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Q&A: Jidenna talks falling in love while making his new album

JOHANNESBURG – Apple Music’s Ebro Darden sits down with Jidenna in New York for a discussion about his third studio album Me You & God. Jidenna gets personal about his new relationship, detailing how they fell in love and how they are navigating the gray space between monogamy and polyamory. He also discusses being a role model for unconventional masculinity, and how this new album encompasses all of these topics.

Jidenna clarifies that his current relationship started polyamorous but is always evolving:

We both came from non-monogamous situations. I met her, she had basically had two boyfriends and she was in love with them both. And she told me the second day, after we was dancing to Marvin Gaye at sunset, I was like, “Damn! I might love her.” Second day, swear. And she’s like, “I want to let you know something. I want to let you know that I’m with a partner.” I was like, “Okay. That’s okay. Are you married?” She’s like, “Nah.” I’m like, “Okay, cool.” She’s like, “Well, I’m in love with him.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” She’s like, “I also got another boyfriend who’s in town or somebody I’m seeing in town.” I’m like, “Okay, cool. You in love with him too?” She’s like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Okay, all right. Okay.” You know what? I’m with it because I’ve met my match. Usually I’m used to saying, “Hey, I’m coming off a relationship. I had two girlfriends.” And a lot of women were very terrified by that. “Oh, you think you a pimp. You just a sophisticated pimp. That’s this polyamorous word.” But meeting her, I knew that she had already had a similar experience. And man, we built long enough, those relationships kind of went their way. The women I was dating, I stopped. I closed all those doors. So now it’s just us. Is it monogamy or is it monogamous? Maybe you can call it that. But I just know we are in this stage…We in a foundation building stage. That’s all I care about. People think polyamory is automatically open off rip. Nah, man. Like build with one person. People be trying to add on too quick. They be thirsty. I ain’t thirsty. I want to build for, it could be years, who knows. And we may not open up ever. I reserve that right. Or it may be in 10 years, or it may be in a year.

Jidenna says he’s trying to be a role model for alternative forms of masculinity:

You talk about legacy. I believe that part of my legacy is to show specifically cis heterosexual men that there are other ways to be a man. There are other ways to be masculine. And those other ways are not all new. They’re ancient. Look at other pictures or history books of how men presented themselves, what they were able to talk about. It was different over time. And it’s not like we are the first generation to have fluid gender people. We’re not the first generation to have men wearing skirts at the Met Gala. You know what I mean? Actually, skirts are all over the world, bro. The pants, the trousers most of us wear as men was a small sector of society. Most people had the long tunics, different Polynesians, even all the way up to Scotland. My mother’s side is the UK. So I just want to share with people, especially young boys out there, that there’s different ways to be different archetypes that you could follow to be a “man”.

Jidenna talks about reinventing himself on this album, and how it might be a “terrible move”:

I don’t want to roll around with a mask no more. I didn’t want to just offer music that people expected. I’m a little bit of a rebel like that, for better or worse. It’s maybe a terrible move, you know what I’m saying? Musically, it’s amazing. And I’m hard on myself, but I know this project is fantastic…we’ll see how people receive it. Every artist’s dream is to be received. We all want to be appreciated. Every human, but most of all, I think that I wanted to—I always want to show different sides myself. Some artists sell the same side, and that’s it. I remember Chappelle a long time ago said, “You can’t sell every part of you, so pick the sides that you want to sell.” For me, I’ve always been the type of person to switch my hair every album, switch the outfits. It’s always a change because I think it’s my father in me, to be honest. My name Jidenna, Jide means to embrace. Enna means father. My dad was very much an inventor. He invented the first Black PC, the first commercially produced African computer in the early eighties. He was racing in his mind against Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. He created a dual processing system that could run as an IBM. It could also run as a Macintosh. He was just a rebel, always. Look, he brought caller IDs to Nigeria earlier than I saw it in the US. So he’s always thinking. I feel like I have that in my blood to switch, to move, to invent, to reinvent. And this album, Me, You and God is a reinvention of me.

Jidenna explains why he opened the album with the sound of a 56K modem connecting:

I made the project mostly during the pandemic. So I was dolo and I was looking for connection. The first track’s called “I’m Looking For Connection.” When I came up, millennials came up and millennials know that modem and some of the late Gen Z people still remember it too. That 56K modem, bro. I know. I remember Windows 98, I remember my first porn that I saw, and me and the homies would crowd around as the was titty downloading. That was what sex was for us. That’s how we learned about it. I remember HBO Real Sex and Taxi Cab Confessions. But that’s all in that 2000s, early 2000s pocket. That modem reminds me of that time. So I wanted to start the album with the connection I was looking for. Mostly I was looking for a companionship.

Jidenna describes falling in love during the making of the album:

In the pandemic, I moved to a ranch. It basically fell in my lap…Animals were my friends. All I was chilling with. So I was looking for somebody, something, some reinvention, some purpose, some passion. And thank God, man, I found her on a beach in LA and once we met, it was a wrap, bro. We held hands the first time we met like little kids, bro, when you walking and then your hands kind of brush up? You’re like, “Oh, am I about to hold?” Ooh. I had that feeling. There was a bonfire. Luckily, like man, some people don’t ever have that feeling, but I’ve had that a few times. My brother told me, “You fall in love three times and that’s it. So make sure the third time’s a charm.” And this is my third time. So yeah, man, she helped me finish the album. I started the album with a certain intention, but I came out on the other side. So the album takes me and I hope the listener, through a journey of starting in that fuck boy adjacent stage.

Jidenna talks about Roman Gian Arthur, the executive producer of Me You & God: 

Man, Roman GianArthur is one of the greatest artists and producers in the world. First of all, he’s on “Classic Man.” So I started my professional career with him. But I say this to say, when he went to Prince’s house with Janelle Monet, Nate Wonder, Chuck Lightning, the whole fam, Roman starts playing guitar because Prince always made the musicians jam with him. And Prince literally said to Nate Wonder and Janelle Monet, “Roman is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard.” That’s just his guitar playing. He kind of has that mysterious D’Angelo, Frank Ocean where he’s a hermit somewhat in that he’ll incubate, go away and then come up with some amazing, and has a bunch of unreleased music. But he’s putting out an album this year. I feel like the world will see him as a artist. He’s an amazing composer. But I’ve been making music with him from jump. Every album he’s on, he produced on the last album as well.

Jidenna says he has another album and a half of material ready to go:

Roman and I made two and a half albums. That half is the most experimental one. I don’t know if I’ll put that out next. But the second one is an evolution from this album. And I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a psychedelic element to this project. A little dreamy element that I brought into the Afro space. So the second project is more dance heavy. It’s going to be for the dancers, DJs. It combines Afro house and psychedelic sounds like that. I’m kind of mad I just said that. I hate when I give away my formulas, bro. Goddamn.

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