Don’t Sleep On Jidenna’s Eclectic Debut ‘The Chief’
[Album]: The Chief
Overall Grade/Rating: 7.8/10
Subject Matter: 9/10
Replay Value: 7.5/10
Fav Songs: Trampoline, Helicopters, White N*ggas
Least Fav Songs: Adaora
Spin or Skip: Spin
People have been waiting for a debut project from Jidenna ever since he appeared on the scene wit “Classic Man” in 2015. The Wondaland Records-signee finally delivered his debut in the middle of February, The Chief. And it serves as a pretty solid introduction into who Jidenna is as an artist and person. The American-born, Nigerian-raised rapper gives us glimpses into his personal life, his vulnerability, as well as a bit of social commentary. But there are also plenty of upbeat and fun tracks sprinkled in between.
The Chief is a bit of an experimental album, showcasing the rapper’s eclectic taste. Things from Afrobeat bass lines, trap influences, R&B-pop hooks, to influences from artists like Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte. There is a mixture of sounds and influences on this project that really does work. Jidenna comes out the other end of this establishing himself as a true original.
The introductory track, “A Bull’s Tale,” gives us a look into his childhood, growing up in Nigeria. The production is primal and gritty and carries this African chant-like vibe. The song actually paints a pretty interesting picture. He carries these influences all throughout the album, mixing them in with other influences, creating a real unique sound. The next song, “Chief Don’t Run,” carries a lot of the same ideas, both lyrically and production-wise.
One of the standout tracks for me is “Trampoline,” and it almost has everything to do with the content and meaning of the song. At its core, the song is really about not slut-shaming women. “The lady ain’t a tramp/Just cuz she bounce it up and down like a trampoline,” he says during the chorus. It’s not something we hear from a lot of male rappers and it’s really quite refreshing to hear. The production sounds like something out of a broadway show, pulling from the Sinatra-like influences.
“You ain’t even gotta vent
I know baby you spent
Anyone work hard as you
Got a right to get lit
She might even have a wedding ring
Or a doctorate in medicine
Or the daughter of the reverend
Or the daughter of the president“
“Bambi” also sticks out in a similar way, in that it’s Jidenna’s attempt at being more vulnerable that he is on any other song. It also doesn’t sound like any other love/romantic song you’ve ever heard. Again, his influences make the song truly unique with this doo-wop-era feel. It’s almost like a hypnotiq lullaby love song.
The second to last song on the tracklist, “White Ni**as,” is probably the strongest bit of social commentary on the entire album. Over some production that sounds very different from anything else that is on the album. But it’s a nice change of pace.
“Say if you and your wife, Madeline/Were treated just like mine/All the anchors on ABC Nightline would speak about White crime/We’d see videos every night of handcuffed White boys in the night time/Hope you know how to fight crime, 911’s no longer your life line.”
Jidenna does a lot on this debut album. You’re going to hear a lot of different sounds meshed together on this project. Only a couple of songs fail to really grab my attention. Regardless, it is definitely a debut worth checking out.