Dapper Rapper: Jidenna is a name that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue at the end of the last decade. Prior to the pandemic, momentum was building for the besuited Wisconsin-born rapper; his song “Long Live the Chief” raised eyebrows when it showed up on the Marvel/Netflix show Luke Cage, and he also appeared on The Daily Show. 

A Coachella appearance in 2018 further cemented his standing as he toured the previous year’s The Chief album, and his reputation further soared in 2019 with the release of the 85 to Africa album. He was on his way. Then COVID happened and stunted his growth for a while.

“I think for me and some artists who had already been establishing a rhythm, it felt like that,” Jidenna says. “I think for new artists, COVID was the opposite. That was a moment for new artists to really emerge, and some of my close artist friends were able to do that. It’s been dope to watch. I think for me it was more like, ‘let me take this time and actually forget about the industry for a second.’ I did that. So on one hand, you can look at it like, ‘you didn’t really put out much product,’ which is true. But on the other hand, I had so much growth personally that I knew that when I did feel right and ready to put out new product, it would be something very different to what I’ve done. We’re here.”

That’s exactly where we are. Jidenna has just dropped new single “Blush,” with a new album ready to go. No release date yet, but we’re getting close. And thank god for that – it’s been a minute. Jidenna, as it turns out, has been using that time wisely.

“I have been living, I’ve been loving, I’ve been staying true to the lessons I learned during the pandemic,” he says. “Which was, life is really about the hang, hanging out, experiencing. So I think that in many ways I’ve been living in accordance to what I feel my natural life pace is as opposed to the American over-glorification of work. I’ve learned from my European and African fellows, who said that life is more about pleasure than it is just work. So I think that pretty much sums up what I’ve been up to.”

Good for him! That refreshed chill is evident on “Blush,” a song that was born out of a joke among friends.

“It started out as a joke about people not blushing the way that they did in the ‘90s or the ‘70s,” he says. “I wasn’t alive in the ‘70s, but I really always felt a kinship with that era. We joked about how nowadays people don’t blush or beg as much, especially cisgender hetero men, because everyone is swiping on everybody. Everybody’s explore page on IG is littered with other attractive people, whereas back in previous times, there was no explore page so if you saw somebody you were attracted to, this might be the last chance you have to ever see them. So we started out just by joking about that, about blushing, and the importance of men, specifically black men, to feel free to gush and get giddy about somebody they’re interested in. That’s how we came up with the song.”

The song, Jidenna says, is one of three singles on the docket, and all are representative of the forthcoming album.

“They come from different angles of it,” he says. “I’d say that the album by and large is a sensual, dreamy, funky but psychedelic album. A lot of my friends have described it as psychedelic soul. So I’d say that is the dominant sound, and essentially, it’s a story of me moving away from my fuckboi origins and a ho phase that I had right before the pandemic, and growing into somebody who could actually commit to somebody. The album is scenes from that kind of maturation process.”

Not only has Jidenna matured, and in turn his lyrics, but the music has noticeably evolved, too. The artist says there are a variety of reasons for that.

“I think that first of all, one stark difference is that the last record, I worked predominantly with Nana Kwabena, who is an amazing producer, DJ, director,” Jidenna says. “He’s always executive producing my projects. On this one, although he’s still executive producing, Roman GianArthur [Wondaland labelmate] took lead on the actual hands on production. That creates a difference in sounds, and you can hear Roman’s tastes throughout it, which is all those words I described – the funkiness, the soul, the depth, the playfulness. Also, I was producing the original sounds of this project. I’ve produced most of my life, but since becoming an artist, I’ve been on the road more and not as hands-on as I used to be. So this one, I started by being hands-on and then Roman kind of took it away.”

While we had him on a call, and because it was Women’s History Month when we spoke, we asked Jidenna about the incredible female talent currently blessing hip-hop.

“Women obviously have always been amazing writers, artists, producers, but men have historically blocked access,” he says. “Literally blocked access to the computer in my generation. We have less than 2 percent of engineers and producers in the industry that are women. That doesn’t reflect how many women are able and willing to create sound design. It means we’re missing out on a whole bunch of music designed by women. That’d change the face of music production. But in addition, I’d say that a lot of my favorite artists from the US or UK, like Little Simz for example, are women rappers. Women in the US are on a whole other level because there are so many now. I can’t wait to see how it evolves in the next few years.”

Jidenna has a US tour lined up for the summer, and Europe is next. He’s back on track, up and running. The album, he says, will be a soundtrack to people’s summer – and more.

“Most of all, for their baby-making moments or their love-making, or their road trip moments,” he says in conclusion. “And as soon as this album rolls out, I’m going to hit people with another one. Since I’ve been quiet for so long.”

He’s not quiet now!

Dapper Rapper: Jidenna’s ”Blush” single is out now.













































































































































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