Milli Speaks — Is he “Childish” or is M.I Abaga Just a Really Bad Label Boss?

In Music Business by Africa Music Law™4 Comments

As you all know, when rumors began about M.I. Abaga launching a label, Loopy Records, I said it made no sense for him to do so, explained why and predicted the inevitable short life of the label. M.I, nevertheless, launched Loopy and attempted to operate it. The label is now defunct. M.I ultimately stayed with Chocolate City Records and assumed an executive position with that company. In 2015, he was named president of the company.

In January 2016, about eight months after his appointment, media personality Osagie Alonge gave a scathing verdict, one that I disagreed with, on M.I Abaga’s performance at Chocolate City Records as President of the record company. In relevant part, here is what he had to say:

“I think M.I has done absolutely nothing for Chocolate City since he became President. [M].I has failed. The way he failed with Loopy Music he’s failed with Chocolate City. For you not being able to convert talent into success or show that process the way the likes of Mavins are doing with I mean a smaller team. [T]he label is falling and if they are not careful, they are going to fall into the ground like all the other labels have done.” – Osagie Alonge

M.I Abaga’s leadership is back on the chopping block, this time as a result of Milli, an ex-Chocolate City artist, “sharing his side of the story.”

What is interesting to me and of relevance here is that in all of the statements Milli shares in his letter, he omits some very significant points. They are as follows:

  1. What were the exact terms of his contract, specifically; did he have a “release commitment”?
  2. If yes to the above, what was the specific term of that clause? A release commitment clause would mean that Loopy Records in fact agreed to release at least one album during the initial contract term. Labels are generally very reluctant to sign such clauses, especially where emerging artists are concerned. If Loopy did not fulfill the release commitment, did Milli just choose (out of his own ignorance and failure to read his own contract) to stay and later lend his services to Chocolate City?
  3. Was there a specific clause that dealt with a situation where Loopy Records became defunct and/or is insolvent (unable to pay business debts owed)? What did it say?
  4. When Loopy “merged” with Chocolate City, was there a clause in Milli’s Loopy Records contract that dealt with such  “merger”/ occurrence? Did it say that Milli was free to move on with his life?

Folks, listen, all this “ngbati ngbati” that our artists tend to do when a music business relationship terminates is beginning to fall on deaf ears.  Nigerian and African artists, you can’t throw a pity party when you do not follow the proper protocol in engaging in the business of music. First, before you sign any record contract with any record company, you need to do your due diligence. In addition, you need to build your own personal brand equity so you can come to the table with a stronger bargaining power. You can’t expect someone to feed you, pay for your house, the car you drive etc., and then not have a say in the life they are paying for. If you allow and solicit a parent-child relationship in your business dealings, you will be treated as a child, it is only fair and logical.

If you forge an adult relationship in your business dealings, then you will be treated as such.

When a record company expresses interest in you and actually proceeds to provide a record contract for you to sign, it is YOUR job to understand ALL of the terms you sign and the implications. Obviously, you are not an entertainment lawyer, so guess what? It is YOUR job to hire a competent entertainment lawyer in your country to review your contract and where applicable, negotiate and help you seal the deal. If you ignore the above, it is really a case of “too bad so sad” when stuff hits the fan. However, it is not too late to get a competent entertainment lawyer to help you sort out the mess, and set the right foundation for future dealings.

There are ample resources and information starting with this blog and its podcast show, africamusiclaw.com, to help you understand how Nigeria, Africa and the global music business work. Again, it is YOUR job to read your contracts, understand the terms before you sign.

Also, if you will discuss the fallout of your relationship and paint your “business parent,” for lack of a better word, as bad, at least tell us what YOU signed so we know. Also, when all else fails before, during, and after your business relationship, stop with the social media talks or woe is me pity party, get a competent lawyer and be about that business of music. Anything short of that is “childish.”

-Ms. Uduak

Milli’s “Side of the Story” – Part 1

It’s no longer news that the time has come for me to move on from Chocolate City, but until now, no one has heard my side of the story.

It’s been a long journey – one year in 2014 with M.I. writing and co-producing the Chairman album, and another year in 2015 being signed with Loopy and Choc City, writing and co-producing the TICBN album, and working on individual Choc City artist projects.

I have a lot of love for my CC family, especially for Koker and Dice, but for me, things didn’t turn out how I thought they would at all… I was getting held back all the time, I wasn’t allowed to put out music like I wanted to, and it was getting really hard to be myself…

I’m not going to say much out there, about what really happened, that’s why I created this private Facebook group. I don’t want to do interviews and talk about what happened, I wouldn’t even want to write all of it down because it’s quite painful.

But I haven’t told anyone what’s been happening, and you guys have been showing me love all this time, even in my absence, so it’s only fair that you know more than everyone else… What I want to share with you will come in five parts and this is Part 1.

I really love you guys and feel so blessed

The Childish EP & Promoting Choic Boi Brand- Part 2

I started working on the Childish EP in 2014, and all the tracks on the EP were ready by the end of 2014, but when I got signed to Loopy in January 2015, M.I asked me to go back and re-record the entire EP.

When Mr Audu left in February 2015 and handed over to M.I, I automatically became a Choc City artist. I was told dropping my EP under CC was going to be great for me so I was really excited. But there was a lot going on at that time, so attention shifted from my EP and I was told I couldn’t drop it for the next few months after the handover because I had to wait for the label to reorganise itself. In March, I figured out a way to drop music though, that’s how I started #FreeMusicFridays. But after three Fridays, they pulled the plug on it and said I couldn’t continue putting out free music…

When the handover was completed, we were asked to start putting together the TICBN album in order to promote the Choc City brand, so again I was told to be patient, and I was… I came up with the idea to drop the Childish EP on Children’s Day (May 27th, which is also my birthday), but no one at the label paid attention and M.I didn’t want me to drop it at the end of May because the TICBN Album would still being promoted around that time, so I had to be patient again. Once the TICBN album that I was also working on was recorded and dropped, I still wasn’t allowed to drop the Childish EP, but instead I was asked to pay attention to the TICBN album and promote it, which I did…

Around August, after the TICBN promo, it was time for individual artists to drop projects they had been working on before the TICBN album, so I was excited and thought I could finally put out Childish. But then a new rule was invented: New music could only be dropped if it came with a music video… Sigh. More patience.

The music video for Unlooking was shot in September last year but turned out a disaster, a lot of things that were supposed to happen didn’t and it just didn’t look right. I wasn’t proud of it, and you wouldn’t have liked it at all, but I couldn’t afford to shoot another one, and I couldn’t drop Childish unless I dropped a video, so I was willing to live with it. I just wanted to drop my EP… But when M.I saw the footage, he said I couldn’t drop the video yet, because we had to shoot additional scenes. The next shoot was set for January 2016 (four months after the first shoot!), which meant Childish wouldn’t drop till then. One year of waiting, and more patience…

 The Wizkid Collabo  – Part 3

In November last year, I realised the year was almost over and I hadn’t put out any single yet. It bothered me, because people were waiting, and with all my frustrations I had to ask that the rule be waived in my case for Unlooking because my video was already shot, but not yet ready. Luckly it was approved but M.I wasn’t fully behind my decision, so I wasn’t very confident. But I knew I had to drop something with or without his support…

I know some of y’all have been asking about the Wizkid feature and if it that was even true. Well, it did exist, and still exists. I did have a song with Wiz, which was also supposed to have M.I on it, but unfortunately he took it from me. M.I gave me a choice – if I wanted to put out Unlooking, I would have to give up the Wizkid feature. I guess nobody in their right mind would give up a feature with Wiz, but I did believe in Unlooking, and everybody around me wanted me to release it. Also, I didn’t want my first release to be a feature, and I knew I could always find him again, so I gave up the Wizkid track and prepared the release of Unlooking.

I created Unlooking in a really unique way. When I first wrote it, the verses were different, not Pidgin, but M.I asked me to rewrite the song, and had me change it from English into Pidgin, to be more “street”… so I did, even though I never enjoyed remaking the song. But I wanted to make him happy so I would get all the support I needed by the time Unlooking was coming out. Unfortunately, after so much time rewriting it, when I finally dropped the song, he didn’t support me and Unlooking wasn’t pushed.

He didn’t put much effort into promoting it, I could tell, and after Unlooking, all these new dab songs started coming out and the move that I had started was jacked from me… I saw M.I supporting Olamide’s dab and it really hurt me.

I thought M.I was ashamed of me. He was telling people that Unlooking was just 60% of what it could have been, and that the only reason people liked it was because it was in Pidgin. There was no budget for promotion, so I had to hustle by myself, but I am just one person and I can’t win if my own people don’t believe in me…

And all this while, M.I told me to be more like this or that artist, be more “street”, and people told me that he kept saying that my music wasn’t gonna fly in Naij… It’s like they had decided my sound wasn’t going to work before they even gave it a chance. It made me really, really sad…

Leaving Chocolate City – Part 4

In December last year, I met some cool and serious people that not only believe in me and my music, but they also want to see me shine. My new team wanted to work with Choc City but Choc City didn’t want that. All this while, all CC artists were told to build their own teams. And here I was, with a dope team that wanted nothing from the label but the opportunity to invest in me, and work on my promo and branding together with the label, and CC said no. They said “Either all us or nothing”. So what choice did I have? Sit and wait some more, or work with people who actually believe in me? I didn’t want to leave the label, but they didn’t really leave me a choice… So as much as it pained me to leave my fam behind, we started the release process in January…

Right after the meeting with M.I, my new team and I travelled abroad for four weeks to shoot two music videos. The change of environment was good for me as I was really down at the time, I felt abandoned because after all the hard work I had put into the various CC projects and the Chairman album, the label was ready to just give up on me like that…

Then things started picking up and I did more work with my new team in one month than with Choc City in an entire year, and I’m grateful. They get me and my music. They wanna make me succeed the way I am, not change my sound. They see the big picture, and way beyond Nigeria.

Not everyone is happy about my departure from CC though, and even for me, it wasn’t easy to make that decision… In “Everything” M.I. really went deep, calling me disloyal for leaving the family and so on. People in the label office stopped talking to me. It became difficult for me to work with Reinhard, my producer that I introduced to M.I. at the time we produced Chairman. They talked to radio OAPs and other media people and told them their side of the story, making me look bad and as if I don’t care about anyone.

And then it took almost five months to release me from the label, so I was stuck. Choc City was delaying me and crushed my vibe… My new team said I shouldn’t be on social media until things are settled with Choc City, so that they don’t change their mind about releasing me or delay us some more when they see how well things are going for me. That’s why I went quiet at some point. I didn’t even know what to say or post anyway, I was just really, really sad…

 Starting Over – Part 5

Being signed to Choc City was a big opportunity in my life that I will forever be grateful for. I’ve learned a lot, the good and the bad. But to keep following my dream, I needed to let go, even if it hurts and it still does…

But I’ve got my own label now, Up Next, a dope team, and I’ve got you guys, and that’s all I need. But I can’t lie, it’s gonna be tough. I already know that he and his people have been talking to the media, and I don’t know how that will affect what the blogs will write, and how much radio and TV airplay I will get for my music… Maybe they will shut me out, he has people everywhere, so its possible for him to do things his way… Some of the social media influencers even told me they don’t want to promote my new projects, for fear of upsetting M.I or Choc City…

It’s scary and I don’t know what will happen but I’m ready for the challenge, and as long as you guys have my back and help me post, RT, Regram and spread the word about the #UpNextMovement and my new music to your people, we don’t even need all the fake hype!

Much more happened than what I’ve told you, a lot of personal things that really disappointed and hurt me deeply, coming from a person I admire and respect so much. I won’t speak about details because I don’t want this to be about any of those personal things. That’s between him and me. #DontAskMeWhatHappened.

But I will never forget how I was put down again and again, how my confidence in my sound was broken, and how it was impossible for me to put out my music. I even stopped believing in myself at some point… Your messages all this while really helped me a lot and gave me new motivation. I felt your love and I’m grateful for that.

What I’m going to drop this week is daring, but it’s my way of overcoming my fear, stand up for the Art I believe in and move on. I hope I can count on you to have my back and get others to join the #UpNextMovement. The Movement is about the art of good music, and about giving other artists that make “different” sound the courage and strength to BE different, instead of getting frustrated by the industry.

I’m sure many people will say I’m ungrateful and I want to cause drama but what I really want to do is to leave the old structures behind that suppressed my art and my sound, follow my dream and #SetArtFree! That’s my mission with the #UpNextMovement.

We need to allow Art to exist in Nigeria and I’m not shutting up no more. And if that upsets some people, so be it.

Bless u all & thanks for being with me.

Milli

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Comments

  1. Uduak, I think you’re being biased in the reporting of this story. It’s been previously established, by your own admission, that you are a M.I. fan. You shouldn’t ask Milli those questions about the terms of his contract, as if he was ever signed to an actual record label. He was signed to a laptop.

    For once, let’s let the blame fall where it belongs. M.I. is no businessman. He’s no music executive, either. He’s a small, small boy with a tiny laptop, and he has fooled others musicians into believing in a sham organization.

    Multiple artists–not just Milli–have wasted years of their lives waiting for M.I. to what he has promised he would. That laptop is full of talented artists like Ruby, Nosa, Koker, etc. Why, then, have none of them had major success? What’s the common denominator in all of their situations? They all work under the guidance and authority of M.I. and his laptop. So why can’t he get all the blame?

    When a sports team is chocked full of talent, and the team still loses, what happens? The coach gets sacked, because the coach is supposed to use the talent he has on his team to execute a winning game-plan. The problem is that M.I. has no game-plan. And on top of that, he wants to be coach AND star-player at the same time. A few months ago, he was on Twitter bragging about how wonderful he is, and how he’s a better rapper than most American rappers. When was the last time he went on social media to rant about the talents of the artists signed to his laptop-label? Let’s stop blaming the poor, suffering artists who made the mistake of dealing with him, and instead blame the party who’s always in the middle of the scrum called Chocolate City.

    1. Author

      I don’t think you have read my articles on M.I and my position on Loopy. I have written too many to count and was the lone voice disagreeing with M.I’s launch and handling of Loopy. I am a fan of M.I’s music but I am pretty sure M.I would disagree with your assessment of bias because both him and his label feel, strongly, that I cut them no slack. *Shrugs shoulders* You can’t please everyone and I have never been about that. Let’s get to the business of music, shall we?

      This is business. If there is no recording guarantee i.e. recording commitment clause, M.I and Chocolate City can take their precious time on when they decide to release an album. This is just one of the basics of a record contract negotiation that every artist should know or be aware of.

      Milli claims M.I had him re-record an album. This is not uncommon in the music business. If a label takes a chance on you and let’s say advances you $100,000. If you use part of that money, go into the studio and churn out crap (at least they claim it is by their alleged actions and statements to third parties), they can make you re-record the album or decide they don’t want to continue to invest in you because you weren’t that superstar they thought you were or would be.

      You want to avoid a situation where they keep you on a roster and have you bench warming, or worse, they go financially bust. Loopy went belly-up. Also, who knows what the current financial state is of Chocolate City? You avoid dealing with such a situation by insisting a record company sign your release guarantee so when the contract expires, if they still haven’t fulfilled it, you get your copyrights back, waive with a BIG SMILE and say “Odabo!” and you keep it moving. Also, as an artist, you should have your own lawyer review your contract before you sign. Milli has given us a biased “ngbati, ngbati” i.e. “he said-she said” view. I am not interested in that. What I want to know is, what did you sign? That’s the bottom line. That you chose, as an artist, to go for the big name “Chocolate City” or “M.I Abaga” and lime lights is your issue.

      Also, any discussion or “side of the story” that does not reveal the explicit term of a release clause, if in fact there was one, is a sob story, a waste of time and just a teaching point for artists to learn from. What did Milli sign? There are enough competent entertainment lawyers in Nigeria that could have helped him review his contract. I have shared so many over time on this blog.

      So abegi. To argue that a contract is unfair, we should at least see the exact terms you signed. It is only fair. Also, even if your contract is in fact unfair, courts are not in the business of trying to be your father or mother for a contract you, an adult, signed; absent valid defenses.

      This is a case of life is tough. Fall down, get up. Learn your lessons and hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes again.

      -Ms. Uduak

      1. I agree with Ms Uduak questions to Millli. Though I feel sorry for the young lad that Chocolate City could not allow him to create his own sound of music.

        But this kind situation happen everywhere, If you could follow or remember Dr Sid early in the days, he was once a rapper but Don Jazzy told him that rap music can’t sell in Nigeria, though Jazzy was wrong because MI come out with Mr Incredible and it change the face Hip-Hop in Nigeria.

        Most artists of today find themselves in the dream of becoming mega superstar in the next 3 months like Mayorkun.

        Few months ago, someone contacted me that one UK returned want to start record label and he need my service of helping them with publicity and marketing strategy for the company. Along with our discussion I discover that both the so called label owner and artists signed based on the word of mouth did not have lawyer, both party don’t known the journey they want to embark on . What is missing between Nigerian record label companies and artistes is what will called music business ” Education ”, we lack this education in Nigeria.

    2. Mr. Winston Balagare, Nosa was not signed to MI’s Chocolate City, but Audu’s Chocolate City.

      Secondly, from what i know, Nosa probably top three most successful Artists on the Chocolate City label; it is not by mainstream airplay that determines this but the books.

      Thirdly, being a talented/creative brand and being an economically viable and relatable brand are two different things. Some Artists are too volatile to be in Nigerian Labels. They do not have the infrastructure to manage.

      Finally, all you have said is your perspective based on the very little we know, not fact. Until M.I or Chocolate City sends out a press statement informing us of their own side of the story. You are just another voice in the midst of opinions floating around the internet.

      As a Music Business Consultant in Nigeria, that has worked very closely with this label. M.I is a visionary. Milli is volatile. Chocolate City dodged a bullet.

      This is the *Music Business*, not daycare.

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