Pulse Album Review Jidenna is Nigerian, before anything else on "The Chief" album

“The Chief” album, with its multi-ethnic elements, African inspiration and deeply personal storytelling, is a big win for Jidenna.

  • Published:
Jidenna - The Chief art cover play

Jidenna - The Chief art cover

(Instagram)
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Album – The Chief
Artiste – Jidenna
Record Label: Epic/Wondaland Records (2017)
Duration: 58 minutes

Jidenna and Chief Obi in 'The Let Out' video play

Jidenna and Chief Obi in 'The Let Out' video

(VEVO)

“Jidenna, how many times did I call you? You are a stubborn boy, just like your father...”

The album opens up with comedian Chief Obi in character as Jidenna’s Igbo uncle, who drops folk parables, and instills wisdom and paranoia in the young man who is back home to bury his late father in Nigeria.

When Jidenna took the journey to Nigeria in 2016, skeptics branded it as a marketing ploy to sell his album to a market that he had largely ignored until his album was on the horizon. Truth is, they were not wholly wrong. They were simplistic in their assessment.

Jidenna in Lagos play

Jidenna in Lagos

(Pulse)

 

Jidenna journeyed to Nigeria in late August last year, and on September 2, 2016, played a concert in Lagos, the city which unofficially commands relevance the capital of pop music in Africa.

He proceeded to Enugu, his hometown where he had fond memories of his childhood, to soak in the culture, interact with the people, and to gain new inspiration for the completion of the album.

Jidenna sets release date for debut album "The Chief" play

Jidenna sets release date for debut album "The Chief"

(Instagram)

 

That worked. It was both a marketing trip, and soul-searching for a singer and rapper looking to make his first full-length project capture his past, and the essence of his roots.

His late father, Theodore Mobisson was a tribal Igbo chief, which was a cultural mark of respect, and Jidenna, being the son of his father, he is channeling that greatness, and infusing it into his art. That’s why he's “The Chief” of music; the holistic manifestation of excellence, pride and leadership via the art.

Jidenna in Lagos play

Jidenna in Lagos

(Pulse)

 

The journey begins with Jidenna in Nigeria, documenting his return to Nigeria, backed by AK47-wielding security officers, and as the story unfolds on 'A bull's tale', rolled out by dark synths, African background chanting, and ominous drumming. “This motherfuckers wanna poison my soup, I wish I could trust em like the boys in blue, but in the villa, never eat what they give you. You’re with your fam, but your fam may not be with you.”

That line holds a ubiquitous Nigerian sentiment, and captures the paranoia that every Nigerian has as their default state.

 

Other references to the country and continent continue in both theme and sound. ‘Chief don’t run’ continues Jidenna’s quest for personal fulfilment as the new chief. ‘Trampoline’ is far removed from the continent, but its glorification of the female form is a common trait in Nigerian music.

Bambi’, with its languid sampling of old African Accapella, and references to ‘Lions in the jungle’ is straight out of the clichés of 80’s Igbo music. Only this time, it is polished and delivered for a diverse audience.

 

This is the classic Jidenna. He never left his roots. And he ceaselessly draws from it to create his music. Jidenna finds ways to incorporate these elements into different genres, with the most compelling being his work on ‘Adaora’.  Over morbid synths, and Arabic humming, he infuses Trap-elements and scores a beautiful love ballad which can both be enjoyed in the shisha bars of Caracas, and the night clubs of Washington DC.

This fusion can also be enjoyed in the tropical pop EDM of ‘Some Kind Of Way’.

 

Not everything is African and fusion. ‘White Nigga’, pierces through the very heart of what it is to be black, poor and disenfranchised in a racist America that seeks to keep a race in chains. He flips the script and imagines an alternate universe where the racial system is reversed and how it would feel to be white, but walk in the shoes of black people in modern day America.

For a singer who found his big break in ‘Classic Man’, a stereotypical radio single, Jidenna shows his talents stretch far from the clubs and into more niche and traditional spaces.

He excels in all that he touches, wearing many hats as a rapper, singer, and everything in between. And although those radio singles still remain a part of the discography, songs like ‘The Let Out’ does own the narrative on the album.

“The Chief” album, with its multi-ethnic elements, African inspiration and deeply personal storytelling, is a big win for Jidenna.

Rating - 4

Ratings

1-Dull
2-Boring
2.5-Average
3-Worth Checking Out
3.5-Hot
4-Smoking Hot
4.5-Amazing
5-Perfection