Jidenna Drops an Ambitious Debut With ‘The Chief’
Jidenna first created a buzz back in 2015 with a single entitled “Classic Man.” After experiencing success generated from the single, the newcomer sort of faded into the background. He quietly began to assemble together an album promo campaign, with one of his early offering being “Little Bit More,” a song that appears on his debut The Chief. While several singles were issued ahead of The Chief, the album arrives somewhat quietly. It shouldn’t be quiet at all as The Chief showcases ample potential from the Nigerian-American rapper-singer.
“Chief Don’t Run”
“A Bull’s Tale” begins with an intro, spoken in the Nigerian dialect. After the intro sets the tone, Jidenna begins to impart the hard-nosed tale. As an opener, “A Bull’s Tale” is a bit clunky. Even so, the ambition and aggressiveness of the rapper shouldn’t be underrated. “Chief Don’t Run” once more plays on the rapper’s Nigerian roots. Jidenna keeps the hook simple – one repeated lyric: “Oh the chief don’t run.” The rhymes are confident, evidenced when he spits:
“It’s my time, hit the gong out here / They gon’ need to build a bigger wall out here.”
Throughout the verses, keeps it real, all against fiery production work.
On “Trampoline,” the lyrical depth is real:
“The lady ain’t a tramp / Just cuz she bounce it up and down like a trampoline.”
Okay, so the depth of lyricism is suspect, but Jidenna gets his point across on the sexually-driven hook. For good measure, there’s a tacked-on interlude which references sex, specifically sperm, range, and pregnancy. Wow. Just wow.
“Bambi” is arguably the best song from The Chief up to this point. Rather than rapping, Jidenna sings, giving the album a different look. While everyone who’s been following the “Classic Man” knew he possessed both singing and rapping abilities, this is the first instance he focuses exclusively on singing. The only time he drifts from singing is the bridge, and there, he pop-raps briefly. Ultimately, it is a fantastic record that once more plays superbly into his Nigerian roots.
Two-part song “Helicopters / Beware” follows. At over six minutes in duration, it’s an ambitious listen. On “Helicopters,” Jidenna flaunts his toughness, even if it comes by way of The Lion King:
“I don’t f*ck around, don’t play no games / I’mma Lion King, awimbawe…”
On the second part of the record, “Beware,” Jidenna urges, “Young n*gga, beware.” The tone definitely changes, with “Beware” sounding more mysterious and unsettling. Furthermore, the tempo is slower.
“Long Live the Chief”
Things start to heat up, even more, beginning with “Long Live the Chief.” The brief record is among the crème de la crème of The Chief. “Long Live the Chief” gives Jidenna edgy production work to spit tough, unapologetic rhymes over. One of his best rhymes is addressing his fashion style:
“Now they say, ‘Jidenna why you dressing so classic?’ / I don’t want my best dressed day in a casket.”
Adding to the accomplished track is the catchy hook:
“N*ggas fighting over rings / N*ggas wanna be the king, but / Long live the chief…”
“Living like a Rolling tone, but I’m quite a Beatle.” Ah, bombastic Interlude “2 Points” follows, adding an exclamation point. Once more, Jidenna boasts a mean flow. “2 Points” precedes another gem, “The Let Out” featuring Nana Kwabena. On “The Let Out,” Jidenna focuses on picking up girls at “the let out” – after the club closes:
“Yeah, I’m running late so just meet me at the let out / Y’all tryna get in but I’m tryna get out…/ Preying on a fox, yeah a fox with her tail out / Ooh I can’t wait, I can’t wait until they get out / We be fresh as hell when we meet up at the let out.”
“Safari” showcases some of the cleverest lyrics by Jidenna. Safari is a play on words – a literal African safari, the internet browser, and of course, sex. He’s assisted by Janelle Monaé, St. Beauty, and Nana Kwabena. Even so, Jidenna is, far and away, the star – the focal point. “Safari” may not be the best of The Chief, but it is another winning moment without question.In addition to “Safari,” “Adaora” gives Jidenna another worthwhile moment. “Adaora” is in the same lane as “Bambi,” if a shade less compelling.
“Little Bit More”
Initially, when “Little Bit More” was released, it felt a bit underwhelming. Contextually, the record is more alluring. The production is a pro, fitting the consistent international music cues appearing throughout The Chief. Is “Little Bit More” the second coming? No, but respectable.
“Some Kind of Way” gives the rapper a slick club joint. It’s sound, but not necessarily among the elite. “White N*ggas” is the most socially-conscious record of The Chief. Here, Jidenna hypothetically flips black and white roles, making whites the victims of situations that typically affect blacks. It’s controversial, but give him credit for making a statement that resonates. “Bully of the Earth” uniquely concludes The Chief, with Jidenna referencing his father, former President Obama and seemingly, President Trump.
Ultimately, Jidenna exceeds expectations on The Chief. As aforementioned, early promo single “Little Bit More” did little to draw interest to the rapper’s upcoming project. But after taking the leap of faith and listening to the album, it is clear that Jidenna has a bright future. The Chief may not be perfect, but it is definitely a pretty doggone, good album.
Gems: “The Chief Don’t Run,” “Bambi,” “Long Live the Chief,” “2 Points,” “The Let Out” & “Little Bit More”