Jidenna: Nigeria’s export to the world
Nigeria music has always been appreciated globally, but the level it is now accepted is unprecedented, so also are artistes from the country. This has robbed off on some acts, which are of the country’s origin but not base in Nigeria. One of such act is U.S-born recording artiste, Jidenna
There is no doubt Nigerians are so hyped about the music star, who believed to be one of Nigeria’s biggest exports to the world, hence there is good reason to be so much in love with ‘The Chief’, a title to his debut album, which was released February 17, 2017.
The 2016 Grammy Award nominee in the ‘Best Rap/Song Collaboration’ category, in his high school at Milton Academy, became a co-founder of the rap group, Black Spadez, and began producing, arranging and writing songs. He alongside the group released the first album as their final project in 2003.
In 2008, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, degree, he pursued his music career while working full-time as a teacher, moving between Los Angeles, Oakland, Brooklyn and Atlanta, before signing a deal with Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records.
He collaborated with a number of artistes that on the label, including Roman GianArthur, St Beauty, Deep Cotton and Janelle Monáe herself, before he began recording a five-song compilation of the label’s first extended (EP), titled, The Eephus.
In February 2015, he released first official single, Classic Man featuring GianArthur. The song was in heavy rotation throughout the United States and debuted at number 49 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-hop airplay chart and was nominated at the 58th Grammy Awards. The song also scored a pivotal scene in the movie, Moonlight.
On March 31, of the same year, he in collaboration with Janelle Monae released the second single, Yoga from the EP and they performed the song at the BET Awards, while he received an award for ‘Best New Artiste’ at the 2015 Soul Train Music Awards in November. The songs were distributed via a subsidiary, Epic Records.
Born on May 4, 1985, to a Nigerian father and an American mother, he was christened Jidenna Theodore Mobisson. The singer had his early childhood years in Enugu and Lagos before moving with his family to Boston, Massachusetts, at age six, after a kidnap attempt at his mother, Tama Mobisson.
His late father, Chief Oliver Mobisson, had made it from Nigeria to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through government fellowship, and upon his return, he created what was known as ASUTECH 800, one of the first computers to be manufactured in the country.
Upon his graduation from high school, he was accepted at Harvard University, but he decided to attend Standford University, where he began studying sound engineering before he switched his major to ‘Ritualistic Arts’
The singer recalled his dad, who was always very stern, became very irrational following a heart attack he suffered. He went from demanding perfect grades to berating his son for becoming first in his class: “Ah-ah, you’re number one, now what will you do? Now you can only go down from number one! Why are you number one?”
“Just like every other Nigerian father – No pressure. My father did something to my brain where I’m always searching for extreme excellence.”
According to Jidenna, he bonded with father over his ability to create music, and his father in the last months of his life, gave him some advice. “If you’re gonna do music, make sure you put a mirror to the world, so people see themselves. Make sure you invent yourself; you invent music that’s never been heard. Invent an album that’s never been done. If you are not innovative, then you are not my son,” he said.
Asked who exactly is a Classic Man? Jidenna said, “The ‘Classic Man’ is a distinguished gentleman. He keeps his gloves dirty but his hands clean. He is absolutely certain that less is more, that actions speak louder than words, and that quality is better than quantity.
“He avoids making excuses and accepts both praise and criticism with the same cool. He doesn’t like to complain unless it’s funny or interesting. A Classic Man is observant, so he is naturally concerned with the details of his appearance and the presentation of his reputation. Thus, he is sharp in mind, body, and style.”
The stylish singer stated his major influences include KRS-One and Big Daddy Kane as well as the Ghanaian Highlife music genre. Over the years, the singer developed his personal style in college, where he learned about the power of fashion from his psychology professor, Philip Zimbardo.
However, he would not adopt his signature dandy style until the death of his father in 2010. He describes his look as “heavily inspired by the Harlem Renaissance with hints of traditional West Africa design, and a marriage of European and African aesthetics,” he stated.
For anyone paying close attention, with a single song that matched his hyper-stylized image to a fault, Jidenna seemed to be the very model of a one-hit wonder. His debut album, The Chief, is a musical body of work that more justifies his extreme confidence.
The classic include the 90s-style banger Long Live the Chief, which Jidenna performed on an episode of Netflix’s Luke Cage, ‘The Let Out’ (with Quavo of Migos), and that wonderful single ‘Bambi’, a song about a married ex-girlfriend.
As a true Nigerian, Chief Jidenna like he calls himself loves to talk about his roots. He talks about it any chance he gets and flaunts it proudly. His ‘Classic Man’ swag is exemplified by his Nigerian traditional print outfits and style, as he incorporates these fabrics and designs his debonair look at every turn, inspiring a sense of pride in citizens of his birth country.
Apart from being an artiste and an entrepreneur, he plans to go beyond music even as he has a ‘100-year plan’ that includes fostering a tech boom in Africa. He is aggressive about being progressive and, like the true Chief that he is, Jidenna isn’t scared to talk his plans for the future. “I’m out here to rule a decade, bro,” he said.
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