Published Feb 22, 2017Since the release of his breakout single "Classic Man" in 2015, American-born, Nigerian-raised rapper-singer Jidenna has been flying by the seat of his (well-tailored) pants. Despite facing several album delays, the 31-year-old artist has finally taken the lead on a debut album, titled The Chief.
The first Wondaland release not by label founder Janelle Monáe, The Chief is a quirky, experimental album characterized by Afrobeat bass lines, hip-hop deliveries and R&B-pop hooks. Jidenna opens here with "A Bull's Take," telling the personal story of burying his father over African rhythms. It's a telling introduction; both death and Afrocentrism are themes he threads throughout the album.
"Bambi" is influenced by Nigerian highlife and "Adaora" features a South American twist, but both channel love and lost. Jidenna attempts to empower women on the strip club-esque anthem "Trampoline," saying, "Just because she bounce it up and down like a trampoline, the lady ain't a tramp," and though it's something of a lyrical miss, it leads the way for later swaggering cuts like the Quavo-assisted trap cut "The Let Out" and the dancehall-infused "Little Bit More."
The politically charged "White N*ggas" offers a stark visualization of race relations in America, but falls flat in comparison to its counterpart "Long Live the Chief," which is driven by piercing bars that Jidenna summons once more on the menacing but too short "2 Points."
The Chief should feel disjointed and caught between worlds, but just as Jidenna uses hip-hop music to convey the story of an immigrant, he reaches across the globe to pull from seemingly disparate genres as he tells his tales. Surprisingly, Jidenna makes it work, commanding the listener's attention from start to finish. (Wondaland Records)