About 2weeks ago, I caught a tweet by my good friend and Chocolate City (Records) Executive, Lanre “Elbama” Onipede, replying a blogger who is purported to have said that M.I had a bad year (2013). It is apparent that the said blogger’s assertion didn’t go down well with Lanre, as he promptly gave evidence to the contrary. Lanre’s tweet reads, “if by getting 2 endorsement deals running into millions, a new house, 2 new posh cars, a state appointment is bad, then M.I had a BAD year.”
I found Lanre’s reply particularly discomforting because I felt it didn’t take into account the possibility that the said blogger behind the ‘abominable remark’ might have been an M.I fan; and I think he/she is. I also want to believe that the fellow was equally aware of every one of those “grand achievements” carefully detailed by Lanre in his reply. But the fellow’s comment was clearly not about all that; It was about the music, but (Lanre) chose to not see that. I’m also under the impression that the said blogger wasn’t out to malign anyone, but merely to express an opinion; one I happen to share. Only a concerned follower (believer), would know and care enough to make such a frank statement.
M.I started getting endorsements through making music and not the other way round, so it’s not out of place to assess his year based on that factor (the music).
At this juncture, you must permit me this jaunt down memory lane to recall the first time I heard M.I’s Crowd Mentality on radio; I was in awe of it. I was so sure the rapper was of American descent. Alas, I was wrong, the rapper was M.I. The beat was audacious and irreverent at the time, and still is; the arrangement and QUALITY OF THOUGHT was, and still is, UNTOUCHABLE. Crowd Mentality literally haunted me in my sleep for several nights. I had to meet this guy; and by some divine orchestration, I did meet M.I a few weeks after. Let it be said here, that I worked with M.I for purely selfish reasons.
The M.I I met in 2007 was eventually going to be signed onto one of the big hip-hop labels and become ‘proper’ contemporaries with Jay-Z (Jigga) and Kanye, and I wanted to be in such company as well. I was so sure M.I was going to sell out huge venues in a proper world tour, perform at Coachella among other globally renowned music festivals, sell millions and millions of records, net global endorsement deals, and in fact, bring us a Grammy. And no, those weren’t fantastic dreams, not to me at the time; they were targets, attainable targets. M.I was going to tear down the barriers and be our representative in the global music mainstream. He was going to live out the true definition of doing it BIG and further open our eyes to that possibility. M.I was the chosen one.
The thing about true greatness is, no matter how obscure its repose, wise men will always seek it out. Little wonder that once M.I started residing in Palm Grove (Djinee’s place), it inevitably became a Mecca of sorts to all manner of industry players. Bear in mind that M.I had no ‘posh car’ at that time (ok feel free to read this sentence again without the ‘posh’). Why did they come? Your guess is as good as mine. Although not all the wise men made it to Palm Grove, they ALL acknowledged that a king was born. I particularly recall this occasion when M.I and I bumped into the legendary Efe Omoregbe, talent manager par excellence, at a media house where M.I had just concluded an interview.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Mr. Omoregbe promptly produced one thousand naira from his pocket and handed it to M.I, clearly stating that the money was advance payment for the very first copy of M.I’s yet to be released debut album.
If you’re wondering, what’s the big deal? The joke’s on you. M.I isn’t merely an outstanding rapper, he is also an exceptionally gifted musician. I mean his gift was several cuts above the rest, and the REST knew it! It therefore cannot be too hard for anyone to see why British Council would pick a largely unknown M.I to be part of its BRING THE NOISE project back in 2007.
In case you’re one of those hardy folk who absolutely must see to believe, then check out this clip of M.I performing (not miming/lip syncing) ‘Short Black Boy’ over a very basic instrumental at the 2008 Future Awards ceremony at the Muson Centre. Bear in mind that at least 95 per cent of the crowd had never heard that song before and probably never heard of M.I too. Greatness spoke, and the people rallied!
Today, that greatness has been so greatly undermined to the point that someone somewhere could imagine and hatch the abominable idea of lumping Lynxxx and Naeto C in a mass endorsement jamboree that also includes Mr f*cking Incredible? Incredible! The M.I I saw should have been big enough to command the combined signing fee of all of those artistes on GLO’s bloated roster, to be the sole ambassador of the brand. But the “Chairman” appears to be quite at home in that company. After all, the money’s too good.
What went wrong? For me, this unfortunate turn of events started from M.I’s second album. Firstly, I was shocked to find out it wasn’t titled PYERI BOY (apparently, sticking to the plan wasn’t part of the plan anymore). MI2 marked the beginning of the implementation of the ‘transformation agenda’ – from standing out (Crowd Mentality), to blending in (African rapper no1).
Although MI2 still boasts of great songs like One Naira, Wild Wild West, and Nobody, the question remains, which of those songs has a video and which does M.I perform most at shows? M.I appears to have made it a point of duty to leave his best work out of TV, from TALK ABOUT IT to MI2. It’s a shame that great songs like One Naira, Fast money Fast cars, Short Black Boy, Wild Wild West (very important song), Forever, Nobody and many more records from his debut and sophomore albums still go without due visual expression. For MI2, he sold us the movie theme idea. it was brilliant, but we never got no movie. A “Chairman” should at least make videos. No?
M.I is clearly not trying to be Mr. Incredible anymore. That is clearly why he has pulled the plugs on great projects like the One Album, Pyeri Boy, Rap Songs About Love and many more. If only you knew what fantastic music the ‘Chairman’ is holding back from you. . . M.I was born a KING; this is why I find it rather absurd to watch him struggle to be ‘Chairman.’ This is the classic case of Joseph ignoring the bigger lofty vision of being Prime Minister in Egypt to settle as the Chief slave in Potiphar’s house (madam’s boyfriend). This new ‘Chairman’ standard, in my opinion, is unacceptable, demeaning and unsustainable.
Did you know M.I’s Crowd Mentality was a reply to the Choc Bosses who wanted him to make a certain kind of music at the time? Oh yes it was, and I heard him tease Audu Maikori ( Co-Founder of Chocolate City Records) about it a couple of times too. Crowd Mentality was sarcasm at its finest; or so we thought. Hehe. . . turns out the joke was on us. Now look who’s making bad music just to rock in arenas. *sigh*
Finally, I make bold to submit that, when compared to M.I, the KING; this new M.I, your “Chairman,” with all his ‘posh cars,’ is a pauper.
However, If you still think this is just another poor hater hating on your CHAIRMAN; well, you’re a GENIUS!!! And to be sure, I haven’t eaten today. Hehe…
My take. Feel free to (share) yours here.
Obinna Agwu, a guest contributor to Africa Music Law™, is an avid music buff with years of experience in the burgeoning Nigerian Music industry. He has worked as an artiste manager and A&R in the past, for a number of Nigerian artistes including M.I, Eva Alordiah, Morell, and Rayce, amongst others. In 2012, he was appointed A&R Manager for Trybe Records.
He now works as an A&R executive with a music talent development company in Nigeria. You can follow him on twitter at @d_angrymob.
NOTE:The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Africa Music Law™ or its founder.
M.I Abaga Crowd Mentality
Chairman by M.I Abaga