Toronto recently held it’s 11th annual Manifesto concert at RBC Echo Beach. Scheduled performances included, Isaiah Rashad, The Internet, Majid Jordan, Sean Leon, and the Chief himself, Jidenna. Prior to taking the stage for his set, Hot Freestyle had the chance to speak to Jidenna about his family roots, the Black Renaissance in tv and film and inspiration for his innovative music style. Catch the Exchange with Esquire below.
Esquire: So Welcome to Toronto. Are you aware Toronto has a very big Nigerian Community out here?
Jidenna: I am aware. Well I’m aware of the West African community here. East African as well so. I don’t know how big though. How many Naija people?
Esquire: I don’t know but a lot lol..
So “The Chief”, That was a really dope album…Even right when it started with Uncle Palm Wine, I felt a dope connection with that because I was like “yeah I know family members like this” Explain a little bit about what his character represented.
Jidenna: There’s like this crazy wisdom you get. This drunken wisdom you get from your Uncle. Everybody in the world can relate to that. Nigerians especially. I don’t think people know how much some of our uncles may drink some Palm Wine, Stout Beer or Heineken Beer. And then they’ll tell you some real proverbs and parables that will last you your whole life. So I wanted to start off with father figures. Especially in The States, if you’re from a black family, especially African Americans. The father figure is an interesting figure. He may be missing, he may be in and out but there’re also families that have fathers still present. I wanted to show a time period with me where my father’s gone, but my uncle is still here. and show how men can still raise men even when another man is absent.
Esquire: There seems to be a whole Black Renaissance movement. You have movies like Moonlight. shows like Luke Cage, Insecure, Atlanta, there’s this UK show called Chewing Gum, and you’ve been involved in a couple series…I know what you wanted to do with The Classic Man was just give a redefinition of what the Black man was about, and with all these series and shows coming out, there’s redefinition of what Black art, and Black people are about. How do you feel about all this?
Jidenna: I’m so excited bro. I’m thrilled that the other artists are doing so much. They’re pushing me, they’re pushing artists around the world to be genuine, and be truthful and not stray from that. But still make and design art that can be digested by the world. I’m really excited because for a long time, the stereotypes that existed for us were so narrow man, and it’s just not true. When people talk diversity, they always say it’s multiple colours and sexualities right. But they never talk about the diversity within people. And for people of colour, especially coming from African heritage, we had very very narrow lanes. So, I’m very grateful that that higher powers have allowed this to happen you know.
Esquire: You’re pretty renown for your style. You’ve said you don’t want your best dressed day to be in a casket. (J: That would be horrible lol) So talk a bit about your outfit right now.
Jidenna: Everything is Bespoke man. Everything is Co-designed by us. 98% of the wardrobe is made by us. We don’t sit there and tailor but we have a gang of tailors.
[what-up-wiz] From Johannesburg to Freetown to Accra to Lagos and to Atlanta to New York, to London now most recently. All these people who are mostly of the African diaspora help to create a fashion that feels like exactly what it is (E: Fly shit). The reason it’s fly though is because we invest in small businesses that manufacture and produce something that’s dope. More beautiful for the world. That’s why the clothes resonate. It’s not just the cut. It’s the intention behind it. That’s why it works.
CATCH THE FULL EXCHANGE WITH JIDENNA IN THE VIDEO