For a guy who only signed his first record deal a year ago with Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records, American rapper, Jidenna sure has blown up fast. Whether it’s his eye-catching style, outspoken views (that open letter to Nigerians springs to mind) or his great chart-topping singles, Jidenna is one of 2015’s standout acts. Grab a seat and find out why we just can’t get enough of him.
1. He’s got Janelle Monáe on speed dial
Well, we assume so since she’s his boss. Janelle Monáe scooped up Jidenna in 2014 for Wondaland Records, the indie label that she heads up. Not only is Jidenna part of some history making ish at Wondaland (Janelle recently announced a joint venture with Epic Records making her one of the only females running an independent label and partnering with a major) but for goodness sake he gets to hang out with Janelle Monáe all day every day. Need we say anymore?
2. Dude has style
“Classic Man” isn’t just a song, Jidenna is living it. From his penchant for three-piece suits – a habit he picked up from his father – and suave beard, he’s got a first class degree in style. Needless to say, he gets the ladies’ attention (and we’re sure a few men’s too). Speaking to The Fader, Jidenna revealed: “Some of the earliest pictures I have are of me in a suit in Nigeria, when I was like five or six years old, with my father. He used to wear three-piece suits and walk with a cane.”
2. He made yoga sexy
Forget about singing about relationships, chilling with the crew or shaking booties for the 10,000th time. The Massachusetts crooner is writing songs about yoga. How’s that for breaking fresh ground?
Now, it’s easy to dismiss yoga as something middle-aged housewives do to “find themselves” but let’s be real, it takes some skill to hold those positions – have you ever tried to do the One-Legged King Pigeon Pose? With some help from Janelle Monáe, Jidenna puts the sexy back into yoga in the same way Sisqo did for thongs.
4. He has his own secret society
The layers just keep getting deeper. It’s not really a secret society, but Jidenna is one of the founding members of “Fear and Fancy” a social club for artistic types and freethinkers. It’s the hip hop answer to Skull & Bones.
Now, you may think this is all for the LULZ, but the real innovators, the cultural movements that found whole genres and churn out entire cliques of artists, this is where they start. If you want another Parliament / Funkadelic, another Motown, another Cotton Club, this is how you get one. Don’t question the natural order, just be glad you don’t have to be the one getting your hands sticky with the ritual sacrifices.
5. KRS-One is his G.O.A.T
If you catch a whiff of the intellectual off the man’s lyricism by now, that’s because KRS-One is Jidenna’s biggest musical influence. Both prickly thinkers and outspoken activists, they share a passion for social justice. Jidenna recently took to the streets of Philly to lead a protest against police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Jidenna also namechecks none other than Big Daddy Kane as inspirational force. We all know that Kane was part of the golden age and one of the founders of the way and by the looks of it so far, Jidenna and the Wondaland crew are heading up a new movement.
6. He proudly reps his African roots
For many people Africa is continent of mystery and unfortunate negative stereotypes. So, you can understand exactly why here at VerbalVixen we love to see celebrities give the Motherland a positive shout out, and Jidenna has made no secret about his mixed Nigerian-American roots and experiences growing up in Nigeria:
“I am, always have been, and always will be proud of my Nigerian heritage…My name is Jidenna, which means “to hold or embrace the father” in Igbo. It was my father who gave me this name and who taught me countless parables, proverbs, and principles that made me the man I am today.”