M.I. Abaga’s unapologetic stance on the state of contemporary Nigerian Rap

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is known on the music scene for its Afrobeats genre boasting a lot of Africa’s music heavyweights including Burna boy, Wizkid and Davido, to name a few. However, it has a long history of rap/hip hop music with several notable artists including mode 9ine, Eedris Abdulkareem, Da Grin, Jesse Jagz, Weird MC, etc.

In the past decade, the rap scene has enjoyed less airplay and sales compared to the ever burgeoning Afrobeats scene which has seen several rap artists ‘dilute’ their sound to be commercially viable and popular. This dilution takes place in different forms but most popularly in singing more than rapping or having bars, or making the focus of their music on dance rhythms and beats rather than contents. Fortunately, we have had M.I. Abaga (Mr. Incredible, The Chairman) holding the rap fort for the better part of a decade. Described by many as Nigeria’s “Hip Hop Messiah”, and with over 4 critically acclaimed album including his debut album Talk About It (2008), M.I. helped show rap could still be a popular genre that can still sell in Nigeria. He has also been instrumental in gaining exposure for many upcoming artists including Wizkid, Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz. Internationally acclaimed, he has received awards from MTV Africa Music Awards and was also nominated for Best International Act at the BET Awards in 2010.

In his most controversial music video to date- You Rappers should Fix up your Lives- M.I. comes at the younger, upcoming rappers in the Nigerian Rap Scene albeit without mentioning anyone by name. He alludes to the fact he’s been top of the game for so long and should be retiring but can’t because none of the current rappers are inspiring or attempting to address the many ills in Nigerian society. He laments that the Nigerian Rap scene is getting bossed by its counterparts from South Africa, who many would say boasts the continent’s top rappers as of right now including AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Anatii, etc. Since MI, there hasn’t been another breakthrough rapper on the Nigerian rap scene and the Chairman knows this and takes shots at everyone. Silver lining of the video despite the backlash and social media fervor, the video promoted conversation and sparked many cyphers on the same topic. Several young rappers also took up his challenge and made their own versions of the song on the same beat, proving that despite the picture, Nigeria’s rap scene remains burgeoning and ripe.

Social media Links: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. M.I. also has his own music label called Chocolate Music.

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