Jidenna may appear at first to be just a well-dressed gentlemanly rapper, but his dandy style goes way beyond clothing, as fully explained in his manifesto. With a name meaning to “embrace the father” in Igbo, the Nigerian-American is making the illusions of standards, expectations, and boundaries magically disappear as he embraces and expresses his own inner father-figure.
This classic man brushed-off a record deal to attend Stanford University, majoring in sound engineering and ritual arts. Jidenna is hitting the scene hard as a solo act right now, but he is also part of a much larger artist collective that transcends political nationalities, industry labels, fashion movements, even time and space.
Over a decade ago, Jidenna joined close friends Milan ‘Whippa’ Wiley, Daniel Callahan, Fluent, Nana, Keteri, and all the “Chiefs” and “Madams” (the pallbearers and mourners seen in Long Live the Chief) in forming Fear & Fancy; performance art, mixtapes, and delivering a renewed tradition of ancient ritual to the art of partying is their speciality. They don’t just bring the noise, they bring out the true energy that lies buried deep within the emotion of fear and transform it into something excitingly fun and fancy. For a beautiful explanation of all that is Fear & Fancy, check out Kathryn Buford’s illuminating article from her time spent with Whippa Wiley in Flatbush.
Janelle Monáe took notice of this troupe, and years later they collaborated. Monáe’s Wondaland Records (in partnership with Epic Records), released an EP called The Eephus in August 2015, which featured an eclectic collection of tracks from each of the artists on the label. They are carrying the identity-transcending torches lit by the late, great elders, Prince and David Bowie, and loving every minute of it. Jidenna won Soul Train’s Best New Artist award in 2015, and has since performed live on various shows, with and without Janelle Monáe, most recently on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah last month.
The buzz around Marvel’s Luke Cage series exposed Jidenna to a much wider audience. He appeared on stage at a nightclub performing Long Live the Chief demo-style for crime boss Cornell Stokes (aka Cottonmouth). The official emotion picture (the new term for ‘music video’ as coined by Wondaland) already has over 6 million views on his VEVO channel, and viewers are commenting daily about their newly discovered love of Jidenna via episode 5 of Luke Cage.
Directed by the uber-famous hip hop video guru, Benny Boom, the visuals are crisp, the timing to the movements of the coffin impeccable, and the representative message matches the lyrics perfectly. Another stunning Jidenna emotion picture directed by Boom is Chief Don’t Run, which feels more like a mini-biography (perhaps a preview of what Boom’s upcoming Tupac bio-pic might look like).
Jidenna hasn’t even dropped an album yet, but the listening party was in August, so it’s got to be coming soon. When it releases, it will introduce an alternate universe to hip hop, creating depth through a spectrum of emotions, inspiring a new era of artful expression combined with ancient wisdom.
For a good dose of historical fun, take a trip back in time and scour the pages of the “before they were famous” blogs for The Wondaland Arts Society and Fear & Fancy. You gotta love that they left these pages floating on the internet for us to find; like stumbling into a well-hidden ancient temple and reading the walls in search of an origin story. Enjoy!
If you loved this video, then you will definitely love watching I Know by Blood Orange.