UPDATE: Jidenna penned a letter in response to backlash from his interview about Nigeria. The “Classic Man” clarified that “contrary to popular belief” he has spoken positively about the country, and would never “do or say anything to intentionally disgrace the legacy” of the West African nation where his father was born.
Read the full letter here.
PREVIOUS: You may know him know as a “Classic Man” but before Jidenna became a well-dressed recording artists, he and his family lived in Nigeria where having pale skin made him a target.
He shared insight on race in America, and prejudice in the motherland, during a VLAD TV interview. “My parents definitely said 'It’s going to be harder for you in this country. Although you're mixed, although you’re lighter, the fact that you have African blood in you is going to make it harder.'”
Jidenna’s African family belongs to the Igbo (also referred to as “Ibo”) tribe, found in Southeastern Nigeria. “Our family was light, and therefore when we had to bury my father, I had to bring a lot of AK-47s. I had to employ military commandos just to bury my father.”
Things are much different in America, where skin color gives him a certain amount of privilege. “The police may look your over, they may not pull out a gun as fast as if you were darker. Point being, l’ve lived in both worlds, so I don’t know if I have the same story as somebody that’s just lived in this country."
Jidenna caught some backlash on Twitter for speaking poorly of Nigeria instead of sharing a more uplifting story. “The one time they ask Jidenna about Nigeria he gives it a negative light…” tweeted one person, along with “Odiegwu,” which is the Igbo equivalent of “smh.”
Others weren’t offended. “Jidenna is putting Nigeria in a bad light? Lol, were we in a good light before?”
The 30-year-old artist was born in Wisconsin and moved to Nigeria (where his father is from) as a child. The family later relocated to Massachusetts.
Although more rural African villages are known to be less exposed to diversity, there are of course people of varying races and shades living in, or visiting, Nigeria, which is one of Africa's richest countries despite rampant poverty. In addition, prejudice isn’t something specific to Jidenna’s experience. Also, some village belief systems stem from outdated, or bizarre, cultural and tribal ideologies. Like in Tanzania, where albinos are hunted and butchered in some cases because witch doctors believe they're lack of pigmentation signifies "magical powers."
Check out Jidenna's performance at the 2015 BET Awards below.
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