Classic man Jidenna Theodore Mobisson, presents his debut album, The Chief, on Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Records. The 14 track record sees just 4 features across 57 minutes during which Jidenna takes on a breadth of musical stylings that contrast equally well with his two piece upbringing in Nigeria and Wisconsin.
The album is as much an autobiography as it is a sonic showcase, with Jidenna transitioning between rhythmic percussion-led rap songs, autotune-laden pop tracks and other flavors like a Spanish flamenco on “Adaora” or the AfroTropical pep on “Little Bit More.” Maybe a bit surprisingly, Jidenna manages these sounds effortlessly, and largely avoids compromising his knack for storytelling. Vignettes on cuts like “Long Live The Chief” are opportunities for the Stanford graduate to both run through the makings of his dapper dress while incorporating presidential wordplay at the end of the first verse.
“The Let Out” comes across as a staple track for radio play, with punchlines and fluctuating bass lines aplenty. “Then I spot her with the fur and ice like an Eskimo,” or “Eating fast food but we smoking on a vegetable,” are lines that’d comfortable nestle within the confines of a Big Sean project, but are almost welcome considering Jidenna never debases into the rudimentary descriptions of sex, violence or drugs that is so affixed to the rap genre.
Unfortunately, the characteristic clarity of Jidenna’s album is goes missing when he layers on the autotuned vocals. His ability to carry a melody amidst the uplifting handclaps and percussion on “Some Kind Of Way” or on the laid back love track “Bambi” typify Jidenna’s singing capabilities well enough that he could avoid the warbling on “Beware.”
Ultimately, Jidenna’s debut offering organizes enough of his influences into a unique style that rarely relies solely on musical nods from yesteryear. Against very intentional production that guides the melodies without overbearing baselines or on xylophone chimes and choral hums, Jidenna weaves a musical tapestry that captures civil unrest, personal motivation and romantic musings befitting for a renaissance man.
Notable Tracks: White Niggas, Adaora, Bambi & “A Bull’s Tale.”