The Netflix series Luke Cage did a fantastic job maximizing the musical environment it presented. One of the show stopping performances was Jidenna who absolutely tore it down. My wife looked at me and said “That guy is GOOD.” All I could do was shrug. I don’t listen to the radio at all so I had heard Classic Man once and moved on. I had no reference point for dude but I stored that moment in my head and when his new album The Chief dropped it was at the top of my list to check out.
The Chief is not a cohesive album. This is not a walk through a specific story that gets you to know the narrator. This is the flexing your muscles album (less Good Kid Maad City more Section 80). Everything about it feels different. If I say that this is one of those threats that can sing and rap you’ll rightly say…that’s a lot of people. The difference is this dude is the son of a Nigerian scientist, his knowledge of African sonic textures gives him a totally different base he sings from. Adaora moves like Salsa but maintains the precious emotional center a Nat King Cole song has.
The unignorably brilliant stuff begins going through tracks two, three, and four. Two is called Chief Don’t Run and features Roman GianArthur on the hook. It is a straight ahead rap banger with punch lines to spare. The beat absolutely tramples and then it leads into the biggest pop hit on the album. Trampoline you’ll never get out of your head and the rewarding thing about it is that it takes the shape of a traditional slut shaming anthem while being the absolute opposite. Example, “Anyone who works hard as you got the right to get lit. She might even have a wedding ring or a doctorate in medicine or the daughter of the reverend or the daughter of the president!(Trampoline)” Usually, banging pop anthems about women are condescending at their best but Jidenna doesn’t function like other people and definitely doesn’t care for expectations. Trampoline would easily be the best song on The Chief if Bambi didn’t come next. I can’t stop listening to it. My only reference point was Harry Belafonte calypso but my wife says that’s not right. She says the only thing she’s ever heard that reminds her of Bambi is The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The difference is this song is actually full on engaged in a discussion about relationships and loneliness.
Jidenna is very cool. He dresses cool, makes money and intellectually defends all of it with very cool one liners. The last two songs on the album (White Nigga & Bully of The Earth) are very intelligent without ever dipping into pretention. Underneath the sleekness The Chief definitely talks about how detached he gets from traditional relationships and the defenses he puts up against people who get too close. A lot of people who listen will likely never even engage The Chief on that level because of its snazzy wrapping paper. Jidenna doesn’t mind. This time around he wants you to know he can hit homeruns with or without Janelle Monae. Point made.
Stream or pay for this great album below: