By Joseph Bonney
Hip Hop Journalist
It has been 2 years since the release of Jidenna’s first single “Classic Man”, a song that did so well that he manages to get a Kendrick Lamar verse for the official remix. But since then, he’s been relatively quiet. So it was a slight shock when he chose to drop The Chief album when he did. Whether you agree on the timing of the album drop, you can’t deny the strong musicality behind this project.
An artist under the wing of Janelle Monae, you can hear her influence throughout his album. You even get a feature from her on the track “Safari”. Although, that doesn’t take away any credit from Jidenna, making this album his life story. Jidenna is of Nigerian descent, and he’s not afraid to showcase that in the opening song “A Bull’s Tale”. After a short skit from an uncle of his, Jidenna narrates his early life in Nigeria and his sadness about burying his father while dealing with the turmoil of guerrilla fighters in the region. He doesn’t discuss these scenarios to make Nigeria seem like a primitive country, but he uses these moments in his life to craft an image of what he has become.
Tracks like “Trampoline” and “Bambi”, Jidenna paints women in an unorthodox way than the stereotypical rap conventions. Trampoline is used as a metaphor to describe women who want to explore themselves, without being portrayed as scandalous or sacrilegious for doing so. Bambi focuses on unrequited love that Jidenna created because he was too selfish to stay loyal. A statement that most rappers would not state without adding some braggadocios flare to it. The rest of the album highlights black struggle, while keeping the music soulful and upbeat. Deeper into the album you find songs like “Some type of Way” and “White N*****”. Both tracks, specifically the latter, tackles racial tensions in the U.S. One subject matter he didn’t shy away from is cultural appropriation, and the ‘polishing’ of black culture to fit into a white world.
Some might argue that this The Chief is biting Drake’s Views vibe. The African dance hall mixed with rap. Though, I would argue that Jidenna pulls it off better than he did. Jidenna pulls his Nigerian culture, his struggles of fitting in as a black male, and brings it all home in a beautifully executed project. This is one of those albums that the general public will love, but for a select few this will resonate with them.
Featured illustration by Joseph Bonney.