Over the course of six albums which began in 2009 with ‘Talk About It’, M.I Abaga has seen a steady evolution.

In 2009, he emerged as the Rap Messiah geared towards resuscitating Hip Hop in Nigeria. In 2010, he became a superstar whose talent was not only charting a new course for Hip Hop but placing Nigerian music on the global stage. In 2014, he morphed into The Chairman having gone from superstar rapper to iconic label executive that has overseen the emergence and success of other talents.

In 2018, he used a playlist to showcase other dimensions of his talent which he has previously been reluctant to let off. Like a man who allowed for a brief moment of weakness, he quickly followed up with another project that detailed his inner conflicts and his place in a fast-changing landscape.

The evolution of M.I Abaga has reached its next destination. With his latest album ‘The Guy’, M.I has elected to showcase the man behind the superstar whose talent has for over a decade shaped the African Hip Hop scene.

In 2009, he emerged as the Rap Messiah geared towards resuscitating Hip Hop in Nigeria. In 2010, he became a superstar whose talent was not only charting a new course for Hip Hop but placing Nigerian music on the global stage. In 2014, he morphed into The Chairman having gone from superstar rapper to iconic label executive that has overseen the emergence and success of other talents.

In 2018, he used a playlist to showcase other dimensions of his talent which he has previously been reluctant to let off. Like a man who allowed for a brief moment of weakness, he quickly followed up with another project that detailed his inner conflicts and his place in a fast-changing landscape.

The evolution of M.I Abaga has reached its next destination. With his latest album ‘The Guy’, M.I has elected to showcase the man behind the superstar whose talent has for over a decade shaped the African Hip Hop scene.

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He brings together Afrobeats stars from different eras as he examines the subject of love, gratitude, masculinity, and mental health, while also getting things off his chest. And in between these, he takes time to enjoy himself through playful subject matters and easy music.

M.I Abaga announced himself as ‘The Guy’ in the eponymous track where he emphasised his status as the guy for all seasons. Having ascended to the next realm of his illustrious career, he features some notable adlibs from VectorLadipoe, and Tiwa Savage all of whom have contributed to the evolution of Hip Hop and Afrobeats.

On the subject matter of getting things off his chest, M.I had a message for his detractors in ‘The Hate.’ “I made the rap game better for niggas like you,” he says in a swipe that is likely directed to a protegee or a former associate. M.I has had his fair share of issues with former associates so it’s anyone’s guess which artist or individuals his outbursts in ‘The Hate’ is directed at. In ‘Oil’ feat BNXN he talks about the trials that come with success and the divine backing and supreme talent that has allowed him to remain at the top. “Last Year I was betrayed by some of my guys” he gets off his chest before proceeding to express gratitude for his family and friends with whom he has weathered the storm.

“I have been a legend since I have been like 30” M.I says as he celebrates his success and status in the game. The markedly named ‘Bigger’ points out his status and the decision to feature Afrobeats GOAT Olamide and a Hip Hop GOAT NAS on the Afrobeats track speaks volumes. Olamide’s hook and NAS’s verse combine to create an unexpected Afrobeats hit put together by Hip Hop icons.

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Making love songs has always been a piece of cake for M.I and in his new album, there’s a twist to it. The identifiable status of the individual behind the subject matter provides for context and appreciation of the art. In ‘The Love Song’ featuring Wande Coal“Now I feel like I’m the chosen one…That one she’s the girl she’s the one” he says as he colorfully adores his fiancé in a song sonically elevated by Wande Coal’s trademark harmony.

Similarly, in ‘The Front Door’ M.I tapped veteran Duncan Mighty to deliver as he playfully extolled the virtues of his soon-to-be bride. In ‘The Inside’ a love drunk M.I displays his enduring versatility on a Highlife single assisted by Phyno and the uniquely talented Cavemen to deliver another love rendition dedicated to his ever-supportive fiancé.

M.I found time to discuss the trials of modern love as it relates to the increasingly appealing nature of its toxicity. At 40, he has garnered enough life experiences that stem from myriads of romantic and personal relationships as well as personal conflicts that allows him to comment on a troubling reality of toxicity permeating every fabric of modern society. “Why is toxic love so sweet?… Isn’t it crazy how we treat each other” M.I ponders on ‘Crazy’ while Ossi Grace soulfully echoes the fear of feeling lost in a world where the dictations of common sense are subjected to further scrutiny of a mob mentality that neither cares for logic nor reason.

M.I attempts to draw a connection between society’s emotional and mental neglect of the male gender and how it results in an unsafe world. “They tell us Boys don’t can’t cry but they don’t tell us why” M.I say about toxic masculinity while encouraging young men to find an outlet to emote. He went further to share the experiences of his female friends on sexual assaults which led him to conclude that “We should all be feminist” as he echoes the sentiments of celebrated Novelist Chimamanda Adichie.

M.I found time to make easy music that appeals to his young fans especially the Gen Z consumers who are taken by quotables delivered over simple and easy flows. ‘Soft Like Tony’ is a reminder of how money can make for an easy life. In the tribute to Nigerian billionaire Tony ElumeluLord Vino delivered a short catchy chorus and smooth verse that set the stage for M.I to lay his verse and create a single that combines rap with the artistic freedom associated with Alte. Similarly, in ‘Daddy’ feat. Chillz, M.I explores what might be the remnant of his playboy side. He even playfully infused the ENDSARS line “Stop pretending say no be you do am like the military” in the track although I wish the sobriety of the line wasn’t lost in the banality of the subject matter.

‘The Guy’ is an album that showcases a part of the man behind the art and it ends on a celebratory note with two of his closest associates Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince with whom he shared the ups and downs of his journey to fame.

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Final Note

In ‘The Guy’, M.I brings together Afrobeats stars from different eras as he examines the subject of love, gratitude, masculinity, and mental health, while also getting things off his chest. And in between these, he takes time to enjoy himself through playful subject matters and easy music.

One of M.I’s many talents is his production skills which he has somehow managed to keep away from the limelight despite its resounding quality. This might have changed with ‘The Guy’ where he co-produced six tracks including the standout track ‘Bigger’.

On the drawbacks, I can’t help but feel that M.I displayed a weakness that restricted him from hitting the nail on the head in terms of setting the record straight regarding his lost friendships and betrayals. As an OG rapper, I will expect him to drop names, use innuendos, and throw direct subliminal at the concerned parties.

It’s also a bit unclear what he wishes to achieve with this project. The album content and the build-up suggest commercial appeal. M.I posturing suggests he wants to make an album that separates the art from the artist. For me, I think the fragment that stands out the most in this project is M.I the producer and I guess it’s about time.

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