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Jidenna talks Police Brutality and The African Diaspora

The rapper sits down for a discussion about his ethnic roots and police-race tensions

11th Oct 2016

Credit: Toan Magazine

He’s the dapper rapper with one of the most striking styles in Hip Hop.

Suited, hair neatly combed and dressed to perfection, Nigerian - American rapper Jidenna has been on the rise on the Hip Hop scene in the last few years. His iconic dress sense isn’t the only thing gaining him all the attention, with hits like ‘Classic Man’ the rapper has been signed by Wonderland/Epic Records and is heavily associated with talented artists like Janelle Monae. Back from a tour of Africa, the rapper spoke proudly of the continent and discussed the problems facing America with Hot 97 DJ Ebro.

Africa On The Rise?

The artist, born in Wisconsin, has always been proud of his Nigerian heritage. He often incorporates elements of Nigerian culture into his dress sense, bragging ‘most of my suits are designed by African tailors.’ The rapper recently travelled back to Nigeria for the country’s independence day at the start of the month and toured the continent – he sat down with Ebro to share his observations. Speaking on the rise of afrobeats this year and musical giants in the genre such as Wizkid and Davido who signed to RCA and Tiwa Savage who signed to Roc Nation and Davido, Jidenna encouraged the african diaspora to unite beyond the music to empower black people all over the world: ‘The music to me is like the spearhead and it’s great to see that happening right now.’ Afrobeats is certainly one of the hottest genres right now with african inflections fusing their way into mainstream sounds and artists such as Wizkid touring the world and collaborating with North American superstars like Drake. He mentioned how Akon, a fellow African artist, was an inspiration to him - the Senegalese producer investing heavily in solar energy in the continent and potentially providing electricity to millions of people.

Jidenna also spoke passionately about womens’ rights after an uncomfortable experience in Johannasburg, South Africa. He described how women in the Record Label office were expected to bow down to men. He spoke angrily about the chains of colonialism and apartheid that haunt the country and the continent of Africa as a whole. Africa has the resources and potential to bring wealth to many but because of years of poor governance and generational corruption as well as historical atrocities like the Colonialism and the Transatlantic slave trade this potential has been limited.

Saving America

The conversation moved towards the social problems facing contemporary America – a nation which seems ever more divided despite an impending election in November. Jidenna spoke intelligently, highlighting the wider context of the police brutality facing black americans. He stated how the solution will take generations and how there is a system which has been structured to limit black people through private prisons, underfunded inner city schools and police brutality. ‘See seven generations down the line, that’s the only way you’ll be a chief.’ Before rapping, Jidenna worked as a teacher in New York City and clearly recognises the social problems at grassroots which escalate and down the line lead to wider social problems. Singer Janelle Monae, who signed Jidenna, and record label Wonderland Records have been actively protesting against police brutality, releasing a protest song called ‘Hell You Talmbout’ a tribute to those lives lost at the hands of police brutality. Jidenna clearly recognises that there is no short term solution to the social problems occurring in America but he highlights that there must be a long term change in the established order to promote equality. Highlighting that protests are simply not enough, Jidenna recommended some creative solutions of his own. One of these being a change in police officer uniforms as he believes a lot of the escalation to violence comes from the psychology and interaction of the police and victims of police brutality. He also suggested the formation of an independent investigative body into the murders of unarmed African Americans because clearly the judicial system has let far too many cops get away with murder.

Hip Hop – The Socially Conscious

Jidenna’s rise marks a wave of Hip Hop artists tapping into their socially conscious sides. Hip Hop has always been a wider cultural movement so we welcome any artists speaking out as an activist and one who has practical solutions – much needed in the dark times we live in. Jidenna’s debut album ‘Long Live The Chief,’ an ode to his Nigerian Father, is expected to drop this fall.

Check out the powerful interview below:



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