"My album is the result of a lot of sacrifice and hard work by a lot of people. It draws from everyday experiences young girls my age go through, but the songs can be enjoyed by anyone." With such a strong message and an ambitious debut album soon to be released, Jhene is poised to make an impact on audiences in a big way. However, long before recording began her debut album, Jhene was a star in the making.
Jhene has always had a knack for making music. At age five, the pint-sized performer penned her first song by reciting a rap she'd written in her living room. "I didn't know how to write yet," she recalls. "So I told my mom, 'I'm going to tell you something and you write it down for me.'"
This first sign of talent provoked her mom, Tina, to enroll Jhene in a professional dance troupe run by a family friend. "I started when I was three," says the L.A. native, who took ballet, jazz, and tap with her older sisters, Miyoko and Jamila. Jhene remained a part of the troupe for several years before departing to pursue other interests.
While dancing was temporarily put aside, it didn't take long for the budding star's peers to notice her powerful pipes. "In first grade, my best friend and I sang 702's song, 'Steelo' in the school talent show," she says. "I was really nervous and I didn't want to do it. But, when we were done, everybody was coming up to me saying things like, 'You were great!' It made me really popular," she laughs.
These days, Jhene's charismatic voice is attracting an even wider fan base. Last year, she appeared on B2K's track, "Tease," from the foursome's platinum, sophomore CD, Pandemonium. Jhene's cousin, and B2K's resident rapper, Lil' Fizz, returned the favor when he laid down vocal tracks for two tunes, "Dog" and "Sneaky," on her upcoming album. "Working with Fizz is so easy. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like work," explains Jhene. "His talent is unmistakable."
The feeling is mutual. "She has a beautiful voice," says Lil' Fizz, proudly. "Her dancing is off the hook and she's real energetic too."
However, there were a few surprises following Jhene's high-profile collaborations with B2K. "I think the most asked question that I get is, 'How is it to be Lil' Fizz's cousin?' or 'Does he have a girlfriend?'" laughs the singer, who's also gained notoriety answering questions for her monthly "Girl Talk" advice column, featured in a nationally circulated magazine.
This summer, Jhene strutted her stuff on B2K's nationwide Scream 3 tour, which kicked off in her home state of California.
Jhene always rises to the occasion. For example, the first single from her debut album, "No Love," was written by former Naughty by Nature DJ, Kay Gee. Despite his gritty hip-hop background, Jhene felt their styles 'blended perfectly' and the tune turned out just like she had hoped. "No L.O.V.E. is a special song to me," says Jhene of the girl-powered anthem. "It's something I would say if a guy did something wrong. No exceptions. If I make up my mind, that's it. Sometimes you have to stay strong and I totally agree with that kind of attitude."
It's a message that she thinks will go over well with fans. "Everybody can relate to it," says the longtime fan of such artists as Brandy and Justin Timberlake. "Girls can say, 'I went through that' or 'I'm going through that.' And guys can say, 'Oh, my girl went through the same thing.'" Universal themes prevail on Jhene's ambitious debut, turning up on tunes like "Wanna Be," an infectious track about playing games in relationships, and "Boy," a mid-tempo ballad about missing the object of her heart's desire.
Making her songs accessible has always been one of Jhene's top priorities. "I want fans to be able to put on one of my songs and have them help with whatever it is they're going through," says Jhene. "It's incredible how people are influenced by music. I just want to be one of those artists that helps people."