Hey, The Kids Like It

Jidenna's "Classic Man": Why This Song Sucks

Remember last year, when Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” shot into our lives via iHeartMedia as the most annoying song of the summer? Remember how it gave us enough memes and awkward think-pieces to justify Iggy's existence as a musical being? Remember how that eventually led to a 2015 where not only has she not released a song, but the biggest headline she has made is her tour being cancelled, her getting engaged and admitting to having breast enhancement? Well, I might be lying about that last part, because “Fancy” is still making us think and ponder in 2015, all thanks to Jidenna’s “Classic Man” single.

"Who is that," you ask? Jidenna is a Nigerian-American singer who, thanks to the fact that he’s singing and cursing on a record, gets lumped into being called a rapper sometimes. He’s signed to Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland imprint and has made an impression solely because of his sartorial choices more than his singing.

I mean, look at him.

The man makes me wonder, where exactly did I go wrong in my life? Why did I never think dressing as if Colonel Sanders pledged Kappa at a prominent HBCU would be a thing? Why did I never consider wearing a three-piece suit with a pocket watch and primped pants as if I wanted to be Prom King at an 1870s high school? Jidenna dresses to the point where he could easily tell us all about quantum physics and how they used to whittle and fear the crap out of the stock market back in the 1930s. All apologies to Stanford, but I need a yearbook to see if Jidenna dressed like this at the dorms, at intramurals (!), at frat parties and keggers. There’s no way he’s kept this up for a decade plus, right? Let’s move on.

“Classic Man” already has a remix that I would want to hear more (it has T-Pain singing about classic cars), but there's also a second version where Kendrick Lamar is rapping. I don’t get it. When Kendrick appears on pop records, he sounds out of place. You remember the "Bad Blood" fiasco, right? Right. It’s like he shows up in a blockbuster movie, overshadows all the stars, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Well, shit, at least I did my job.” Kendrick Lamar is Michael B. Jordan and “Classic Man” is everything else about the Fantastic Four movie. Its properties already are terrible from the get-go, with that same repetitive guitar loop from “Fancy." It just gets more mundane and basic from there.

Now, “Classic Man” steadies itself from the first verse with a couple of decent lines about Jidenna basically being a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to proving how slick he is. That doesn’t get bad. It gets silly when the second verse arrives and Jidenna, in a suit, mind you, crafts some of the more eyeroll-worthy punch lines around. “I cool like Nat King Cole” is basic enough. Comparing yourself to someone like Nat King Cole not only suit-wise but performance-wise is like comparing Dwight Howard to Wilt Chamberlain. In other words, you need a few more years and history to get there. Then comes the most aggravating part of “Classic Man,” which turns Jidenna — a calm, decent human being by all measures — into the untrustworthiest man in existence.

He cannot, cannot commit to saying “motherfucker” on record. And when he does, he says it only once.

Do you know how insane it is to meet someone in 2015 who bitches out on a beautiful curse word like “motherfucker”? Nobody who considers himself or herself “classic” could pull up on letting loose a good “motherfucker." And it’s not even as if Jidenna went no measure and just omitted it. No, he went Walter White before Mike told him to grow up and perform full measures to get the job done. He says “mummafunka."

What. Is. Mummafunka?

Bruno Mars doesn’t even do that shit, and he’s the most accessible singer from kids to grandmothers. He’ll at least drop a casual "fuck" in some of his lyrics. I have never attempted to curse someone out only to stutter at the most important word. You immediately lose a fight with a bully if you don’t properly stress the insult you’re trying to call him. Like, Jidenna can commit to saying “fuck” in the same verse but can’t even fully commit to "motherfucker"? You can make Leprechaun references all you want, but the only Leprechaun we acknowledge around these parts is Lil Flip. Point blank.

Look, we’re not going to even get to the point where Jidenna tells people that his boys have sold drugs but don’t really sell drugs. Nope, his crew is the same people who passed out the golden tickets in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: how he handles his money (in envelopes instead of in rubber bands) and how he keeps top-flight women in a stable. Did I mention that all of this is basically set to the same beat as “Fancy,” thus extending the life of Iggy Azalea another three to four minutes, tops? Dammit, Jidenna. We could have gone out on the town in a trolley looking for mint juleps and instead you’re making popular “rap” songs that peak at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Classic Man” is a popular yet terrible, terrible song. You’re better off living in a world where D.R.A.M.’s “Cha Cha” dominates your party. I wouldn’t say Jidenna is finished; I’m solely hoping that he has better songs than “Classic Man” on his EP. Also, I need the name of his tailor. He may come in handy if I ever have to engage in fisticuffs over the antebellum nature of his offensive prose. Or something.
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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell