ACL Fest 2015 Sunday Interview: Jidenna
Sunday, 12:45pm, Samsung stage
It's trendy in hip-hop to sport a Nineties throwback vibe. Jidenna invokes the past while engaging the politics of the present, throwing it all the way back to the 1890s. Thankfully, the Stanford-educated "Classic Man" and Janelle Monáe protégé has plenty of substance to fill those swanky three-piece suits.
Austin Chronicle: How would you define a classic man?
Jidenna: He's someone that everybody knows and respects in the neighborhood. He looks out for people beyond his own blood. He's composed; even under fire he keeps cool. A sharp guy all around – mind, body, style. He can be silent like a true G – and I mean G as in gentleman or gangsta – or he could have the gift of gab, but he's always careful with his choice of words.
AC: A lot of people might think it's strange for a black man to be evoking the style of the antebellum South.
J: My style is not specific to the antebellum South, but it's heavily inspired by the Jim Crow era. I wanted to remind myself and others of the old Jim Crow, so that we can remind ourselves that we're still living in the new Jim Crow. I feel it's important to dress in the fashion of the times.
AC: Growing up in Nigeria, Fela Kuti was a big influence. Do you know the song "Gentleman"?
J: [Laughing] Yeah, "I no be gentleman at all. I be Africa man original."
AC: He says if you wear a three-piece suit in Africa you're going to sweat and smell like shit. If 2015 Jidenna was in a room with 1973 Fela talking about style choices, could the two of you come to a place of agreement?
J: He was projecting a message that he felt was important for that era, just as I am projecting a message that I feel is important for this era. Because we're from two different eras I'm not sure what the middle of the Venn diagram would be other than we both care deeply about humanity and a government that serves its people.