It's almost a prerequisite for great albums of today to be genre-bending - after all, an entire movement of R&B has been inspired by Drake and his contemporaries fusing R&B and rap. And while at first, it seems like Jidenna fits right in with the alternative-R&B emersion, The Chief sets Jidenna apart as a complex, experimental explorer whose music is filled with nuance, history and breakneck-speed genre shifts.
In fact, in the last song from The Chief, Jidenna raps, "Too many rebels just follow convention, I thought it was all about breakin' tradition. I never believed it's all money and bitches," and that's what he's set to prove on this effort. Breaking rap and R&B conventions one track at a time, the album is a journey from his Nigerian home back to his Wisconsin birthplace; navigating racial boundaries ("White Niggas"), political challenges ("Bully of the Earth") and combating misogyny ("Trampoline").
Jidenna represents an earnest fusion of genres and samplings that's broad and extensive to a level unmet today. "Little Bit More" is a tropic R&B underlay featuring a pulsating Afrobeat and Nigerian pidgin English intertwined with his English lyrics. These unique stylings are further featured on songs such as "Adaora" (with an intro remniscent of Senegalese singer Baaba Maal's collaboration with Mumford and Sons from last year).
"Bambi" has a cadence on par with Beyonce's chipper yet slow "Hold Up," and the jazzy, bluesy perfection of Leon Bridges. It's a gentle sway with safaric lyrics and metaphorical excuses.
"Chief Don't Run" is an anthemic retort with Kanye-like prances and accompaniments, clever and fast words that are similarly featured alongside strong jazz attacks in "2 Points" and juxtaposed by songs that were built for dancing and feature pop influences.
The Chief has had two years of lead-up (its first single "Long Live the Chief" was released in 2015) and Jidenna's slow climb up the music ladder makes the overwhelming versatility unexpected at the least. At its lows, The Chief verges on unfocused or unconnected, but it's almost entirely a thoroughly interwoven album with varying levels. The exposure to such varying music styles and music cultures is a gift, with The Chief acting as an exemplar, proving no genre lines can't be crossed.