In a surprise move last month, rapper Big Sean and singer Jhené Aiko announced that they were forming a duo called TWENTY88. They released an EP of the same name shortly thereafter, on April Fool's Day, and while everything from the release date to the odd, DC comic book-like cover art screams "prank," it seems that TWENTY88 are quite serious about this endeavour. On their debut EP, the duo confront the ups and downs of relationships, yet manage to skip the heavy stuff — think trivial high school tryst, or Tinder romp gone wrong.
Though the smooth trap&B production on the first few songs shows promise, neither Sean's adolescent flow nor Aiko's thin vocals are enough to command attention. In fact, much of the project easily fades into the background until "Talk Show," an aural soap opera featuring bright, soulful production from Grammy award-winning Flippa and Jproof, the Philly native behind Usher's "Good Kisser." Sean steps up his lyrical game on "Talk Show," and any lines that raise a brow or prompt a second listen can be found here.
Aiko, too, has her moment to shine on "2 Minute Warning," a sensual ode to the sticky-icky slow jams of the '90s. Paying homage to the era, TWENTY88 recruits Jodeci crooners K-Ci and JoJo for a guest appearance on the song. Fans of the old R&B group will appreciate each vocalist's attempt to out-"hoooyeah!" each other for four-and-a-half minutes straight. The only disappointment here is the muffled vocals, which is a shame, considering it's Aiko's strongest performance on the project.
By the time final track "London Bridge" arrives, it's difficult to tell whether this EP is meant to move us to emotional tears or ones of laughter. The lyrics are chock full of high school histrionics, but TWENTY88's watery vocals make it hard to take the song seriously.
TWENTY88 isn't a complete flop, but it's also not strong enough to be memorable. The bright spots make the EP worth listening to once or twice, but overall, there's not much to lose by sitting this one out. (GOOD / ARTium / Def Jam)