Jhené Aiko and Big Sean have teamed up for a collaborative project titled TWENTY88, which blends smooth vocals of the L.A. songstress with the Detroit rapper’s steady lines. The two artists have previously worked together on several tracks over the past couple of years, so a full-length endeavor comes as no surprise. TWENTY88 is an expression of their unique styles and incredible unadulterated artistic chemistry.

‘TWENTY88’ by TWENTY88 (Jhené Aiko & Big Sean) Album Review

There are a lot of adjectives that can used to describe the mood of TWENTY88. The artists don’t shy away from capturing your full attention with the pervasive intimacy and obsession. A few days before its release, the artists teased their joint venture on Twitter:


The two 15-second teasers clearly show the dark, sultry atmosphere that is the very backbone of the album. Aiko and Sean share a chemistry, which is undeniable. It grabs the listener’s attention from the start. The steady groove of the album is maintained throughout, as it puts the two artists in conversation with one another and their respective pasts. On opener “Déjà Vu,” for example, Aiko pours out her love troubles, while Big Sean is the stable voice that provides perspective on her past. This dynamic between the two artists is what makes this album so intimate and relatable and is what sustains the energy of TWENTY88 despite the album’s apparent lack of narrative cohesion. 

TWENTY88 is most surprising precisely in that it doesn’t aim to present a singular narrative, but each song rather explores a side of the overarching theme of a raw, intense, emotional, dysfunctional, toxic love using a deep, intimate R&B sound that seems to run in both artists’ veins. Aiko and Sean share a chemistry, which is undeniable, and they quickly bump up the sexual energy and the stakes in the relationship. Midway through “On the Way” and “Push It” comprise an explicit interlude. Both are slow-beat sensuous tracks that can become instant sex jams. These tracks puts the dysfunctional on hold in favor of an unambiguously sexual connection, which represents another dimension of the relationship at hand.

“Talk Show” is perhaps the most intriguing song conceptually, though musically it is not as well-rounded as others on the album. It takes an engaging approach by using mostly spoken words and rap, representing both the female and male perspectives. The intensity of the lyrics constantly escalates to the point where there perhaps can be no agreement. Furthermore, the private relationship is exposed in a public context (a talk show), which is perhaps the artists’ subtle critique with society’s obsession with the private lives of celebrities.

This carefully crafted album, with names like Key Wane, Detail and Tommy Brown in the production credits, seemingly has a variety of musical influences from low-key trap to 90s R&B to 70s soul music, but after a few songs it begins to feel repetitive and unoriginal. Perhaps the album relies a little too much on the singers’ ability to bring out raw emotion in their lyrics, but however authentic their story of love, obsession, jealousy, sexual frustration and reconciliation may be, the music that should be sustaining it tends to flop at the most crucial times. 

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