Two years after “Classic Man”, Jidenna has finally given fans new music with the release of his debut album, The Chief. With a sound inspired by his Nigerian roots, he delivers a compelling story about leadership, inheritance, and African culture. A first listen of the album is good and it gets better over time. This album gives fans a more in-depth perspective on who Jidenna is outside of his notable hit. He gives intelligence, he gives bounce, and he gives culture wrapped up into fourteen tracks.
1. A Bull’s Tale
“When you are in the village, you are with family/ But your family may not be with you”
The album begins with a speech from his Uncle Palmwine, warning him of the dangers of returning to Nigeria. He lets it be known that he has enemies on his back and that even family cannot be trusted. The song broadcasts his paranoia and fear as he returns to Nigeria to bury his father. In 2010, his father passed away and he falls next in line to carry the family’s name. It seems that growing up in America has garnered certain expectations from his family members and other citizens of Nigeria. The song does a good job of showcasing his storytelling skills and the production is discordant and loud, underscoring the sense of paranoia and anxiety he feels.
2. Chief Don’t Run
“Before the red cups and the backwoods smoke/ Me and mom in the shack in the woods, bro”
He is no longer running from enemies, but facing them head on. He details his life of poverty and how he has worked hard to get to the place that he is now. Part of becoming a chief entails facing his challenges head on. Jidenna seems to be making a stand in this song, standing by his family name. The production on the song is very African inspired through the singing and drums used in the background. The auto tune and overall vibe is very reminiscent of Kanye West’s fourth album, 808s and Heartbreaks.
“The lady ain’t a tramp/ Just cuz she bounce it up and down like a/ trampoline”
This song delineates from his personal life and is more of a fun, bouncy track for the ladies. He wonders why a woman is judged for being assertive and going after what she wants. The woman he describes seems to be promiscuous in nature and exudes confidence and sex appeal. He could be talking about a stripper, but his description is too vague to be certain. The outro of the song is his uncle again, speaking of sex and how there are some women who will trap men by getting pregnant. He seems to take on the role of a scientist, attempting to teach Jidenna about how the female and male organs work. While his lesson is important, his vocabulary makes it comical.
“My dear, my dear, my dear”
With an island sound, this sad song addresses his inability to be faithful. The song makes certain references to his grandfather, a polygamist with seven wives. He blames his inability to be monogamous on his duty to uphold the reputation of grandfather, as well as, his masculinity. However, his indiscretions come at a great cost when he loses the love of his life. His jealousy rears its ugly head as he refuses to let her go off and be happy.
“Hella, hella coppers wanna chop us, chop us, chop us”
This song seems to be Jidenna’s call to battle. He establishes himself as a force, warning his enemies not to underestimate him. The song is very dark and has a trap sound with its use of bass. The beat switches and takes on a slower pace on the second part of the song, “Beware.” He acknowledges his enemies need for blood. However, he does not appear shaken. In fact, he recognizes the hate within his enemies with the line “I see light in you, my nigga, ah yeah, I see the glare.”
6. Long Live the Chief
“Niggas fighting over rings/ Niggas wanna be the King, but/ Long Live the Chief”
This is another song that dabbles in harsh production. It’s one long verse in which Jidenna is braggadocios in nature. It’s an ode to his ability as a leader, acknowledging the authority and power that he wields. In an interview with the Breakfast Club, he also confirms that the song is an ode to former President Barack Obama.
7. 2 Points
“I want my other 2 points man/ That’s a 98 boy, where the other 2 points?”
The previous song merges into this one as he addresses backstabbers and fake friends. The entrance of the song is reminiscent of the musicality used in certain Japanese movies during fight scenes. His flow is very similar to Drake’s and he urges people to keep it 100 with him when they are at 98, stating, “I want my other 2 points baby.” He seems to be calling out one person in particular, someone who he thought was a friend.
8. The Let Out ft. Nana Kwabena
“All hunt and all prey . . . Why they looking at the wave. . . Y’all can bring it our way”
This song acknowledges the club scene or at least a spot in particular where people have fun. He describes an event where people make spectacles of themselves as women have on their best outfits and men stunt. The sound is very similar to the sound that artists like the Migos are notable for.
9. Safari ft. Nana Kwabena, St. Beauty, and Janelle Monae
“Bookmarks all up in Safari/ The don’t want me going too far”
He details a night gone wild, so much so, that he compares it to the jungle. It could also be a play on words as he is establishing himself as a party animal. The song’s production is very bouncy and playful and he plays on the song’s name by utilizing safari sounds in the background. Nana Kwabena, St. Beauty, and Janelle Monae harmonize perfectly on the bridge and chorus.
“I never let a woman come in that deep in my heart”
This song gives off Spanish soap opera vibes as Jidenna professes his love for a woman who has caught his eye. He demonstrates the intensity of their relationship through their ability to love one another through their flaws. Interestingly enough, Adaora is a Nigerian female name that means daughter of the people.
11. Little Bit More
“And I’ma need the whole night/ And a little bit more”
He showcases an influx of different sounds from Bollywood to Caribbean to African. The song has pop influences and is more of a dance track as Jidenna urges a woman to let her hair down. The song really embodies his pride in his African heritage.
12. Some Kind of Way
“Now they wanna live like you/ Up in the club gettin’ lit like you/ Wanna talk shit like you”
Another dance track, the message is targeted towards the haters who always have an opinion. He notes that these are the same people that will jack your style and diminish your shine. The song’s message seems more suited for a traditional hip hop beat than pop. However, the production gives off a carefree aura, one in which a person should ignore the criticisms of a hater and live their life.
13. White Niggas
“Say if you and your wife, Madeline/ Were treated just like mine/ All anchors on ABC Nightline would speak about white crime”
He opens up the song with another lesson from Uncle Palmwine, who discusses circles and how a man should set his sights on world domination. He uses role reversal and puts the black experience and oppression on to white people. Topics like police brutality, drugs, and random house raids come up and there are also certain stereotypes that he employs with each race. The correlation between Uncle Palmwine’s message and the song is a bit unclear. However, this could be a critique on the colonialism exhibited by white people for years and their goals for world domination.
14.Bully of the Earth
“I thought you were the bully of the earth/ But you were just a man”
Jidenna caps off the album with another song that pulls on his intellectualism and world views. He addresses various issues from Donald Trump being elected as the president to the representation of black people in the media. The song transitions into a voice laughing, stating that the chief fooled everyone. The bully in question could be Donald Trump and the wool he pulled over his voters’ eyes. However, this could also be in reference to the materialism and womanizing that permeates most of the album and how it masks his intelligence. He croons that a man does not become a man until his father passes and a woman doesn’t become a woman until she makes her mother cry. A beautiful string instrumental accompanies the song as it fades out the album.
The Chief is all about being a leader, whether it be of one’s household, a country, or having authority over one’s self. While the album starts off with his fear and apprehension of upholding his family’s name, he soon gets used to the idea and takes it with pride. What is so great about the album is his use of African heritage and culture. From references to sound, he really hones in on that particular side of his identity, demonstrating his pride. This album is also an ode to the men in his family, particularly his father and grandfather. In his Breakfast Club interview, he gives a brief history on his grandfather, who was an entrepreneur and his father, who was an engineer. It appears that Jidenna wants to follow in the footsteps that his grandfather and father have set out for him. The album also seems to be promoting a particular lifestyle, one in which the chief is a man of style, intellect, and reputation. This is a great album that gets fans over the stigma that is “Classic Man”, displaying that he is more than just a one hit wonder. The Chief can be found on Spotify, ITunes, and other streaming services.