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Jidenna (Jidenna Theodore Mobisson)


Encyclopedia » Biography » Musicians/Recording Artists
Nigeria

A Classic Man, A Chief that will never run from battle, a son of the soil, Jidenna in controversy and in praise is a renaissance man and a quintessential Nigerian musician blending African Rhythms and Inspiration with American Hip-Hop, African Fashion and Elegance with European Aesthetics.

Welcome to Logbaby’s biography of “Chief” Jidenna Mobisson, the Classic Man.


SUMMARY DATA:

Name: Jidenna Theodore Mobisson

Stage or nickname: Jidenna

Date of birth: May 5, 1985

Profession: Rapper, Singer, Producer, Writer, Socialite

Relationship Status:

Music Genre:

State & Ethnicity:


INTRODUCTIONS

A fashion icon Jidenna’s rise to the music scene presents a singer/rapper with backgrounds in Nigeria and the United States of America, who has floated across American cities including Oakland, Atlanta, and New York developing a style unique to him and influenced by diversity.

He arrived on the music scene in 2015 with a blend of R&B and Rap, influenced by African rhythms and Highlife.

His name Jidenna is Igbo for "hold fast to your father" or literally “hold father”.

 

 

Jidenna as a boy, with his dad Oliver Mobisson

 

 

Early Life: 

Jidenna Theodore Mobisson was born May 4, 1985, to Tama Mobisson, an American accountant, and Chief Oliver Udemmadu Ogbonnia Mobisson, a Nigerian academic. He was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, USA, although his lineage is Nigerian. He hails from Umu Ezike, Edenta in Awo Idemili, Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria.

The youngest of 4 children he spent his formative years in Nigeria, where his father was a professor of Computer Science at ASUTECH (now Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT)). He lived in Nigeria for 6 years before his family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1995.

At 5 years old, his family was robbed at gunpoint, leading to his mother being beaten and Jidenna receiving a gunshot to the foot. It was not life threatening but it must have shaped the psychology of the young child toward his society.

In the United States years later he attended high school at Milton Academy in Massachusetts and would go on to acquire a B.A from Stanford University.

His father beyond being an academic was a principled man, who during the Nigerian civil war, dedicated himself to the cause of his native Igbo thrive, organizing support in the United States for the Biafran movement. He and his wife, Tama, founded a humanitarian organization, Lifeline For Biafra. He is also responsible for the development of the first Black African line of commercially produced personal computers and servers, through his work with Anambra State University of Science and Technology (ASUTECH) in 1981. These influences must have built in Jidenna a reasonable pride in the African possibility and reinforced his ability to maintain connections with his culture in an American society that systematically devalued the image of the black man.

At Stanford he started off studying sound engineering, but eventually changed course to "Ritual Arts" a course he created. On graduation, he worked as a teacher in the many bouroughs of New York and at a time he was a political demonstrator in the Bay Area region of California, tackling the high incarceration rates for minorities.

While his family was middle class, his early life was not characterized by wealth, in fact during his fathers burial in 2010, he and the family on occasion seeked support to raise the necessary funds for travel and a funeral, which costs considerable sums for a “Chief” like his father in the Igbo tradition.

Music Begins:Description: IFrame

 

Jidenna in High School
 

His interest in music started in the seventh grade, at the time he wanted to be a rapper, citing influences including Nas, Biggies and especially Tupac Shakur.

While at Milton Academy he founded a rap group called Black Spadez and began producing as well as arranging and writing music. His first album was his final project at Milton, where he graduated in 2003. After graduation he turned down a record deal in order to attend Stanford University. He started off studying sound engineering, but eventually changed course to "ritual arts". In 2008, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ritual Arts, he pursued his music career full-time, moving between Brooklyn (New York) Los Angeles and Oakland (California), and Atlanta (Georgia), in his music adventure.

On February 18, 2010 his father passed on, causing a pause in his music ambition, but also allowing for renewed impetus after his return from Nigeria. Upon return he continued his drive for music using his Fear and Fancy collective as a platform.

His Music:

His debut on the American (national) music scene came in February 2015 with "Classic Man," in which he delivered boastful, raw rhymes and a clean hook over hard street beats. The single took 3 months to gain traction but eventually reached the Billboard Hot 100. The Song was part of 2 singles supporting his music label's compilation EP The Eephus. On March 31, 2015, the second single from the EP "Yoga" by Janelle Monáe and featuring Jidenna was released, it was a hit and some credit it with lending a boast to Classic Man’s rise on the charts. "Classic Man" was also later nominated for Best Rap/Song Collaboration at the 58th Grammy Awards. He also performed the song alongside Janet Monáe at the 2015 BET Awards. Jidenna also received an award for best new artist at the 2015 Soul Train Music Awards in November

He cites Nat King Cole, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, James Brown, and OutKast among his many inspirations and also notes deep influences of African Highlife music in his foundations.

He is signed to Janelle Monáe's Wondaland label and his music is distributed by Epic Records.

His collaborations include songs with label mates Roman GianArthur, St. Beauty, Deep Cotton and Janelle Monáe. It also includes a popular remix of Classic Man with Kendrik Lamar.

In 2016 he released Chief Don’t Run, the 1st single from upcoming album Long Live the Chief. The video includes references to the negative police relationship with the African-American community a cause to which he has length his voice and now his music.

In a follow from his academic tutelage he has adapted a ritual style approach the music and culture, ensuring that every aspect of his presentation is driven by intent and generates a cult like following, as an example his Fans are accorded the tag of Jeneral, a modest appraisal yet essential to addictive cultural affinity.

 

Fashion:Description: IFrameDescription: IFrame

His music is beyond music, his fashion now nearly as emblematic of his brand as are his recording. His look is inspired by the 1920s and earlier eras, with a millennial spin and the added complexities borrowed from his mixed race, national and orientation diversities.

His brands combination of music and fashion justifies it as truly unique to the American Music scene. The style can be classy, funky, chic, blending suites with contour under garments which in many cases mixes African fabrics.

While the outfits look pricy he says he often sources from thrift stores in combination to working with designers for his one-of-a-kind pieces.

Of his style he says “It’s more about character, dignity, integrity…”.

Jidenna developed his style in college, where psychology professor Philip Zimbardo taught him about the power of fashion. However, his signature style came well after graduation. According to him the “dandy” style he now rocks is credit to his father, well before the release of the song Classic Man it was initially his way of grieving the death of his father.

 

Today:Description: IFrameDescription: IFrame

Jidenna is an advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement and has dedicated elements of his videos and performances to the story of black people in the hands of overzealous and racist policing. His 2015 Bet Awards performance and his 2016 Video for Chief Don’t Run both cast a light on the unfair treatment of Blacks in American society.

On the occasion of famed and controversial civil rights leader Malcom X’s birthday he wrote with pride on his Instagram “On behalf of the #classicman Hall of Fame, I wish Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz a happy 90th birthday!”.

His advocacy seems a key component of his life as he has even participated in physical protests along side his Wonderland label mates, in support of a better relationship between the American police and African-Americans.

Awards:

2015

Soul Train Music Awards

Best New Artist

 

Personal Life:

Jidenna is a founding member of Fear & Fancy, a social club founded in 2006, during his time in California. It is similar to the social aid and pleasure clubs of New Orleans. Fear and Fancy is an international collective of entrepreneurs, activists, educators, scientists, and artists.

In their our words “Fear & Fancy is a social club and creative powerhouse that operates on one simple motto: eat, drink, be swanky, and have fun getting the job done. Known as “the club before and after the club,”

They also have professional services in Music Production, Artist Development, Creative Direction, Styling & Design, Social Rituals & Events and Retreat & Workshop Curation.

Jidenna favourite show is Netflix’s House of Cards. He also enjoys the new Planet of the Apes movie franchise and when asked who he would like to work with in the future he notes American Presidential Aspirant Hillary Clinton, American Innovator and Engineer Elon Musk and Belgian Musician Stromae (aka Paul Van Haver).

He has been rumoured to be dating Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, an American sports analyst and a fellow Nigerian whose mother is Russian and Father Nigerian.

Brother Geoff Mobisson Sister Nneka Mobisson-Etuk

 

His elder brother Geoff Mobisson is a Harvard MBA, Co-Founder and Chairman of Levementum a CRM and Digital Services firm in Chandler, Arizona, USA.

His elder sister Nneka Mobisson-Etuk is a Master in Public Health and also holds an MD/MBA from Yale University. She is Executive Director of African Operations, IHI (Institute for Health Care Investment).

She recently journeyed with him to Nigeria where they elected to issue an annual scholarship in the honor of their father at his former Employer, the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). The scholarship will be endowed to the best 3rd year student of Computer Engineering.

 
Left to Right: Sister Nneka Mobisson-Etuk - Jidenna - ESUT VC Professor Luke Anike  

 

Blessings and Scandals:

In 2015 a scandal emerged as many Nigerians berated him for an interview he gave to VladTV in which he says “[Being Igbo] You’re away from the city, it means when you go to your village you’re the only person, one of the few people that looks like you. In my case, one of the only one’s that’s light-skinned. Our family was light. Therefore when we go to our village, and when I actually buried my father, I had to bring a lot of AK47s, I had to employ military commandos… Because when you’re light skinned, you’re a heavier target for being kidnapped… Because you’re seen as more valuable. You’re seen as white, therefore you have money. You’re American, therefore you have more money. If you have more money you’re easy to kidnap, and if you’re easy to kidnap we’re going to get you. So for me being light-skinned in Nigeria, in our family, it was difficult. It was always challenging. We’d be hounded. We were robbed. Our family has been assaulted. We’ve had a lot of issues, and it’s different. You can say this to a family that has a different skin color, or a darker skin tone, they may have these same stories and they may not. But for us we have always been the target, in that country. But when you come to America, it’s the opposite. The police may look you over. They may not pull out the gun as fast as they would if you were darker. Point being, I’ve lived in both kind of worlds. So I don’t know if I have the same story as someone who has just lived in this country.”

 

Video of conversation with VLADTV.COM about bringing AK 47’s to his Father's Burial 

Many people took this out of context, getting offended at his insinuations that the country is in effect a war zone. To defend himself and his point of view, he engaged in a lot of press and interviews, even posting an Open Letter on his website to address the backlash. See the letter here.

In the letter he states “I am, always have been, and always will be proud of my Nigerian heritage. I understand the pain and anger caused by some of the comments I made in a recent interview, and I wanted to address you directly. Contrary to popular belief, this interview was not the first in which I mentioned Nigeria. In fact, I’m frequently bragging about how Nigerians attend the world’s most prestigious institutions, and how we are known to produce world class doctors, entrepreneurs, innovators, lawyers, engineers, professors, athletes and artists. Unfortunately, people tend to leave these moments out, and, in this case, highlight stereotypes…”

In celebration of October 1st, 2015 the Nigerian Independence Day, Jidenna participated in All Things Ankara editorial in honor of a “Nigerian Renaissance”. The campaign images feature a combination of French Renaissance, Nigerian and other African aesthetics. Also featured is a pair, along with a few guards, flower bearers and ladies-in-waiting, with a setting which bears a close resemblance to the famous Chateau de Versailles. Some saw the campaign as redemption for his statements in the VLADTV interview which had stairs so much controversy earlier in the year.

He has also been plagued by rumours that he is gay, which he has refuted while carefully navigating the questions to keep it clear that he has no issue with homosexuality as a whole.

His connection to his Nigerian people seems of great importance to him and in his open letter he closes with “We may not agree on everything, but know my heart is your heart, and my experience is part of our collective experience.”

 

Contacts/social media:

Website:  www.jidenna.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/jidenna/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jidenna

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jidenna

 

Article Credit: King Ifeanyi Oruruo

Updated 11 Months ago
 

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Tags:     Jidenna     Mobisson     Classic Man     Musician     Nigerian     Rapper     American

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