In 2015, the world was introduced to Jidenna through the hit single, “Classic Man,” a song directly catered towards Black folks that read and believe that ascots aren’t only a job, but an adventure. I loved that song as most people did. Jidenna as an artist, though, I was ambivalent about. Sure it was a dope song, but how many artists come with dope songs and disappear into the ether only to show up decades later on VH1 “One Hit Wonder” shows because they had nothing else to really offer.
I couldn’t tell just how talented (or not) Jidenna was. One good song does not a dope artist make. But I watched interviews and he was not only well spoken (he speaks so well) and sophisticated in thought, he could actually spit. And his backstory is interesting as hell. He’s pretty much like most of us extraordinary negroes out here.
Again, that was 2015. Like most people borne of the internet age, unless you’re frequenting my eardrums, I will likely forget you exist. Which brings us to this past Tuesday when I decided to peruse Apple Music to find Future’s new album, scrolled and saw that Jidenna released his debut album, The Chief. Did I care? Not really, but shit, I’m in the car and have another 7 hours to drive, #minuswell give it some run.
Well shut my mouth wide open, Jidenna’s album was a revelation and a total surprise. After running through it a few times, I decided that people needed to not only know his album dropped, but needed to listen to it. I'm still undecided on how good it is though I enjoy it, but its definitely worth a listen. So here are 9 reasons why you need to check out The Chief.
2. Jidenna is an actual artist who, according to the liner notes, is involved in the production just as much as the writing. Piggybacking on the first bullet, this isn’t just a rap album, it’s a piece of art. He’s rapping and singing, and does both very well. Obviously, his association with Janelle Monae and the Wondaland Arts Society means that he’s not just a typical artist, but I was surprised at the depth because I only really knew “Classic Man” and really didn’t like “Long Live The Chief” at all, which is on this album.
3. He’s socially conscious while still being very much a nigga. He’s basically all of us who frequent websites like Very Smart Brothas, who give a shit while being able to wax poetic about wings versus flats, grits, and the merits of Hennessy.
4. The song “Trampoline” is basically “I Am Not My Hair” 2017, except written from the male perspective. Sure a woman may like to bounce her ass up and down like a trampoline (really, who doesn’t?), but that doesn’t mean she’s a tramp; she could be a wife, mother, doctor, etc. Effectively, everybody needs to unwind to trap music on occasion. That is of course, unless you can bounce it up and down like a trampoline to Andra Day, which I’m pretty sure is not a thing.
He does get a little elitist with this “what we got degrees for unless we travel overseas for?” which feeds right into the whole bougie negro “must have passport” mantra, but you know, different strokes for different folks. I feel like this song sounds like it has popular potential but ignant niggas don’t like hearing about passports, wedding rings, and reverends in the midst of drug talk. It reminds me a bit of Janelle Monae’s “Yoga,” a song that sounded like it would kill the club except nobody wants to hear a song about yoga at 2am while Ciroc is being poured down their throat.
5. This may sound blasphemous, but Jidenna’s singing voice is LIGHTLY reminiscent of Sam Cooke. I’m NOT SAYING HE SOUNDS LIKE SAME COOKE. I’m just saying on songs like “Bambi,” where he’s singing, he kind of sounds like Sam Cooke and shit. Look, don’t be coming at me on some “P said this nigga Jidenna sounds like Sam Cooke.” I did not. I’m just saying I thought of Sam Cooke when he was singing about lions and shit. And no, “Bambi” is not about the Blackest Disney character of all time. Yes, Bambi’s shit was more Black than Simba. Real shit, Disney’s Bambi is really the 1942, animated version of Save The Last Dance starring Julia Stiles if she were a Black boy. I hear you looking at me right now, but trust me, it will make sense eventually. Thank me later.
That took such a left turn.
6. “Chief Don’t Run” is a dope an intro song as you’re going to get. No, it’s not “No Limit Soldiers” or “What Up, Gangsta,” but its triumphant and has the right open up your album feel. You will probably like this song.
7. “White N****s” is probably the most brilliant song I’ve heard in years. Premise? Jidenna turns the tables on white folks with some, “hey white folks, welcome to being Black…here’s what it looks like.” Also, there’s nothing more hilarious than singing “white niggaaaaaaaaaaaaaas” over and over again. The way he says “white bitchesssssssssssss” on this song also is very telling. It has emotion behind it. Trust me, I’m a blogger.
8. “White N****s” again. Look, if you want to know how smart and creative an artist is, you have to see how they flip old tropes and make them fresh. He managed to do that on this song. We always talk about what life would look like if white people had to face what we do. But we usually do it by putting them in the hood. He keeps white folks in the ‘burbs and attacks their red wine, golf clubs, dogs, and lacrosse.
This song is basically the song version of Jack Briggance's (Matthew McConaughey) closing arguments in A Time To Kill where Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) tells him to be white and shit so he goes in there and white people’s it up by having the jury picture a heinous rape happening to a little girl…then Sixth Sensing that shit by telling the jury to imagine that she’s white and the whole jury is like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not a white child!!!
Le sigh. I get mad thinking about that all over again.
9. Again, I’m not even sure how good I think the album is yet, but I know I’m impressed and surprised by his depth and how diverse it is in thought and execution. That alone is worth at least a listen. Just do it.