Jidenna brought the house down with his dance-friendly set at Made In America last weekend (Sept. 6), amping things up with his summer hit “Classic Man” before sponsoring an impromptu twerking contest inspired by his Janelle Monae collab “Yoga” — all while wearing a perfectly prim suit that would not have looked out of place in the Victorian era.
The Nigerian-American MC/singer sat down with Billboard briefly following his performance to discuss what it means to be a “Classic Man,” and how his Nigerian heritage impacts his music.
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.