One of Africa’s most captivating aspects lies in its cultural allusions, presented without explanation yet universally comprehended. “Babouche,” a lively tribute featuring GoldLink, pays homage to the stylish slipper commonly worn in West Africa. Surprisingly, the song also incorporates #MeToo commentary, with GoldLink rapping, “You can decipher a lot from appearance/Revealing the fears you harbor/I heard Morgan Freeman faced accusations/See, I never trusted that earring.”
The album takes a turn for the better in its second half as Jidenna metaphorically arrives in Africa. The melodies and laid-back rhythms of tracks like “Zodi” and “Vaporiza” provide a refreshing departure from his robust rap style. In “Zodi,” featuring Mr. Eazi, he skillfully woos and gently teases an astrology-obsessed woman, one who is fond of “texting the stars and crystal ball emojis.” “Sufi Woman” may refer to the same person, but this time she captivates Jidenna with her recitation of 13th-century poetry while he indulges in leisure. The song’s surprising composition, blending Spanish guitar and afropop rhythms by Nana Kwabena, hovers above like an unblemished sky.
Perhaps the album’s zenith lies in “Vaporiza,” an effortless and tender love song adorned with high-life rhythms and Ethiopian horns. The affectionate hook sings, “Vaporiza/I find solace when I’m with you.” In essence, it shares much in common with one of this summer’s most ubiquitous and improbable hits: “Fall,” a silky-smooth love song recorded in 2017 by Nigerian pop star Davido, which unexpectedly soared to popularity this year. A similar phenomenon occurred with “Drogba (Joanna),” a spirited afrowave track originally released in early 2018 by Ivorian-British artist Afro B. It becomes essential to celebrate the visibility of these songs, breaking into the mainstream without the backing of A-list affiliations. While it may be unwise to draw extensive conclusions from such outliers, it’s difficult not to acknowledge that Jidenna may be onto something.