Twenty88 Twenty88 GOOD Music / Def Jam
The building blocks for Big Sean and Jhene Aiko’s debut collaborative record under the Twenty88 name are fairly straightforward: space-age romantic fantasy, 1970s soul and the kinds of club-informed productions that both artists have worked with independently. Despite that, the project successfully carves out its own lane – an exercise in restraint and insinuation where they come off sounding more engaging than they have done on some of their own releases.
For Big Sean, the cat-and-mouse chemistry with Aiko gives his sprawling, overspilling rhyme schemes an end goal. There are a handful of nonsensical punchlines scattered across the release but these can be forgiven in light of the rapper’s overall performance. That said, it would be remiss of me not to quote at least one clanger: “When you hop up and turn around, I can’t handle it / I might pass out like a pamphlet”, he recalls on 2 Minute Warning, dragging all the sexiness out of sex by comparing foreplay to brochure distribution.
Aiko, it turns out, is the real anchor of this record. Hers is the dysfunctional, self-destructive commentary, constantly luring Sean closer then reappearing 10 steps ahead. The formula reaches boiling point on Talk Show, a standout cut which takes a sample from Love’s Society – a 1974 track from soulful RnB group The Natural Four. The couple go back and forth until Sean manages to summarise why both artists sound better together than they have independently: “Look, this ain’t repetition, it’s evolution…”