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Jidenna is a debonair rapper and singer whose many geographic connections -- with roots in Nigeria and experience in most of the regions in the U.S. -- is reflected in his cosmopolitan mix of hip-hop, R&B, and pop. Arriving in 2015 with a hybrid sound he called swank, the Wondaland associate scored that year with "Classic Man," a Top 40 hit that went double platinum and earned a Grammy nomination. The Chief (2017) and 85 to Africa (2019), his first two albums, artfully fused dissimilar sounds ranging from trap to doo wop and French pop as he explored issues such as personal development, collective pride, masculinity, and institutional racism. A contribution to the soundtrack of Insecure and the simultaneously brash and vulnerable single "Blush" (2023) are among Jidenna's moves in the 2020s. The son of pioneering Nigerian scientist and educator Oliver Mobisson, Jidenna was born in Wisconsin and spent other parts of his upbringing in Nigeria and Massachusetts. While in high school, he co-founded Black Spadez, a rap group that released an album as an academic project. Jidenna matriculated to Stanford, finished with a bachelor's degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and then became an educator. He taught on the West and East Coasts, as well as in the South, and in his free time continued to pursue music, eventually landing a deal with Janelle Monáe's Wondaland label. Jidenna debuted with "Classic Man," delivering boastful, foul-mouthed rhymes and a neat vocal hook over a sparse, street-level beat. Released in February 2015, the single took a while to gain traction, possibly receiving a nudge from Monáe's March-issued "Yoga" (which featured their new signing) and reached the Billboard Hot 100 three months later. It peaked at number 22 and went double platinum. The Eephus, a six-track showcase for the Wondaland crew, was released in August 2015 with the original "Classic Man" and a version featuring Kendrick Lamar. Jidenna gained more exposure performing his song "Long Live the Chief" on a season one episode of the Netflix Marvel series Luke Cage in 2016. A Grammy nomination for "Classic Man" (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration) and several stylistically varied singles, including "Little Bit More," "The Let Out," and "Bambi," led to the February 2017 release of The Chief, Jidenna's first album. The well-received LP debuted at number 38 on the Billboard 200 and peaked at number 16 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. July 2019 saw Jidenna issue the singles "Tribe" and "Sufi Woman" ahead of the release of his sophomore full-length effort, 85 to Africa, which arrived later that August and hit number 112 on the Billboard 200. Relatively quiet into the following decade, Jidenna placed the boastful "Feng Shui" on the soundtrack of Insecure's fourth season, and was featured on Lecrae's 2021 single "Everyday" before he returned in 2023 with "Blush."
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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