Late last week, I shared an “Open Letter” from an M.I Abaga fan who is also a writer at Pulse Nigeria. The letter criticized M.I, a respected rapper from Nigeria who some dub a “legend,” about the quality of his work and lack of consistency. M.I has been absent from the music scene for three years now. M.I apparently felt very “disrespected” by the article so he took to social media to blast the team at Pulse including calling the Editor-in-Chief Osagie Alonge a “vulture.” He also made clear he was clearing his calendar to visit Pulse to discuss the article. The team at Pulse’s ‘Loose Talk Podcast Show’ indulged him. What followed was an almost three-hour discussion that is best listened to during your down time and in bits to digest all they have to say.
Here is my impression after listening to the podcast:
- I knew Osagie Alonge can be disrespectful but I didn’t know he could be so disrespectful. In many instances, he was out of line with the way he spoke to M.I and about other talents. Osagie, while it is great that people admire your work, myself included, you can’t let it get to your head where you feel like you are always in the right. Further, as a journalist, even though it is a “Loose Talk” podcast show, you should tailor your words to the context, and that includes your language. You were out of line in tone and language in many instances.
- I think M.I Abaga acts very entitled and equally very rude and manipulative. He, however, is not as crass as Osagie. Until Ayomide O. Tayo (Ayo), the author of the “Open Letter” spoke up, M.I was okay with calling Osagie “OG” when in fact Ayo had more of the industry experience than Osagie and was responsible for helping Osagie obtain his current employment at Pulse. M.I, it shouldn’t matter whether there is an OG or a newbie. Respect the seasoned writer as much as the new writer. You shouldn’t have to be checked to do so. If it is really about relationships, then titles shouldn’t matter because tomorrow that new writer may be the one calling the shots.
- I agree with M.I that the Pulse writer Ayo got it factually wrong in terms of saying M.I Abaga’s “shelf life” on an album was short lived. I also agree with M.I that Pulse journalists need to improve on their writings and Nigerian music journalists in general. I for one am thirsty for just good writing on the Nigerian and African music business scene. It is absent and it is really tiring to read the same old copy and paste statements/stories across the internet. I do, however, agree with Pulse that the entertainment industry is simply not used to being criticized. Before Osagie became the critic he is today, I was doing a lot of the same criticism and continue to, and often felt like the lone voice against all these talents that were just so spoilt with praises about their works. The idea that someone could say, “here is room for improvement or I believe you got it wrong and here is why” shocked most if not ALL of them. And it’s not just the talent, it includes industry professionals.
- I agree with the Pulse team and have said it many times here on AML that I believe that the quality of M.I’s work has suffered when comparing his prior works to his present work, among other things. The idea that journalists need to know the equipment M.I used to create his work, his personal life drama etc.as M.I seems to imply to criticize his work is preposterous. The idea that not knowing these challenging personal journeys make their criticism “half-truths” is ridiculous at best.
- I believe M.I is simply very spoilt when it comes to the media. He has enjoyed unprecedented support from Nigerian media and bloggers throughout his entire career with very minimal criticism. Now that he is receiving more criticism, albeit, via poorly written articles from time to time, he throws a tantrum which is how I view this whole situation.
- I also believe, after listening to the podcast, that M.I Abaga is again quite manipulative and egotistical. M.I, all of these while, did not make it to the Loose Talk podcast show despite several attempts they tried to book him, according to M.I, but the moment an article he didn’t agree with showed up, he rearranged his travel schedule to go into the studio for almost three hours to repaint and take control of the narrative. While he did not completely succeed in his mission, he came very close.
- M.I Abaga claims he respected Osagie Alonge and the Pulse team that is why he took the time to visit their office. I don’t believe this, at all. From his rude rants on social media to his appearance at the Pulse office, it is clear his statements and actions do not support his claims. M.I was there because Pulse is a very influential platform and the opinion of its music journalists as cultural influencers matters, bottom line. If he respected these journalists, he won’t tell them explicitly and subtly, among other things, that they work for the white man in their own country and should be working for themselves, while using the same white platform to promote his agenda and reposition his brand. By the way, M.I Abaga’s past endorsement deals with Hennessy, Gillette, and now Martell, aren’t those white owned brands? M.I is manipulative but is clearly perfecting the art of doing so subtly and by appeal to emotion while going to work on the psyche of his subjects.
- Nigerian musicians and creative talents in general act, in my personal experience writing about them for 10 years now, VERY entitled, and M.I Abaga confirms this. When an opinion does not agree with their views, they try to control the narrative. I know I have had numerous personalities in the industry reach out to me to change my stance on issues, and also suggest I become “friends” with them so I can either not write about them, or understand them better. M.I suggested too many times that Pulse Nigeria journalists need to become “friends” with the talents they write about, to better understand the challenges of the talents and write about those challenges. Says who? That, to me, is an entitled mentality and I think Osagie did a brilliant job of checking him on that by pointing out artists do not know the challenges writers in Nigeria have to go through to write and that what is being judged is the artistry. Nobody owes you a friendship in doing their job M.I. And in fact, if they do, it colors the narrative and objectivity becomes an issue.
- I agree with M.I Abaga that TheNet.ng churned more well-written articles than Pulse.ng in previous years. TheNet.ng used to be my #1 go to source for amazing, quality written articles and the two primary talents that kept me coming back were Ayeni Adekunle and Osagie Alonge. Since Osagie left, and barely writes for Pulse (he instead supervises the editorial team), it’s hard to see consistently well-written articles on either platform. I also often find Pulse.ng to have factually incorrect statements and always read their articles with caution because I don’t trust them. I have found I enjoy Olisa.tv articles about Nigeria’s entertainment industry the best. I will now add TheNativemag.com to my reading list since that is the one thing everyone could agree on during the show as a well-curated platform to read.
- This long banter and exchange could have been done in private. I also did not see the point of Loose Kanyon being there. He sometimes got unnecessarily worked up. There really was no need for the world to hear this. They could have had their private moments and sort themselves out.
- M.I Abaga, an opinion piece does not need your approval, or a phone call to you for a journalist or blogger to write what they think or feel about your work, even if it is factually incorrect. Yes, they should conduct due diligence. Yes, they should know their facts but if it is wrong, it just makes them look silly. They do not need to call you though. It’s an opinion and you do not have to agree with it, especially when it is factually incorrect. You just put the correct facts out there and move on.
- This was a VERY long podcast episode. Did it improve the industry? I think time will tell. But what we did find out is that Osagie Alonge needs to check his facts a bit more, and might need to receive even more training on supervising his writing team so they can write stronger, and much better articles. The writing, I completely agree with M.I Abaga, needs to come up higher. It can be and is often quite disappointing.
- Finally, M.I can easily tell writers to improve their work but when he is challenged about his work, he goes on a long rant on social media, clears his calendar and talks for almost three hours trying to convince others that his work is that good. That’s ego and unnecessary. He should be able to take the same criticism he gives others and improve his work.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE, CLICK AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION
- African and global superstars celebrate Africa Day Concert 2021
- AML 151: Meet Emem Ema, the Artist Manager Extraordinaire Managing Mr. P
- AML 150: Mental Health & Substance Abuse in the Afrobeats Music Industry
- AML 149: Intellectual Property, Race and Unjust Music Contracts with Prof. Kevin J. Greene
- AML 148: The Business of Music in Ethiopia with Negus Alemu & Leyla Konjo