Over the weekend, Jidenna performed an acclaimed set at the Made in America festival. The show marked the singer’s return to Philadelphia following last month’s #BlackJoy protest where he appeared alongside collaborator and labelmate Janelle Monáe for what proved to be just one in a series of public actions by the label’s signees to highlight and empower contemporary activism in support of black lives. Most prominently, he was among the Wondaland artists featured on protest anthem “Hell You Talmbout.”
After his Made in America set, the “Classic Man” singer spoke with the Philadelphia Inquirer about many topics, including his involvement in the local protests. His message highlighted the specific need for “Black Lives Matter” as a concept:
When Wondaland kicked off the Eephus tour in Philly, you all participated in the #BlackJoy demonstration. How does Wondaland’s mission correlate with the Black Lives Matter mission?
Wondaland focuses, as does Fear & Fancy [his social club], on the connection between people. It’s imperative to stress the worth of each and every human. We wouldn’t have to say [Black Lives Matter] if all lives mattered. We say it because they don’t to some people, but they do to us. For us, it is about humanity and valuing each and every life. That to me is what Black Lives Matter is also about.
Jidenna’s Made in America set was particularly notable for featuring an on-stage “yoga booty” contest for women in the audience, which Jidenna capstoned by saying that women’s bodies don’t define their totality. While Jidenna and Monáe have not quite addressed what can be read as the appropriative aspects of their track “Yoga,” Jidenna elaborated on what he sees as the body-positive and empowering nature of his work:
People in general see somebody doing one thing and they think they do that one thing all the time. If they’re dancing a certain way, they think, ‘Oh, that woman is hypersexual,’ as if they forget where we all come from. We forget that some of these women, like in the “Classic Man” video, are not merely video vixens. A lot of the time in my videos, they’re engineers, doctors, lawyers or managers. It’s an educated guess that the women who were on stage with me are doing one of those jobs. I know strippers at Magic City who are some of the most eloquent women I’ve ever met, and they dance because they actually enjoy it—and they’re talking to me about Tolstoy.
Click here to read the full Q&A.