Jidenna calls to attention with The Chief

Artist: Jidenna The Chief Release: Feb 17th 2017 Label:Wondaland Records/Epic

One could call this an album review, but really it’s just my first impression or reaction. I’ve been waiting for this album for like 2 years, so excited to listen to it. I love the singles/records and I expect a lot from the album.

As per usual with my reviews/reactions, below you will find each track and my honest thoughts.

A Bull’s Tale

Opens with a skit of Uncle Palmwine from Nigeria talking to Jidenna giving ‘advice’. These skits are woven throughout the album and are sometimes funny, sometimes confusing. The skit addresses Jidenna’s return home to bury his father and what that means for his safety. This also sets up the opening track that reflects this reality that burying his father in Nigeria would be dangerous for him due to his appearance. Literally he is worried about relatives trying to kill him. The record is heavy on rapping, jungle noises, and vocal distortion. It’s honestly an abrasive track, not that catchy or pulling me in, but it definitely stands out for a first track.

Chief Don’t Run ft. Roman GianArthur

I had already heard this record a few months back.I like this single, it’s rather simple track of Jidenna rapping and telling his story about him and his mom struggling when he was younger. It def gives a glimpse into his life. Its got a great beat and brings you in. Def bopping my head on this one.

Trampoline

First impressions is this song has a lot of dual vocals and auto tuning. The former I can fuck with, the latter, can be a bit much at times. Not just with Jidenna, but with artists in general.

The song itself is kind of a slow jam, with a 90’s sounding arrangement. There is singing in addition to rapping, but the more heavy on the singing. Lyrically, the song is speaking of a woman who bounces up and down like a trampoline, but doesn’t make her a tramp. An appreciation song of sorts. The record ends with another skit of Uncle Palmwine talking about ejaculating in a woman and getting a woman pregnant. It’s a bit nonsensical. I’m not sure how I feel about this ending. This uncle figure is kind of ridiculous in the way a lot of uncles of older age can be. Regardless, it’s an infectious song.

Bambi

The start of this is light and airy, basically an African lullaby. There is one point in the song that Jidenna’s sings this is a lullaby. Bambi is about his love for a particular woman, but how he is unable commit and will cheat on her. It’s a sad song to this beloved woman that he misses and wants back, but at the same time he knows he will hurt her. On first listen, I was not feeling this song, but after a second listen it totally grew on me and I find it endearing.

Helicopters/Beware

The track is about the Singing about the injustices of the world against him/black men? Although it starts with singing, it switches to a southern type of beat that drops during the chorus. It also includes that signature hip hop sound of altered thick background vocals repeating ‘hella coppers’. The rapping in this song is slow and chill, and def sounds like it’s from ATL. I like that it’s a sad song, but righteous at the same time. Switching between the melancholy of the chorus the drop beat of the post chorus is interesting.

Beware is basically an interlude where Jidenna is sing rapping with heavy auto tune. He delivers is line of lyrics one line at a time. Then the song starts to pick up a little steam, slowly moving forward with its groove. There is a long break in the middle of the record and then Jidenna gives us that that Tory Lanez type whisper and then the song ends. It’s kind of ethereal and sounds nothing like Helicopters. Its an interesting interlude. Almost a song in itself.

Long Live the Chief

I enjoy this single. It wasn’t a big hit for Jidenna, but I like the beat. It sounds older and gritty. I like the rap as well, it’s one long verse. It’s just him telling you who he is and why he is the chief. Definitely a head banger. I also love the references in here. It’s a fun song. My fav lyric is: ‘Now they say “Jidenna why you dressing so classic?” I don’t want my best dressed day in a casket’.

2 Points

Another steady rap to start this track. It def has an East Coast 90s vibe. All the samples are interesting as well. I can’t place them, but at the same time they feel familiar. Also, this track is kind of loud and abrasive. Content wise it’s a short rap with one longer verse, about those underestimating him and disrespecting him.

The Let Out ft. Nana Kwabena

Now this track is interesting, as it starts with rapping, with bogendorfer type sound of piano keys. Jidenna is giving us another ATL type of beat. The references are hilarious with James Bond, Honda Civic, Fast food, Weed, and Walgreens to name a few. It’s a steady boasting rap and fun to bob your head along. Not much stopping between lyrics, and has this riding beat. Boasting type of song.

Safari ft. Janelle Monáe, St. Beauty and Nana Kwabena

Safari begins with Jidenna singing beats and slowly singing. Here he discusses the realness of life and that there those that are up and some are low. Safari is in reference to the situation of partying and getting wild. Several feature guest vocals including Janelle Monáe. I enjoy the dual guest vocals, but it’s not a song that I would listen to on repeat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good track, but nothing to really keep your interest for an entire song.

Adaora

This a bit of a different record with an operatic inflection on the vocals. The singing is steady and moving forward and Jidenna extenuating the end of line of lyrics. In fact, this sounds more like Latin music, especially with the guitars. The content of this song is again about loving this woman so fully and wanting her to love him as much. It’s a beautiful sounding song.

Little Bit More

Because Jidenna put out so many singles before this album, I’m familiar with this track as well. It’s honestly one of my favorite songs. It’s definitely more of commercial friendly in its delivery. A very forward moving song, with a strong caribbean afrobeat beat. Also, traditional female vocals on the chorus. It’s just about loving a woman and lusting after her at the same time. Letting the beat overwash you and enjoying life.

Some Kind of Way

Another singing type of song, about others having opinions about you and there’s nothing you can do about it. This track has a light Carribean feel as well, but then drops an electronic type beat and Jidenna starts rapping. The beat gets louder and more hype as the song continues. Jidenna intertwines singing and rapping throughout the song and even a bit of clapping. I love that stuff. It’s a very uplifting or even fun song in the way that it is delivered, but the topic is not fun at all. Jidenna repeatedly says ‘I don’t want to be like you’ throughout the track. It’s an interesting song. I like it, but i’m confused by it at the same time.

White n*gg*s

Uncle Palmine back again! Here he discusses being a man or types of men. This is a very politically charged song addressing the privilege of white folks and injustices that are done to Black folks. Jidenna depicts a world where things were flipped and white crimes were treated like Black crimes. This track is dropping all types of truths about white folks and it’s piercing. The female vocals on the chorus are a bit of funny, singling “Whiiiiitee niiiigggaasss”. This track end with a skit towards the end of what it would be like if a family got raided. Not a song I would listen to much because it’s too real.

Bully of the Earth

For the end of an album, this one is not the most engrossing to me personally. Jidenna is talk singing/rapping about the state of the world and a particular bully and his experiences with him and how it affected his life. As with most of his songs on this album the track drops another pumped up beat. Then another change in tone/beat during the chorus. At this point he has a soft singing voice and ballady delivery. It softly fades out at the end.

Final Thoughts

This album is definitely genre bending. Not exactly what i expected, but it’s good. Probably not what others expected either. Most of his singles are commercially friendly, but I wouldn’t say all these songs are radio friendly. Jidenna likes to start songs and change the tone of them towards the beginning. Lots of experimentation and freedom. It’s refreshing. I like it, but not sure if I’ll be listening to some of the songs on repeat. But you can’t like them all! Although, on a second listen I definitely grew to like some of the songs more than the first listen through. All and all, a great record. I would definitely peg this album as Left Field Hip Hop because it’s a bit hard to pinpoint and put in a box.