Written By: JaJa Nelson
Did Jidenna skip the “Sophomore Album curse” ?
The metaphorical enlightenment throughout this album, 85 to Africa, doesn’t end with the title. Throughout the album, Jidenna gives us repeated mental pictures of his fantasies of unity, community, and freedom. The words are so vivid at times, one might say that they can possibly see these things as a reality.
Interstate 85 is a highway that runs throughout the Southeastern part of the country; connecting the states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. States known to be substantial in diasporic culture, hip hop culture, and have a strong representation of the African American community. So, essentially, after two years from releasing “Classic Man,” and having you in a suit and tie, Jidenna is telling us to let our hair down and hop in the car for a road trip through the diaspora, and back to the motherland; it’s a beautiful metaphor.
Initially, when I listened to the album, it didn’t grasp me; I’ll be honest. I immediately came to the conclusion that Jidenna stayed true to The Chief (not a bad thing). Mixing Afro-Contemporary sounds with Hip-Hop beats, speaking on the Black American community issues, and other cultural innuendos. However, subconsciously the next day, I found myself humming the melody from “Sou Sou,” and it made me go back and listen to the entire album while I was working.
Some are unfamiliar with what a sou sou is. However, it is merely a savings arrangement made between a group of people where everyone puts in an equal amount of money into the pool, and it continues until everyone has had a chance to get the large lump sum of money. Therefore, it is a rotation of repetitive action. However, Jidenna has aligned reinvesting back into the sou sou with sexual activity by repeating the lyrics “put it back in like a sou sou”; I am not elaborating on that analogy– you get the point.
After a deeper listen, “Tribe” became a favorite. The beat knocks, his sing-song flow puts a smoothness to the song and is easily a “feel good” vibe. It was released at the end of July and I had already heard it. But, listening to it in conjunction with all the songs on the album, it hit me differently. A light listen, one would think he just made a “Jidenna-version” of C-Murder’s “Down For My N****z” , but it’s much deeper than that. “Tribe” is him stating that he’s for everyone black; we are all members of his tribe, and we need to unify and conquer the world with our greatness.
“The Other Half” is a genius song. This song has so many layers. For example, it is a playground for the intellectual person because the song can be interpreted so many different ways. The soulful vocals via the sample from “Where Is My Other Half” by Tim Maia mixed with the bass drop in this song made me super excited. I am a major fan of that psychedelic sound of the 1970s. Needless to say, “The Other Half” is my favorite song on the entire album. It tells a story, it has many beats and cadence changes, and you can feel the lyrics and emotions of the relationship portrayed in the song.
I cannot close out the review without mentioning “Jungle Fever.” This song tells us how Jidenna was created– the love story of his parents.Vividly describing how they met, and it narrows into Jidenna’s journey to being an adult. Overall, 85 to Africa is a relevant and creative body of work. From smooth jazz tones to a Spanish guitar, then back to heavy bass and snare; it’s literally something for everyone.
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