85 to Africa

85 to Africa

“One of my goals was to make it cool to be African in America and to make it cool to be American, internationally,” Jidenna tells Apple Music’s Ebro Darden. “Because I think it's important for all black and brown people so you could feel like you're part of the black global culture.” The Wisconsin-born MC spoke with Ebro just ahead of the release of his second full-length project, 85 to Africa, but was referring to the legacy he’d been building since 2017’s The Chief. In the time since that album’s release, an increasing number of American and British artists began including contemporary popular African sounds into their own—something the Nigerian-American Jidenna is hesitant to take full credit for, but also proud to see unfolding. With 85 to Africa, the singer and MC continues this mission of unification as he gives a name to the musical road he and his peers are traveling. Within it, Jidenna is able to celebrate a woman’s mysticism across cultures on “Sufi Woman,” flip the Caribbean tradition of contributing to an informal savings account into a sexual metaphor on “Sou Sou,” and encourage fans to rep their sets on “Tribe.” He’s reached out to global African stars Seun Kuti and Mr Eazi for features—as well as D.C.’s GoldLink—but also seems comfortable in the knowledge that he’s far from the only one doing this work. “The highway is built,” he says. “We didn't need any other governments to contract it. We didn't need nobody else. It was built by people of African descent, and it wasn't even built by politicians. It was built by people in the creative industry.”

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