Review - WHY JIDENNA MATTERS.
WHY JIDENNA MATTERS.
by Addi "Mindbender" Stewart
It was a beautiful-ass Saturday. Sun was shining almost as much as these unbelievably beautiful Toronto women, men and people. Beer flowing, ganja burning, good vibes gwanning. It didn't rain, even though the Screwface done been feeling wetter than Vancity this year, and the adjoining lake was nearly spilling over onto the beach sand. But the show must go on, and that it did. ManifesTO Year 11 was underway, and its a blessing for the city to have, since not every other city has such a long-running indie music festival. Sure, it isn't perfect, but nothing is in hip hop or the music industry of 2017, so we gotta take the good with the bad, and make the most of what we have. And what we had on this wonderful pre-summer afternoon was a performance by one of the illest, tightest, slickest, smartest, and freshest motherfuckers in the whole damn music game: JIDENNA.
I sadly missed Matthew Progress (shoutout to the homie, peep his new song 'Le Fog') & Tika Simone (big up to the sistren, peep her video 'LWY'. Toronto music, know that shit.)
But I did NOT miss the performance of the artist that is arguably almost everything RIGHT about the modern music industry, and almost nothing else. As the afternoon sunshine glistened over the flood waters and the crowd sipped their tall cans, the DJ stopped the warm-up vibes dem, and let the musicians take center stage. Then, with smile dialed up to a hundred thousand, a tan colored three-quarter length stylish-ass African garment of some sort, with the matching pants of the same Afro-futurecloth material, dapper shoes, Saturday night slick hair-do, and just everything done up fucking proper, a star was born again on that stage in that moment. In the immortal words of Eddie Murphy: SHOWTIME!
Honestly, the music was fucking incredible, from the first song to the last. It need not be subject to any doubt, skepticism or critical questioning, not in the fucking slightest way.
Confident, funky, soulful, harmonic, diverse, introspective, surprising, skilled, unified, lyrical, emotional, brash, sophisticated, innovative yet familiar... all you could ever want.
I was so damn ecstatic about witnessing the Jidenna Experience, I didn't stop to take any notes, record a Snapchat clip, take a Instagram picture, not even a picture for myself.
Those eight or nine songs delivered? He took us to CHUUUUCH AND the MOSQUE! And to school, the club and the bloodclot Holiday Inn afterparty at four in the morning!!
But it's not the music I want to focus on right now. It's pretty much everything else. All the other tangible and intangible moments of magic that made Jidenna something beyond now. They MUST be acknowledged. More. And then some MORE.
His purely sincere gentlemanly honor, grace and dignity is something that just is NOT normal coming from ANY other artist these days. The brother just carries himself like he has SELF-RESPECT, and not every modern artist on stage radiates that self-dignity with their words, much less actions! And when I say 'pure', I mean: AT EVERY MOMENT IN TIME. This isn't just an image he's putting on for the cameras, and then between songs, he's caught being a slob pig. NAAAW, B. Top shelf artistry. Anything less would be uncivilized. Brother Jidenna was carrying the pride of his Nigerian ancestors on his shoulders at all times! It radiated righteous self-appreciation, and truly had people standing taller that day.
He also spoke numerous times about the influence of his father. which meant a lot. Especially to a crowd of brothers and sisters who might not have had fathers around while they were growing up... such as myself. Thus, Jidenna's very personally important asides when he imparted his father's and family wisdom to the crowd, was not only very edutaining, but they were vital to show how perfectly he was carrying on the tradition of the African Griot, and the Storyteller, and the Community Musician. Cyan't forget where we came from, no matter what the European slavemaster did to our memories of what we sang and danced like when we gathered together as a people! Jidenna's jokes about what his father said when he got to North America? Bure comedy. The Nigerian accent is just too funny (ONLY by people who have respect for Nigeria AND when done by people who know how to do it properly) and his fable about "there are only two types of people in Africa... those who make things happen, and those who watch things happen!" or something like that, and then expanded it into a six-part special, for the North American version, which he had the crowd scream "ONE!" to six for every point his father was trying to make about North American chaos in society, as compared to Africa's. Crowd participation cultural comedy. You don't get that from every motherfucker on the mic, yo.
What you care about? Jidenna cares about it too, probably. The brother spoke briefly, but brilliantly, on a nice little number of issues in life. Never too heavy-handedly, but never too flippantly or frivolously, he exuded the perfect balance of style and substance while he was gliding and grooving around that Echo Beach stage. Not a single moment was out of his control. My next favorite moment was the way he introduced his super classic eternal banger that was timelessly featured in 'Luke Cage' called "Long Live the Chief". He wasn't obnoxious or offensive about it, but he handled it the way the REAL O.G.'s did, as he divulged this Ph'D level lesson from the school of hard knocks: "You know, when I was in the in the streets, doing whatever I had to do to survive, I lived by a code. And those who taught me also lived by a code. But one of the best pieces of advice I got from those that lived by the code of the streets was? I was told one piece of wisdom: 'Don't dress like what you are doing'."
That's how a legend introduces a timeless tune like 'Classic Man'. Because as soon as that slinky-ass beat dropped: er'rybody lost they shit. Classic, mang.
That chest thump bravado dance-a-long to Chief Don't Run had fools going gorilla like we were zoo captives, and as I was saying: when 'Long Live The Chief' came on: BANG BANG, mamafucka. I felt bulletproof like Luke Cage with a teflon toque on. But I'm trying not to talk about the music, because it's beyond obvious how god damn dope it was.
It was also his tangible LOVE for the Toronto audience that set Jidenna apart from almost every musician I've seen in the last few years, whether Canadian, American, African, or other. He stopped at one point, and said "This is really a beautiful city with beautiful people. I was talking to my DJ, and we were discussing how much we thought about moving here! Weren't we just discussing that earlier today?" DJ homie goes "Yeah!" And Jidenna adds "You know, Toronto... one day, I just might!" Which makes the crowd lose their minds even more. The thing is, it was so very genuine. Truly felt that sentiment from the brother, because he LOOKS like a Toronto dude. Jidenna could easily fit in with the Queen West crowd on a Friday afternoon and few people would even notice him, except for the fact he's kinda famous and signed to Wondaland Records. Besides that, he's bure T Dot stylee fi di mans dem. Hope it happens someday! Differently still, the whole bloodclat ting was SICK.
So much greatness. Dancing around stage in two-step formation with his band, while the music wyles the fuck out. Disappearing on a high, then returning to take the people even higher, once again. Sing-alongs, rapping, soulful harmonizing, and basically sermonizing to the congregation... Jidenna did it all, and the some. In my humble magnificent opinion, I'd rate him around 98 or 99% perfect as a modern day artist, and is EVERYTHING the hip hop culture needs to do better, get better, sound better, look better and feel better for everyone.
And that drummer? Jesus fucking James Brown Christ! All five of his live musicians, bassist, drummer, keys, djmebe players... all of them were magical motherfuckers. And then, that moment they all gathered around the microphone stage right, and started snapping, clapping and harmonizing together on some doo-wop Five Heartbeats shit, while Jidenna oozed golden soul all over the melodies? LORDT HAVE MERCY.
In my mind, body, soul and heart: it's because of breathlessly beautiful and unforgettably epic moments like that, why Jidenna matters more than most musicians in 2017.
Thank you and you're welcome, and please have yourself a good night or day.
Mindbender loves you.
Now go listen to some more Jidenna.