Jidenna Talks ‘Classic Man’ and How He’s Influenced by Nigerian Music

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 06: Musician Jidenna performs on stage during 2015 Budweiser Made in America festival at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 6, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Anheuser-Busch)
(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Anheuser-Busch)

Classic Man hitmaker Jidenna has in a recent interview with American website Billboard after a great performance disclosed how his Nigerian heritage impacts his music.

In this interview, Jidenna talks about what it means to be a “Classic Man” and touches on the growing genres in Africa specifically hiplife and highlife.

It must be noted that Jidenna is Nigerian-American MC/singer.

Why do you think the idea of a “classic man” (even outside the song itself) has resonated with people so much?

I think that we’re at a time where some men feel undervalued, across races and across religions. Their masculinity is being drained — particularly in the African American community, we feel devalued by our nation sometimes. “Classic Man” really speaks about the power of being a man.

Yes, it’s still a man’s world, unfortunately, and we have a long way to go in this country and all countries — but there’s something to be said for just feeling the spirit of a true man, and I think that’s what “Classic Man” speaks to.

There’s, of course, the fashion element, but I just think it’s a refreshing time for fashion, where we’re recycling a lot of different generations. Men are wearing skirts, men are wearing zippered t-shirts, leather straps, and all types of things, and I wanted to be a part of this transitional phase that we’re in in fashion. I thought the suit was something that would suit me.

I was going to ask — I really enjoyed your set, but to me, it looks really hard to do all the dancing you guys are doing when you have such a polished look happening [Jidenna and his onstage support all wore three-plus-piece suits].

We try to tailor our suits to our bodies. A great tailor is like a great personal trainer — they tailor that suit to your natural physique. It’s actually easier, because it’s like a jumpsuit.

What kind of influence do you feel like African music has on your work?

Oh, it’s profound. Even if the production doesn’t feel African, the vocal delivery — singing through your nose. Specifically, Highlife music from Nigeria. That was the first music I ever heard as a child. So singing through my nose is something I do often, and that’s directly rooted in my heritage.

At large, I feel like we’re entering into a time when hip-hop music in the states, and pop and hiplife and all types of genres across the African continent are emerging, in general. I think they’ll be even more influential as I continue.

Which Nigerian artists do you think are really blowing up right now?

Wizkid, of course, in the U.K. — his sound is undeniable. I love his voice, I love his production team. I was just hanging out with them recently. He’s definitely be one where I’m looking forward to what’s to come, and I love his catalog already.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to release a bundle of songs for the fall. I think people are ready for it, they want something new for the fall. “Classic Man” was something that got them through the summer — they need something to keep them cozy as the seasons change.

Also I’m going on tour with Stromae, so I’m really excited about that. He feels like a kindred spirit, like a distant cousin from another continent. We’re definitely different, and have different sounds, but I think the similarities are remarkable, not knowing him personally. I’m really excited.

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