The Chairman, Jude M.I Abaga has hugged the headlines yet again. M.I, whose leadership of the Choc City label has undergone surgical review, sparked off debates after featuring on the Loose Talk Podcast alongside Osagie Alonge (Osagz) and Ayomide Tayo (AOT2), where he also mentioned he had as much as 5 projects waiting in the wings.
Perhaps buoyed by the reactions from the podcast, MI made his biggest move this year on the 20th of October when he dropped the single “You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives”.
The song, which was targeted at rappers and filled with braggadocios lines, has since sparked a series of trending topics and online debate. With every line, MI questioned the hunger of rappers, expressing disappointment and literally handing the winner’s plaque to South African rap.
I’m doing this for the culture, you need somebody to coach ya, y’all need the truth
Clark Kent, Clark Kent… we need Superman, so I had to get in the booth /
We out here getting massacred, this is the General calling to check with the troops /
I made this shit easy for y’all, you’re messing up my alley-oop
In the hours that followed the song’s release, word of it spread and it captured the attention of a great deal of youth. The rap community got energized, the radio suddenly felt compelled to break format by playing rap music again and discussing Nigerian music on their belts. M.I’s move hijacked Twitter’s trending topics in a manner that, at least in a Nigerian sense, can be compared to when Kendrick Lamar’s verse on ‘Control’ dropped four years ago. And as everyone began to catch feelings, the reactions in various forms kept spiraling.
Of course a lot of rappers, especially the upcoming ones, felt aggrieved and betrayed by one of their idols talking down on all their ‘hard work’ in an industry that has turned a blind eye to rap music. But on the other hand, there are those who agree with the Chairman’s charge that ‘rappers have become lazy and walk around with a chip of entitlement.’
The song seemingly also became a spell-binding invocation for rappers who have previously forgotten their writing pen and a wake-up call to young rappers eagerly seeking some form of the action. Many rappers have not only taken to Twitter but have entered the booth to let MI know their thoughts and even as I type this, many more are set to upload their response. Check out the list of replies so far below. (In no particular order)
Lord V has been around for a while and anyone who knows will tell you that Vino was born for this. On his ‘Fix up The Lies’ reply, he took shots and wasn’t scared to name names, ‘I am tired of the silly crap, every day we take a Fresh L, I am talking about rappers that really rap, rest of you niggas is Fresh L”.
Alpha Muzik took things to another level detailing his encounter with M.I and backed it up with very impressive lines.
Rukus came out of his ‘retirement’ and had some truth to say, ‘You claim you want rappers to multiply but you only cause divisions’
Payper Corleone who recently dropped his ‘BARS 2’ project and has had a fairly good year was one of the first to pen a response
BlaqBonez has never backed down from controversies, so it was only normal he jumped on this
N6, a former member of the rap clique ‘4th Republic’ who had abandoned the game and became an OAP also jumped on the beat and dropped some scathing lines, “Walk around with a Loose Kaynon all day, that you ain’t gonna let blow”…
Holyfield did throw some heavy punches, ‘You went from Ice Prince to Koker, what you talking about?’
Mayne took shots, ‘you of all people should know what we face mehn… if to say na now wey you try to blow, trust me, you for don switch up for life’
S’old was quite unimpressive and probably should never have bothered with this
Okaim said he slowed it down, even though I struggled to understand his point all through
Cloud9ne failed to really hit the clouds with his response
MCSkill Tha Preacha also had some things to say
David Millz tried to address issues
There’s more, there’s Lord Gedes, Gunzz, Dabu the Gemini, Tito Brown, Zade, Emmzy E, Vader
Many industry observers are of the opinion that M.I’s “Fix Up Your Lives” song is a salvage move by a rapper whose recent works have come under criticism and needed to gather traction ahead of his upcoming projects. And a selfish move that may backfire and diminish the legacy he has built over the years.
Popular Lagos-based radio host, Yomi Kazeem doesn’t agree with the theory of Nigerian rappers being lazy, “I don’t think our rappers are lazy, they have had to adapt to a tough market which is what survivors do. If the market isn’t buying a product, you pivot. Think of it like a startup; if your product doesn’t have market fit, you either tweak the product or die slowly. No matter what MI says or thinks, the music industry is not structured to keep musicians viable in the short or long term and rappers get the worst end of the stick.”
On the comparison with the South African rap scene, he opines “The fascination with SA rappers is silly, two different markets, it’s like apples and oranges, we should really stop this unfair comparisons”.
As the replies continue to surface and everyone (the writer included) is getting caught in the excitement with many faux tweeting that ‘Hip-hop is back’, the fundamental problems are not been addressed, neither is the bigger picture being considered.
Like Cyrus tha Virus noted in his article, all this will soon pass away by the time the next EPL game or big event comes, but would the game have been better for it? Would the radio or blogs be more receptive to rappers? Would brands or corporations be willing to take a gamble and create rap -themed events and stop hiding under the guise that rap is not viable in Nigeria? Will labels take the bold move of investing in rappers who just want to rap? Will more radio stations be willing to host rap shows and not these ‘once in a while’ initiatives like that of Raezy with Rap Kulture which is giving rappers a semblance of a platform yet again?
Why are our leading rappers from Olamide, Phyno, Vector to Reminisce and the likes no longer rapping even when their breakthrough singles (yes, every single one of them) that brought them to the notice of many were actually rap songs? And they now take joy in deriding the art form as one that doesn’t pay the bills? How do we make the fans start paying for the music again and not just be the highest critics of an art-form they do not support? The questions are endless and none is being addressed by all these replies.
Undeniably, this is going to go down as a huge moment in hip-hop this year but years from now, are we going to really be able to say that this was just a moment and nothing else? Did M.I really get rappers to fix up their lives? Did it really change anything? Or was it just a false alarm in the middle of the night and everybody goes back to sleep?
There is no doubt that rap in Nigeria is in a dire state, polarizing it further is not the answer, and that is what has been achieved thus far with the direct shots and subliminal generated across board. MI’s move was unnecessary and the constant cheering on Twitter as his label mates clap back on rappers who replied to his song makes this a lot more of a mess, like didn’t he realize he dragged his affiliates into the battle the moment he released that song? In the words of Eminem, there is a certain line you just don’t cross and he crossed it, and releasing that song at this moment is helping to destroy something he helped build.
The rappers definitely need to do better with their stories, rappers need to collaborate more and fight less, rappers need to learn from the likes of Falz and carve out their own identity. Rappers need to make music that people can no longer ignore but the fans and industry actors have to pay more attention to those who are working hard and consistently creating something out of the chaos and less than ideal expectations that currently prevails in the industry.
Vino sums it up best when he said ‘I see real models making moves, so why are you focused on mannequins.’ Nigeria still has skilled and game changing rappers, it is time we support and pay more attention.