April 1, 2016


Twenty88 is Far More Than Big Sean & Jhené Aiko’s Side Project

Avi Gerver for Fuse/MSG
Avi Gerver for Fuse/MSG

It’s the little things: The little things you say underneath your breath, the little amount of words typed in a late night text, that little thing they’d do while in the back of the car, the little thing that broke the relationship that you can’t now recall. It’s little, but you can’t admit that it’s not real.

Jhené Aiko and Big Sean’s collaborative album, under the name Twenty88, is essentially a duets album and is laced with moments like these: honest moments, spoken with no pretense. The album contains moments fueled by revenge, passion and urgency; moments being lived through in real time; and moments that urge you to take a leap into the rabbit hole of past relationships. Twenty88 compels calls to the one that got away, the one you want one last time with, the one that you only saw past peak-Drake hours, the one that you hid from your friends but caught feelings for…

The strength of Twenty88 is in the simplicity of the songwriting. The lyrics throw a punch, destined to be quotes that will eventually find their way to social dashboards, sober or inebriated. As both Jhené Aiko and Big Sean rap-sing to each other, they exchange lessons learned and words left unspoken–which they’re known to do in their solo music, too. “Talk Show” takes it one step further, with the two speaking of private things in the most public setting: a TV show with a studio audience. The concept only strengthens the message; Big Sean muses, "Since we’re inviting everyone in the bedroom, let’s take the covers off…how we supposed to hold each other down if we can’t even hold a conversation?...I’m tired of fronting for these people who ain’t got our back.”

Twenty88 covers issues of infidelity and insecurities, heartbreak and hope, from both sides of the argument. You are fed the same doubts that keep you up at night (“Does it ever cross your mind? You told me you loved me and turned around and told your boys we just fucking,” on “Deja Vu”), and the answers that make you get up and go over (“The only two times I needed you was now and forever,” on “London Bridges”).

The majority of the eight-song album’s mood is sensual and stimulating, reminiscent of a ‘90s R&B album… which is why “2 Minute Warning,” which features the legendary K-Ci and JoJo, feels right at home by epitomizing the album’s sexual tenacity. The lyrics are charged; so is the vocal yearning in the hook. The album’s weakness, the lyrics, is also its strength. The cheesiness of some lines deflate the duo’s message, but the placement of these lyrics is just as subtle as the impact they leave.

Sean and Aiko bring forth the best from each other, and have combined the high points of their respective solo efforts to deliver an engaging project that not many artists could have accomplished collaboratively. The urgency of Twenty88’s message—Say how you feel, and say it now—make the little moments add up and create a big one.

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