Jhené Aiko's moment of victory on Nov. 24 was immediately followed by an intense feeling of sadness.
During her appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the star (née Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo), 32, revealed that she was told of her uncle's COVID-19-related death at the same time she learned of her three Grammy nominations.
Aiko was enjoying time on the central coast of California when she heard the bittersweet news. "I woke up and I had a bunch of missed calls and text messages so I was like, 'Whoa, what happened?'" the "Sativa" hitmaker told the host, 42.
"I didn't remember that the Grammy nominations were happening that day, so when I looked at my phone, I saw all these, 'Congratulations.'" That's when her manager revealed that Chilombo was up for album of the year. Aiko says she "was like, 'Whoa, okay, that one is a serious one.'" But things took a turn soon after. "At the same time, I was getting messages from my family because I found out that my uncle had passed from COVID that same moment."
She remembers the instance vividly. "It was kind of an unreal moment — a very reflective moment. I was in a room that was overlooking the ocean and I was getting this really great news and this really sad news and it was like an outer body, surreal, bittersweet moment."
For Aiko, "it was kind of reflective of life [and] the ups and downs that come simultaneously sometimes, so it was unreal for sure."
And what made the moment even more surreal is she didn't know her album would blow up so massively. "I knew it felt really good while I was making it," said the songwriter.
"I didn't have any expectations as far as awards. I never really think of stuff like that, but I was hoping it was my best yet," adding the vocalist. "I feel like the more music I put out, I want it to just keep getting better and better. So, I'm glad that it's being recognized."
While the November death of her uncle was saddening, Aiko has been coping amid the pandemic. When Corden asked how she was staying afloat, the star said, "I have three cats and a 12-year-old daughter, so I definitely have been enjoying the time at home and spending the time with them — and Netflix, of course."
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