It feels like ages now since the surprise hit “Classic Man” first started blowing up the airwaves. Initially, I was not that big of a fan of the song. It really had to grow on me and it wasn’t until Kendrick hopped on the remix that I learned who the artist was behind it, and much like the song itself, I thought Jidenna was more of a gimmick than an actual artist. But thanks in large part to Luke Cage, I decided to give his music a chance and I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. His debut, The Chief, quickly became an album that I was looking forward to.
The Chief lies in the genre grey area that seemingly everybody is aiming for these days. In general I’d call it pop, but it blends in so many different elements from hip-hop, dance, R&B, and others that it becomes pointless to really try to categorize it. For the most part, they managed to turn all this genre blending into generally enjoyable music. “Long Live the Chief” is the song that was featured on Luke Cage and it’s jarring synths and aggressive drums immediately drew me to it, “Bambi” is one of my favorite songs off the album with it’s unique mix of old and new musical styles, and “Little Bit More” is his version of island music, a bit cliche but still good. It all has some elements of familiarity with stuff you’d hear on the top 40’s charts but it’s sum of parts elevates it all past generic.
“Mama put a little money in the mattress
Taught me how to make a silver spoon out of plastic
You can either sink, swim or be the captain
Get the last word I’mma get the last laugh in
Now they say “Jidenna why you dressing so classic?”
I don’t want my best dressed day in a casket”
Jidenna isn’t a straight up singer, nor is he a straight up rapper. He constantly switches between the two styles throughout The Chief and for the most part he does a fairly good job with both. He may not be a traditional singer, but he still creates some compelling melodies and his rhymes, although simplistic at times, are usually effective at punctuating a statement or sentiment. However, at times he can fall victim to the “master of none” syndrome that so many other similar artists struggle with. But his unique perspective and embracing of his cultural diversity masks that shortcoming.
Have you heard The Chief? What’d you think about it? Do you think he did enough to establish himself as a genuine artist? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the album.
The Chief was a strong debut from the 'Classic Man' singer that despite having some familiar elements of generic top 40's pop, did enough to create a mostly unique approach that I think solidified him as a legitimate artist, and not a gimmick.