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Jidenna’s long-awaited debut album, February’s The Chief, is as extravagant and upscale as the man himself.
The “Classic Man” crooner made an indelible impression — with the reddest of tresses and the most immaculate of suits — when he first arrived on the music scene in 2015 via Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Records. In practically no time, the song had garnered him instant fame — as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration — faster than anyone ever anticipated. But Jidenna, who spent part of his adolescence growing up in Norwood and Milton before moving to New York post-college, drives home a grandiosity on The Chief that is idiosyncratic, harmonious, and extremely refreshing.
“The chief is really my father and my grandfather,” Jidenna told NPR back in March. “It’s also my highest self — the best parts of them in me. My father came from a village, and then he and my mother worked hard to create a middle-class upbringing for us. Sometimes we were below the poverty line; sometimes it was an EBT card that we were using for my pops’ groceries. But we did get to a decent middle-class life and we did — my siblings [and I] went to great schools.
He added that a “chief,” in this context, also “comes from a place of love, oddly enough, but it is the darkness that can occur in somebody when they’re defending the people they love.”
And that’s evident all over the record.
The despondency of “Bambi” is eclipsed by the elastic buoyancy of “Long Live The Chief;” the escapist nature of “Safari” is grounded by the brutal realities narrated in “Chief Don’t Run.” Jidenna’s versatility as both as a vocalist and lyricist is impressive; he avoids Drake level cheesiness by keeping his rhymes meticulous and carrying himself with the kind of bombast fit for a king.