Jude Abaga is not letting up in his quest for making extraordinary music. This much was evident when Adewole Ajao and Adaeze Anaekwe met with the rapper referred to as MI
M.I. is on a roll and the grin on his face said it all. In a long list of achievements, the success of his recent album (MI2), his collaboration with Naeto C on a Hennessy Artistry track and hosting the Headies (formerly Hip Hop World Awards) alongside Omawumi come to mind. He admitted that the dream is gradually coming to life, and apt throwbacks reveal that the success has not erased his memories.
“I used to daydream about stuff like that,” he said. “Everything is a privilege for me and they (Hip Hop World) were the first to honour me on my song called ‘Crowd Mentality’ that shot me into the Lagos scene. So it is also like full circle even though it is not the end but the beginning. Because of my presence, it will be the best Headies so far.”
Such a sunny prognosis trailed his “Bartender” collaboration with Naeto C (a tune for Hennessy Artistry). After the earlier one he featured in did not live up to all the hype amidst a presence of stars, he and Naeto C delivered on this year’s tune despite having their work cut out for them at the onset.
“Sometimes, you don’t think about what people say about the song until it comes out. I think it sounds great and is the best Hennessy Artistry song ever,” he continued. “It is as easy as it can be when you work with professionals. I was coming from the UK and they had a blueprint that day. Before then a lot of time had come into selecting beats.”
With another successful collaboration in the bag, talks of something bigger are in the offing from the duo- an appealing prospect no doubt given their standing as rap heavyweights. M.I. also felt it was long overdue.
“It is a conversation we have been having for a long time. This is the third song we have done together and I think it is the right time. While I was recording my second album he was away so it never came up. It is just about making the logistics work because we are two incredibly busy people. We’ll see how it goes.”
When M.I. first came out in 2008 with MI1, he was the only visible voice in the Chocolate City stable that has grown to house his brother Jesse Jagz. The number later swelled with the arrival of Ice Prince and Brymo. Music has not been in short supply from the quartet and Loopy Records has also joined the list of demands being made on him. He called it a pleasing problem.
“We always had a plan to do our own thing and the chance came up. It is still one family. I think the plan for every label is a very loose one: get artistes and make them successful. By that we are doing 120 percent and I would like to thank the whole team at Chocolate City. ”
The award-winning artiste is also thankful to his numerous fans for their reaction to his second album MI2. Tagging it more successful than his first album, the gamble of veering slightly off the trajectory in songs like “Undisputed Champion” and “My Belle O”.
“That is the biggest success of my career so far. It was the first time I would go to places and people would know who I am. People would hear my songs and ask what it was? I would say it was highlife and Fuji.”
He feels this blueprint should be the trend for indigenous rap and hip hop, which tries to ape the American version. For him, sounds should retain that local flavour while striving for an international market.
“To me, the ideology behind Nigerian hip hop is flawed,” argued MI. “We are trying too hard to sound American and be American. I do however understand that there is a general sort of hip hop mind in Nigeria, and if you do not fulfil it, they can discredit you. I would like a day when the Da Grin’s get respect for what they are doing which is taking our sounds and making it music. That is what Fela did. At least once, that is what every Nigerian artiste should aspire to do.”
With the success of his current album yet to ebb, he said he is already done with the concept for another one. This is the first stage in his usual process for forging sonorous sounds that gets fans and critics talking.
“We will see how it goes. I usually have an idea, come out with the musical concept and start playing tunes together. I have started and right now, it is easy for me because Ice Prince, Jesse and Brymo are around.”
Starting out in Jos ensured pleasing memories. But with the current issues bedevilling the city, M.I said prayers were the best remedy. This joins relief efforts he and other artistes who come from there.
“It is a unique problem and the most effective thing to do is pray. We just believe that one day all this will be over. I did my protest in “Wild Wild West” and those are more on personal terms.”