. “She knows exactly who everyone is on a song. Her love for music is crazy. She has also taught me to be fearless, which is something I never really was. And seeing the way Rue looks at her sister — sometimes you have to have that pure innocent soul to make you feel the most beautiful. Motherhood is beautiful and tough, yet it’s everything.”

Kehlani, who is the mother of 19-month-old Adeya, explained that being a mother gave her a perspective “you don’t get from anything else in life.” She also admitted that though she would love to have her daughter with her all the time, it is sometimes best to give her time to herself.

“But I know that having her with her toys and being in her space might be better for her at a particular moment. Those moments are really hard, but I have to ultimately decide what’s better for her... If all this disappears and I can’t do this anymore, I still have the most beautiful life in the world. As much as people think parents give to children, I think children give us 10 times more,” she continued.

Aiko credited her 12-year-old daughter, Namiko Love, for being her music inspiration.

“She helps me dig deeper into who I am, my morals and beliefs,” she explained. “I’ve learned more from her than any book I’ve read, movie I’ve watched or class I’ve taken. It’s the reason I make the honest and vulnerable music that I make.”

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