That Incredible Guy
MI’s The Guy studio offering has lived up to its prerelease delights. The concern here is not the ongoing buzz about streams on social media platforms because that is still unfurling and will, perhaps, continue for a long time. The excitement in fans is because MI is beloved in Nigeria’s musical family. This digital acceptance foregrounds good things from a rapper who has seamlessly combined his American university education at Calvin College with Nigerian street intelligence and the cultural influences of his Jos, Plateau roots.
Rooted in the Hip Hop values of his time, yet an admixture of his cultural influences, The Guy, a twelve-track studio effort, is not a pedestrian album. Instead, it finds grip from the historical, spiritual, and philosophical; indeed, contemporary street values from which Nigeria’s growing music practitioners have always turned for shots of inspiration and exciting trends. The Guy cements MI’s place as the most consequential rapper at the moment. Over time, his likes have tried to impose a lyrical purity on rap and hip-hop in Nigeria and the continent. He seems to have taken the game a step higher on the rungs when it comes down to distilling glowing torchbearers in hip-hop evangelism.
The spiritual MI is detected when Jude Abaga says, “Alhamdulillah. Okay/ God is great, I can’t lie.” That declaration accepts the religious and divine as the bedrock of his musical triumphs over the years. This confession is a humbling revelation coming from someone who has had his fair share of criticisms in Nigeria’s hip-hop and rap press. That statement reveals his acceptance of all darts thrown his way in his journey to stardom and quest to form a distinct discography in a crowded marketplace where one is easily overlooked when new sensations pop out of the blue. That MI’s rap brand is still relevant speaks glowingly of the strength of his talent, craftsmanship, and sound choices, since he first nudged us with “Crowd Mentality” in 2006 and went home with the best rap single award at the Hip Hop World Awards in 2009.
The sounds deployed in The Guy are familiar hip-hop kicks, thumping and clapper sounds, and much more. MI brings a syrupy sophistication to Nigeria’s blossoming rap culture, on the one hand, while offering it street credibility on the other side. This elegance is also ably reflected in his past studio efforts, where his rap flows were stylish and relaxed yet never deviating from some of the cultural elements of hip-hop, such as grit, hardcore sounds and lyrics, power, poetry, and knowledge. He is among the celebrated few who have held rap in place with punchiness in Nigeria’s entertainment circuit when it’s being buffeted on all sides by various musical variants.
When the talented rapper says, “Let’s get this paper, my guy,” he hints at love for his fans and those outside the bracket of success. He seeks to inspire triumph in his listeners. He motivates them to go for it. He seems to say to all, “Let’s go get his money and not relent in our quest for the pinnacle of noble pursuits.” This push is an inspiring message from MI, a man who wants “his guys” out of poverty’s stifling trench. He has only used “paper” as one of the many recognizable symbols of success.
While Jude Abaga wishes to be known by the title of this album, some fans have noted that it may be challenging to know him by another moniker. One may say MI, Jude Abaga, off the stables of Chocolate City records, is that incredible Guy of talents, rap aesthetics, and techniques in Nigeria’s hip-hop clan. The United Nations Goodwill Ambassador has, once again, displayed his musical and intellectual prowess on a global scale, as reflected in his collaboration with America’s Nas on his sixth album, The Guy.
Image source: MI’s Twitter page.