Artist: M.I Abaga
Record Label: Chocolate City (2018)
Guests: Chillz, Cassper Nyovest, Nonso Amadi, Tomi Thomas, Santi, Ckay, Joules Da Kid, Wande Coal, Dice Ailes, Moelogo, AKA, Ghost (SDC), Odunsi, Terry Apala, Ajebutter22, Falz, Straffiti, BlaqBones, YungL, U.aX, Trigga Madtonic.
Duration: 53 minutes
- What’s wrong with Hiphop in Nigeria?
- Why are Nigerian rappers missing in action on the continental HipHop scene?
- Or is HipHop in Nigeria dead?
These were the questions raised on the heels of M.I’s Loose Talk Podcast interview which beget the controversial 2017 song that got Nigerian rappers of different classes to react till it became a major conversation in the industry.
Only a rapper with six successful projects and a long cart of accolades would dare to ask such questions. Only rapper who has risen to the height of being called ‘African rapper Number 1’, can stamp his foot on the floor, demanding answers. Only a rapper of M.I’s stature would even dare to say these things but if he’d be taken seriously, he’d have to prove that he still has the Hip-Hop nerve in him by passing the hypocrisy test – can he walk his talk? Can he do better than the current crop of Nigerian rappers? Does he still have the wherewithal to compile classic rap projects like he did convincingly in the past?
These were some of thoughts that ran through the minds of a lot of people as they listened to M.I’s 7th project, a playlist (not an album) titled Rendezvous. After listening to the 15-track long playlist multiple times, here is my track-by-track review of the project:
Sunset ft. Chillz:
The sound of “what a day/what a day” greets you at the start of the track and gives the same feeling as the rush of sun rays through a window curtain being pulled up in the morning. It’s a bright start to an album with little prior hints and the tenderfoot Chillz laid the groundwork for M.I to step in with words to his haters who he left subliminal for, with the line “Ni**a you was talking loose/why don’t you say it to Loose (Kaynon)/Dawg who gon pay for your tooth/ When we show up with the troops.” Rumor has it that N6 is the man ‘bout to lose his tooth. M.I’s message on Sunset is clear.
Soup ft. Cassper Nyovest:
A collaboration between two of the finest rappers in Africa, one from the west, another from the south, sounds better on paper than it is on the actual record. Don’t get me wrong, soup is a good Hiphop material but I expected more you know. And I don’t understand why people have been saying Cassper killed M.I on the song ‘cos I think M.I had the better verse lyrically while Cassper’s delivery and flow sounded more appealing to the ear.
Playlist ft. Nonso Amadi:
Nonso Amadi made another one of dem lover boy songs and M.I rolled back the years of Forever & Know to show that even big boys can be tamed by love and made to do unbelievable things like go to war in defence of that special girl and the best part of the song for me, was the part where that special lady giggled loudly and showed just how much she enjoyed her time with him (M.I/Nonso Amadi). It’s the goal of every man in love – seeing that Angel crack an heavenly smile. 😍😍
Jungle ft. Tomi Thomas & Santi:
The ‘Jungle’ is what other people call the Streets or It’s the place where mans go all out to show the special girl that she deserves a better form love that she’s used to – a form of love that she’s new to, the kind of love that would makes her undo her previous plans to be with a man who makes her come alive. Not the high school kinda romance or the kinda of love that births sneak-ins and outs, it’s a wild kind of love in which there are no holds barred. Interestingly, Vic O was made to be part of actual music with his skit that came in at the later part of the song. Look out for it. Loooool!
Wats D Level ft. Ckay & Joules:
M.I has been experimenting with trap-style of rap for a while now, Fix up you life, Your Father are some of his latest experiments and he continues with the trendy style on Wats D Level. Ckay, the one dubbed “The Future”, made this one count by delivering another killer hook on an instrumental he produced – achieving the holy grail for new age producers. Then there’s Joules who comes in to have a tidy shift of rapping exercise.
Kososhi ft. Wande Coal: How do you plan to live this year? Taking BS from people who you give your all to? Bending over for people who won’t move an inch for you? Wande Coal and M.I aren’t entertaining BS this year, this is the Kososhi year, although the track has been reportedly recorded since 2014, these two have been living the life since then. Talk of a i-don’t-entertain-BS, non-patronising trap record and you have Kososhi. It’s an amazing piece of music that sees Wande’s trap singing skills manifest while M.I “cuts through beef (and distractions) like a steak knife”. These two are the finest acts of different genres of the same generation (Wande Coal being the OG of Afro-pop music and M.I being the HipHop OG). It shows how significance the track is, to the Nigerian music culture. In 30 years from now, people would reference this and their other songs when talking about the impact of these two music stars.
Your Father ft. Dice Ailes: An unannounced pre-project release that left M.I fans confused as to the direction of their dear Mr Incredible. It’s the kind of track you’d expect from Dice, not M.I but then, M.I has never hidden his interest in staying relevant even if it means singing nursery rhymes and dressing like a college kid. He has been largely successful and that’s why he’s still a name in the game even when a lot of his peers have retired to resting on their oars. Your Father can easily be omitted on the playlist without loss of quality or impact.
One Way ft. Moelogo: Loving someone who doesn’t love you the same way is a feeling to wish-away and on One Way, Moelogo sings to convince his one-true love to reciprocate his love while M.I delivered a less than convincing rap verse with similar intention. My fave part of the record has to be Charles”Igwe 2Pac” Okocha’s skit which also proves that the Rendezvous playlist is an ad-hoc arrangement. If you listen patiently, you’d observe that Charles Okocha thought he was making a skit for Young Denzel, the original album we were expecting from M.I which was however pushed back till May 2018.
On Code ft. AKA: Another track on which I think M.I’s lyrical prowess was unmatched but has been undermined by critics who think AKA had a better verse, maybe flow-wise and delivery-wise but in terms of wordplay, lyrics and metaphors, M.I nailed it on On Code. He delivered one of my fave verses on the album when he said ‘I just put a milli in the bank/ and my accountant told me thanks/so I told him that when he’s filling in the blank/put my names as G/cos I be feeling really grand.’
Popping ft. Odunsi & Ghost (SDC): The perfect mix of classic and new school. Odunsi, the producer and hook taker, showed just why everyone in industry is raving about him. M.I went as far as calling him the future. M.I’s verse on this record is great but Ghost is the higher authority – the beast that must have left the booth in flames after recording his verse.
Jiggy ft. Terry Apala: Have you noticed how every artiste looking to diversify on their album, goes to feature Terry Apala? M.I tore from this same playbook of tricks on this playlist, with this track – Jiggy. I feel like Terry Apala can do no wrong with his Apala-Trap genre, or perhaps ‘cos of the uniqueness of the sound, even when it is half-baked, we welcome it gleefully since its a taste of something that has been missing for so long.
Lekki ft. Odunsi, Ajebutter22 & Falz: Odunsi again? Yes him again. This budding artiste gave the Rendezvous playlist a face-lift with his production skill and his singing like he did on this track – M.I and Ajebutter tried to fit into to wahzup guy style of rap that Falz has honed and mastered over the years. So it is no surprise that he shone the brightest on this track.
Slow ft. Straffiti & Blaqbones: Here is a record that captures the thoughts of three fine rappers in their moods of sober reflection. A new fave for trap-music lovers, not me.
The Crew ft. Yung L & U.aX: I’ve come across some great reggae-infused materials around, of late and this track registers in that category. Brilliant song, groovy and straight vibes. M.I’s singing ability is appreciable on the record and Yung L delivered an impressive rendition on the song although he gave Arsenal fans reason to hate him when he said, “I no go do you like Arsenal” when he meant he won’t disappoint his subject, a lady. U.aX simply added jara to an already ready offering.
Sunrise ft. Trigga Madtonic: The vibe on the crew is somehow sustained to create a sound-alike. I’ve haven’t heard of Trigga Madtonic prior to listening to this track but I certainly would be looking out for him henceforth ‘cos of the brilliant patois hook he delivered on this track. I was moved to tears when he said “she sees a future in me and that’s why she’s loving me.” Only a love of pure origin can inspire one to say such. It’s the kind of song I’d like to sing to Toke Makinwa when appreciating her and the love I wish we share. Sunrise is clearly my fave track on the album and M.I needed to do little on the track. Sunrise is a gift from Madtonic to M.I and he was wise to save the best for the last.
The Rendezvous playlist isn’t the project fans were promised by M.I. It isn’t the album fans have spent a long time anticipating. It’s a shocker, an out of blues move that has become welcome and is being celebrated because of the transient satisfaction it offers, even though its long-term impact remains uncertain. The offering can be likened to buying someone you owe, a meal so he/she would stop asking for a refund or at least, give you more time to deliver on your promise.
M.I compiled a playlist instead of an album to delight of his starved fans and impress his curious critics. Interestingly, the playlist is impressive especially because of its potential impact on the Nigerian pop culture. M.I can take pride in the fact that he has again put on several budding acts who look likely to be running the big spaces of the industry in coming years.
Moreso, M.I seems to have experimented a lot with trap music on this project and with the already evident measure of success achieved, the Rendezvous playlist might be more than just another commendable body of work from him. It just might be the blueprint Nigerian rappers need to find the proper balance between infusing pop music elements and maintaining the quality of rap in their materials which has been the major unfinished task for the industry rappers and has frustrated some to the point of quitting, while many others simply abandoned rap for other trendy music ystyles.
Truth be told, M.I is not at his peak at the moment, the Rendezvous playlist isn’t his best project but it has enough quality to rank high on the Nigerian Hip Hop chart of today, proving that indeed the bar has dropped so badly and although M.I did not raise it to great heights with this project, he has given it a significant lift.
So who’s gonna pick it up from there?
This review is solely the opinion of the contributor and does not reflect BellaNaija’s views in any way.