“My first seven years [developmental years] were spent in Enugu, Nigeria before I moved to the United States so that means I learned all the primary things here first. It means I learned how to speak English here first, I learned to walk here, my facial expressions come from here, I gained wisdom from Aunties and Uncles here so by the time I got to the U.S everything I saw was from a Nigerian perspective or a wider African lens.” —Jidenna
The highly regarded musician was in Nigeria to promote his new album 85 to Africa He spoke to CHISOM NJOKU while there
Jidenna is posted up at a private venue in upscale Lagos where a barrage of influencers and media personalities are eagerly waiting for their allotted 10 minutes with the star.
He is in Lagos for a short while hosting a surprise pop up to promote his new album 85 to Africa but within that time he has to fit a truckload of activities into his tight schedule including an extensive interview with The Guardian Life. The solution to this dilemma is a ride-along through the quiet inner streets of Ikoyi.
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He is warm and welcoming as we’re both seated at the back seat and the driver takes off. The first thing I notice is his aura which immediately puts me at ease and also this being his second feature in the magazine, he was just as calm so we conversed like friends who had been previously acquainted and were just reconnecting.
After a few laughs, we dove right into the interview and of course, the first question pertains to his new less formal look.
Based on several observations, fans of the artiste believed he had changed from the three-piece suit-wearing gentleman they were introduced to on his chart-topping song Classic Man to a more in tune, outspoken intellectual yet he insists that he is one and the same but adds that fans were just getting to see the other side of him.
“I’ve never not been whoever I am now, this is what was under the suit. Everyone around me knows this is who I’ve always been.”
Jidenna maintains that the formally dressed man the fans fell in love with is still very present but he’s just showing another side of him and his multifaceted personality and style.
Even on the song, everyone makes reference to, Classic Man, he insists that there were subliminal hints to indicate that there was more to him than meets the eye.
“On the song, I said keep your gloves dirty but your hands clean. I was just keeping my hands clean then but I already knew everything I wanted to do.”
Finding A Balance
For most Africans in the diaspora, the problem of identity is ever prevalent because most of them are labeled as too American to be African and too African to be American so they feel out of place a lot of the time because what they can make out of the situation is simply that they don’t fit in anywhere. Jidenna has been able to overcome this mentality and credits his knowledge of self to the fact that he is connected to his roots.
“My first seven years [developmental years] were spent in Enugu, Nigeria before I moved to the United States so that means I learned all the primary things here first. It means I learned how to speak English here first, I learned to walk here, my facial expressions come from here, I gained wisdom from Aunties and Uncles here so by the time I got to the U.S everything I saw was from a Nigerian perspective or a wider African lens.”
He clarifies that merely being born in Africa doesn’t make you more cultured or literate about African history than Africans in the diaspora because to truly understand the intricacies of the African continent, you have to read and research as it is so much more than what you are born into.
“Many Africans are miseducated in Africa too, just because you’re African doesn’t mean you know traditional African history. Most people only know what was fed to them by a colonized education system.”
“It’s important to be properly educated because not only do we [Africans] not know African history, we don’t know black American history and the struggles and sacrifices they made so Black people everywhere could have rights, the feeling of not being wanted in the country you call home and having no flag, no land and to have Africans say you’re not African, that hurts them.”
Jidenna strongly believes that everything is open to scrutiny and to truly understand Africa and her people, you need to ask as many questions as possible because that’s the only way you can ever truly learn what is and what’s not.
“Question everything that you thought was Black or African or Nigerian because that’s the only way you can find true answers. If you’re trying to properly understand Nigeria, you have to go through the history of different ethnic groups because these groups have been in existence before Nigeria was amalgamated.”
The Point Of Realisation
What most people don’t know about Jidenna is the fact that he has a working plan and a time frame within which he has set goals for himself which he intends to achieve in record time and it’s safe to say he’s on track.
For a lot of people, the response to a setback is usually wailing and regret but for Jidenna, he had to rise to the occasion after he was evicted by ‘racists’ from a mansion in Atlanta he was leasing to make music due to negligence from the property manager in the summer of 2017.
This incident left a disheartening image in his head and marred the last memories he had before going on his U.S tour. He then did a couple more shows in Africa where he decided to stay back and enjoy the African continent.
“It as an eye-opener to be put out of a home at this level of success by extreme racists who went as far as threatening my producer’s life right before I went on my U.S tour and then I started doing a couple shows in Africa. I was like forget it, I don’t want to go back there [U.S] and also Donald Trump is president so I just decided to stay on the continent.”
Finding The Way Back Home
While in Africa, Jidenna shuttled between various countries within his first few months on the continent and all the experiences he picked up from his travels formed the album “85 to Africa”.
“I decided to stay out here on the continent and I lived between a few countries for six months. I started in Nigeria and then I lived in South Africa for a while before moving on to Swaziland, Mozambique, and Namibia. These six months on the continent helped to shape the album that became 85 to Africa.”
Jidenna proudly recounts how every city and every country he visited played special roles and contributed to the completion of the album.. To tell the story properly, he had to start at the very beginning of his journey which was home in Nigeria. Multiple tracks on the album were inspired by his personal experiences in Nigeria.
“There are a few tracks that have soul samples especially the hip hop tracks that were inspired by the stories and experiences I had in Nigeria.” “The first record is called Worth The Wait and it features Seun Kuti, I implored him to collaborate and bless the album”“The song 85 to Africa is a Fela sample, the rhythm and sounds on Zodi and Sufi Woman, of course, are directly inspired by Nigerian music..”
Read more from source The Guardian