Artiste: M.I. Abaga
Album: The Chairman
Label: Chocolate City
Features: Chigurl, Koker, Wizkid, Phyno, Runtown, StormRex, Moti Cakes, Reminisce, Nosa, Milli, Olamide, I.J., Patoranking, Ice Prince, Sarkodie, DJ Lambo, Seyi Shay, Emmy Ace, Beenie Man, Debbie, Morell, Loose Kaynon, TuFace, Sound Sultan, Oritse Femi, Frank Edwards and Nanya
Producers: M.I., L37, Reinhard, Sarz, G-Plus, Pheelz, Sammy Gyang and V Stix
“Ni**as want my old shit, buy my old album/Ni**as stuck on stupid, I gotta keep it movin’”
- Jay-Z (On To The Next One)
“…but haters say Dre fell off/How ni**a?/My last album was The Chronic”
- Dre (Still D.R.E.)
“Ni**as said I fell off, oh, you heard I fell off?/Why the f**k would you be repeating that?”
- 50 Cent (Major Distribution)
The issue of ‘falling off’ and/or ‘selling out’ is rife in the Hip-Hop scene both locally and internationally. Rappers are always besieged by Hip-Hop heads, bloggers and critics (the Hip-Hop community), and questions being asked on the authenticity of their recent catalogue; the search for another ‘classic’ or a material comparable to one they’ve built sentiments around forms the bedrock of their onslaught. From Nas, they want(-ed) another “Illmatic”; from Jay-Z, another “Reasonable Doubt” or “Blueprint”; Dre receives queries on the absence of another “The Chronic”.
Oh, Fiddy fell off! How do you explain his inability to reach the genius of “Get Rich or Die Trying”? Can The Game replicate the lyricism and mastery displayed on “The Documentary”? Nah, Lauryn Hill is washed. What’s she been up to since “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”? It becomes ‘worse’ when the artiste’s début receives critical acclaim and regarded as a ‘classic’ or seminal work- this burdens artistic expression and stifles creative juice. The artiste ends up stuffed in a box, attempting to revise such discography. The process is rather tedious birthing a watered-down musical project. M.I., (un-)fortunately, has been inducted into this club owing to raves reviews of “Talk About It”. Since his off-the-gate classic, M.I. has released his sophomore and two mixtapes- “MI2: The Movie” criticized for dumbing down for mass appeal and the pop-friendly content. But something Hip-Hop purists should note: the genre doesn’t accommodate only Hardcore or Gangsta Rap or Battle Rap, but other sub-genres/styles like Alternative Hip-Hop, Conscious Rap, Trap/Southern Rap, Snap call Hip-Hop home, too.
M.I.’s third album The Chairman comes on the heels of his 2012 mixtape, Illegal Music 2. The project that helped to propel/jumpstart careers of some up and comers in the industry. On this recent adventure, Jude Abaga gathers a slew of known and unknown acts. The project has a concept album vibe, if not in its entirety then in the theme scattered on many songs.
The Chigurl-assisted Monkey opens the album after the ludicrous, dreary intro- a failed attempt at humour. The Agatha Moses-esque hook (a swing between amusing and humdrum) precedes the rap verses. M.I’s familiarity with pop culture is exposed, as he references Patience Jonathan and Nigerian athlete, Ejowvokoghene Divine Oduduru. The album switches on the inspirational Rich. He thunders tales of struggles, hope and coming of age: “From cooking with kerosene to the back of limousine/Going where we’ve never been/seeing things we’ve never seen/They don’t want to let us in/But soon, our names will get us in”. The Pastor Bolaji-sample puts the message (no pun intended) in perspective.
On Mine, M.I. employs the services of a familiar collaborator, Wizkid, as a wingman on his love quest; this is the liveliest Wizzy has sounded in months. His voice beautifies the track; M.I’s corny lines (“your body’s smoking hot, you need an ashtray?”, “I know your ex left a bad taste, but I’m toothpaste/This is a new face, how does that taste?” , “Did you smoke something, ‘cos hi (high) girl”, etc) could do little to reverse this effect. As a chairman, he expands his (music) business interest to the East of the Niger, partnering with Runtown, Phyno and StormRex to craft Bullion Van. The musical space is littered with catchy lines: “Plenty money for bank and the pocket too fat/When you see money dey fly, na we be dat/All eyes on me, I dey feel like 2Pac”, “Anything wey don close, money go open am, you go think say na bow-leg”, etc; they boast of their wealth.
Luxury-Rap continues on Millionaira Champagne; vain verses of awesomeness traded. Although, the infectious hook borrows from 2Chainz’ chorus on Lil Wayne’s “Rich as F**k” while the intro’s a remake of Maria Davis on Jay-Z’s “22 Two’s”, it still comes off well; albeit, ignat. Every regime needs discipline to avert chaos so critics and ‘haters’ get the stick on The Middle. “Who’s the best rapper?/Omo, it all depends/I’m not the one to ask/Ask number two to ten”, M.I brags then touches on detractors “Six years running, I’m the best rapper ever living/Respect to those before, I’m the best to ever did it/But, make I just dey my middle/Make dem still dey talk say M.I no sabi riddle (sic)”.
The ‘Haters’ nuance explodes on the reggae Enemies; this piece is underwhelming with many unnecessary samples including Jesse Jagz’ Bad Girl. Production rip-off makes a repeat appearance on Wheel Barrow– samples from Chaka Demus and Pliers’ “Murda She Wrote”, and Major Lazer’s “Watch Out For This (Bumaye)” are centerpieces. The Reinhard-produced Bad Belle opens with blaring horns for M.I. to knock off bars; the Trinidad James-type refrain by Moti Cakes is surprisingly good. Introspection presents itself on this album in the form of Brother and Human Being. On the former, Jude reflects on the departure of one of the Choc Boys- Jesse Jagz, and gives brotherly advice to fellow label mate, Ice Prince: “When Mo’ Hits broke up, I was like know what/ It’s never happen to us/Then Choc Boys broke up, I was like hol’ up/How on earth that happen to us…People be like M you make the Choc Boy crew/How they gon’ survive in the game without you/My brother, make I talk true/My brothers make me, nah what am I to do (sic)”. On the latter (the Dhruva Aliman’s Bottom of the Sea-sampled production), M.I. addresses issues of celebrity crucifixion spear-headed by certain quarters of the public; he addresses Nomoreloss’ tongue-lashing of music artistes during OJB Jezreel’s health situation. He also talks on the ‘tortured pop star tag’ and humanity of celebs. These two songs tell of M.I’s brilliance in penning social commentary (in case you forgot “Crowd Mentality”, “Fast Money, Fast Cars”, “Problems”, “Wild Wild West”, “Ashes”, etc). The album takes a quick turn, as M.I. and Reminisce celebrate life and the joys of an alcohol-filled moment on the Sarz-produced Shekpe. M.I’s polished nursery rhymes for the hook are lost in the bottles of local gin and can’t sober up revelers.
On Chairman, M.I. shows he hasn’t lost much (in terms of song crafting and ear for beats), and therefore, has nothing to prove to naysayers. He’s in a phase similar to the ‘I just want a Picasso in my casa’ Jigga or the lovelorn Esco or the Serious Marshall. He may not possess the deft lyricism that birthed his previous projects, but sure made up for that with assistance from fellow artistes and the use of catchy words over the singsong cadence.
Udochukwu writes from Ibadan. You can catch him listening to different genres of music on his iPod or buying CDs at your popular music store when he’s not working.
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