Written By: Fletcher Bonin
The earworm track and radio hit ‘Classic Man’ put Jidenna on hip-hop’s radar. As with this single, his debut studio album The Chief blends smooth flows and head bobbing vocals. The album, which runs fourteen tracks long, is a meticulously composed reflection of Jidenna himself. The album is diverse in style, Jidenna switching effortlessly between singing and rapping over melodic instrumentals. While Jidenna certainly has a tendency to verge on pop music in his style, I find The Chief to contain some truly deep tracks. Jidenna is still figuring out which style he best fits into, and maybe this is what makes for the purest music – rhythmic compilations of rap, R&B and pop. Without a doubt, The Chief showcases Jidenna’s artistic ability and the diversity of styles he is capable of mastering.
With features including Roman GianArthur, Nana Kwabena, St. Beauty and Janelle Monae, the album is diverse as its features. On some tracks Jidenna is sining clearly and beautifully, unaccompanied and with vocals that aren’t noticeably edited. Other tracks he goes completely auto-tune against a throbbing bass. On still other tracks he raps with a loose and pleasant flow. If nothing else, Jidenna proves a multitalented musical force. As far as the album goes, it makes for a somewhat eclectic overall effect. That being said, there were many track that I truly enjoyed, and I see nothing but potential for Jidenna on future studio productions. With The Chief Jidenna is unafraid of trying different styles, showing us everything he can do rather than what he can’t.
Each song is passable in the genre he chooses to embody for those three minutes or so. The issue is that none of them break the mold of any particular genre, but I fear they instead fade into two dimensionality, becoming mainstream background music. I want Jidenna to challenge the industry, because this album certainly proves that he has the multi-faceted chops to do so. Equally comfortable singing as he is rapping, often about emotional subject matter, I don’t see why Jidenna couldn’t rise to Drake comparisons.
However, the album is absolutely not devoid of loop-worthy tracks. My favorite it ‘White N****s’. This track features Jidenna’s best rapping and most heartfelt flow. It seems to be born of personal experience and is an interesting cross section of an often underrepresented or misunderstood cultural group. I also really liked the slow and enchanting ‘Bambi’ as well as the feature-stacked ‘Safari’. Jidenna has talent in spades, and maybe it’s not a bad thing that he leaves me wanting more.