G.O.O.D Music rapper Big Sean and singer Jhene Aiko have appeared working together since Sean’s 2012 mixtape ‘Detroit’ and have been collaborating ever since. Recently, they have officially banded together to form the duo TWENTY88 which most could admit they did not see coming. Their new, collaborative self-titled EP does not show them changing their lanes in any way, nor improving their artistry. TWENTY88 seems to just be a project for the fans of both artists to keep them busy until their next solo works emerge.
TWENTY88 primarily focuses on aspects of intimate relationships: the good, bad and ugly. Sean and Aiko tackle these topics very predictably and uninterestingly, as they are both not compelling lyricists. All the expected topics for a relationship album are present and displayed flatly. For every semi-clever line Big Sean delivers he carries at least two eye-rolling ones. “Plus I know all your insecurities / And I don’t mean like mall cops,” and “I feel like I chose the wrong bitch like Steve Harvey,” raps Sean. Fortunately, Aiko’s worst lyrics aren’t as blatantly painful as his, but her singing doesn’t make up for any shortcomings. She pushes her gentle and limited voice the most on the chorus of “2 Minute Warning” but ironically hides in the background while the guest vocals carry it for her.
The biggest highlights of the EP hands-down are the instrumentals as they are the only consistently good feature about the EP. Most of the time the beats are airy and ethereal to allow Jhene to stay comfortable in her narrow and fixed pocket of R&B. “Selfish”, the project’s best song sounds like a leftover from Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ with its jazzy and groovy composition while the instrumental for “Push It” is psychedelic and seductive. This aesthetic is a dime-a-dozen post-2010, but at least it holds over well for this project.
Their collaborative skills don’t impress either. Their chemistry is at its peak is on the track “Talk Show”, a conceptual track with them guesting on a talk show publicizing to the world their relationship issues. On paper it is a good idea, but their execution is subpar at best. Sean holds the song together and shares his least cringe-worthy bars and lays down a cohesive, detail filled story. Jhene Aiko however, half-raps the first verse and adds nothing valuable to the narrative while on the next verse, devolves into only talking.
Big Sean lyrically still doesn’t impress and Jhene Aiko is still mostly static with her vocals. On TWENTY88 both artists carry their same baggage of flaws. There are too many average moments and more bad than good ones. Mostly everything here has been done before and done better so this project has me asking “What now?” from them. You can give it a listen here if you haven’t already.