Here’s How M.I Abaga’s ‘The Guy’ Album Confirms He is Nigeria’s Rap Messiah

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Editor’s note: Is Rap Dead in Nigeria too, or are there messiahs, like M.I, on this side of things? A review of The Guy.

Here’s How M.I Abaga’s ‘The Guy’ Album Confirms He is Nigeria’s Rap Messiah

It would be safe to call M.I Abaga the father of Nigerian Hip-hop. Eighteen years since his first song ‘Crowd Mentality’ dropped, the Jos-born rapper and producer has continually delivered his art in a manner such that leaves no room for an explanation as to why he is and continues to be the biggest rapper in Nigeria, and arguably, Africa. 

Known over the years as Mr Incredible, The Chairman, etc.; M.I has evolved over the years as an artist. Once again, he develops and introduces himself as ‘The Guy’ through his recent eponymous album, The Guy which he released earlier in August.

Here’s How M.I Abaga’s ‘The Guy’ Album Confirms He is Nigeria’s Rap Messiah

Made up of 12 tracks, The Guy is a 40-minute listen that features collaborations from a host of top artists such as Nas, Olamide, Phyno, Buju, Ice Prince, and Jesse Jagz among others. Cutting across issues like gratitude, growth, love, mental health, and masculinity, the album is a showcase of new heights in his career. 

The first and titular track on the album, ‘The Guy’ sees M.I announce himself as THE GUY, with emphasis on his new status as he comes into the next era of his career. The track talks about his journey as a rapper and makes use of adlibs from names like Tiwa Savage and Ladipoe. Rightfully named, ‘The Hate’ is a diss track to his haters, a reminder to those who think he’s past his prime because he ‘‘turned forty last year’’ that he is still king of the game. He reasserts his place as The Guy now, telling the young ones to watch it because they’re not at his level yet. 

Here’s How M.I Abaga’s ‘The Guy’ Album Confirms He is Nigeria’s Rap Messiah

‘Bigger’, which features the super-talented Nas and veteran rapper Olamide, is a reflection of the professional achievements of all three artists. Inspirational in his tune, Olamide makes quick work of the hook and chorus which combine with Nas’ verse to create a beautiful track. Olamide also makes mention of the fact that even though ‘‘money and fame e sweet’’, it can also be ‘‘bitter and strings dey attached to am like guitar.’’

Featuring Lord Vino ‘Soft Life Tony’ is a quintessential Nigerian hustle anthem which references billionaire businessman Tony Elumelu. Life is ‘sweeter’ when you have money as M.I insists when he sings, ‘‘Your knack go long, your vex go drop, your mess go nice, your chest go pop, your swag go change. You sef go change when you buy cloth.’’ If nothing else, this song is a motivation for the daily hustle.

‘The Front Door’ and ‘Crazy’ are love songs featuring vocals from Afrobeat artist Duncan Mighty and Ossi Grace respectively. While a master of love songs in his own right, M.I’s ‘Front Door’ lacks the rapper’s usual flair and magical touch and is unmemorable. Soothing and calm, ‘Crazy’ addresses the fragility of mental health and the toxicity that seems to exist in relationships today,‘‘Hmm, why is toxic love always so sweet?’’ and the world at large ‘‘We got to wear boxing gloves before we speak.’’

He makes mention of South African rapper Ricky Rick who committed suicide early this year in February. The track is a constant reminder to always be kind and respect opinions different from yours. In ‘The Love Song’ featuring Wande Coal, M.I takes to the mic to extol the love of his life and recently engaged fiancée, calling her “that is my guy, my ride or die, my confidante’’. Overall, the beautiful melody was made sweeter by Wande Coal’s chorus.

‘The Inside’ sees a beautiful coming together of a love-drunk M.I, fellow rapper Phyno and highlife band The Cavemen to create a smooth love song; which will serve for many, many weddings to come. In ‘Daddy’, M.I takes things up a notch when he croons and calls on baby girls and slay queens everywhere to keep serving the hotness. His deep and low timbre adds an extra layer of sultriness to this number, giving the feeling that this track will be popular in the clubs. 

Here’s How M.I Abaga’s ‘The Guy’ Album Confirms He is Nigeria’s Rap Messiah

M.I further touches on the issue of masculinity in society with ‘Soldier’, lamenting the way society neglects the mental and emotional state of the male gender. ‘‘They tell us ‘Boys don’t cry’ but don’t tell us why…talk about it like it’s a badge of honor.”  He goes on to mention the consequences of this neglect, ‘‘We the cults, the gangs, the cops, the serial murderers; we the ones at night making the world unsafe.’’ 

‘Oil’ discusses the trials on the other side of success and acknowledges his good fortune which has allowed him to remain active and relevant in the industry. ‘‘Oil dey my head can’t lie…bulletproof for my chest.’’  Alongside Buju, he expresses gratitude for his friends and family who make up his support system and makes mention of some things he has faced ‘‘Enemies surround me, ’bout a hundred/Last year I was betrayed by my guys.’’

Closing out the album is ‘More Life’ which features M.I’s brother Jesse Jagz, and former labelmate Ice Prince. This final track is a toast to the journey so far as he ends the album singing with those whom he began his singing career with. 

‘The Guy’ as an album showcases a new side to M.I, highlighting his formerly unknown production skills. While there is no one definite subject matter discussed, one cannot deny that the album is a great piece and a testament to his artistic prowess.

This story, written by Jennifer Okoli and Elvis Osifo, was originally published in Modaculture magazine’s October – December 2022 issue. Get a copy here to read the original story.

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