A book on the history of Nigerian hip-hop would be incomplete without a big ass chapter dedicated to M.I Abaga. There were quite a number of successful and acclaimed rappers before Mr Abaga burst on to the scene, but his colossal track record speaks for him as a pioneer of the new school and a bridge from the old school. The man is a living, breathing hip-hop legend who deserves every ounce of praise for his seminal work on the hip-hop scene in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
M.I can rap, the sun rises in the east. What’s brought him utmost praise in a market that isn’t too friendly to rappers is his ability to create bridges between contemporary pop sounds dominating Nigerian music and hip-hop. Part of this is due to M.I’s willingness to work with a variety of artists – even upcoming artists. Every song on his last album, The Chairman had at least one featured artist. While the number of features on the album gave it a disjointed feel at times, M.I’s wide array approach of recruiting guest artists added to the album’s appeal. I’d take a Wizkid hook over a Julius Caesar hook – we know that was you, M.I – even if it sounds pretty damn good.
M.I has received some impeccable features from many artists and he’s also given out some impeccable ones as well. If you’re rapper and M.I shows up on your track, you’d be careful about your bars lest you get Renegade-d on your own track. His work with singers though hovers between tepidity and applause worthy. Either way M.I is a great guest to have on a track. We dug through M.I’s extensive catalog and compiled (arguably) ten of his best features.
The approach to a collaboration between two or more artists differs but ultimately, what matters is that the resulting song has an undeniable quality. Having a great guest verse or hook on a horrible song is just that – a good performance on a bad song. All the songs included on this list are great songs, enhanced by Mr Abaga’s performance.
Let’s get it.
10) Salamalekun 2.0 – Eclipse Ft. M.I
What is the female version of a fuckboy? M.I says it’s ‘spoongirl’. Whether you want to accept that term or not, it’s hard to dismiss the idea with the way M.I confidently drops it in between his verse. M.I rides the thick, sparse beat with the skill of a seasoned rap equestrian that he is. He is the more composed offset to the anxious jabs dropped by Eclipse but that doesn’t lessen the weight of his brags.
9) Love – Kel Ft. M.I & DC
Normally, the blue eyed romantics in most scenarios are presented as females. Kel and M.I flip the script with the latter acting as the voice of reason for love. The song comes off as a well meaning interaction between both artists who compliment each other very nicely during the course of the plot. The point of a collaboration is to create a strong song, ‘Love’ pairs Kel and M.I together perfectly and M.I plays his role with a gentle flair.
8) I No Send You (Emcees Version) – Tha Suspect Ft. M.I et al
Tha Suspect created one of the biggest posse cuts in Nigerian Hip-Hop history, tapping some of the biggest and best lyricists in the game. M.I’s verse was sandwiched between one of the best verses on the cuts – MI Floss’ and one of his biggest competitors at the time – Vector That Viper. In this high stakes position, M.I delivers a verse that ranks high against any hardness scale you can find. From his unique entrance to his applause worthy wordplay and a commanding flow to match, M.I sinks his lyrical fangs into the cut and doesn’t look back.
7) Maga No need Pay – Cobhams, M.I et al
M.I adds a healthy dose of positivity to this song with the last verse on the all-star ensemble cut. M.I’s brilliant verse is uplifting without being preachy. His nimble and urgent style of rapping shines a bright light to let the anti-cybercrime message permeate through in the best way possible.
6) Know – Lami Ft. M.I
I had a massive crush on Lami Phillips around the time the video for this song came out, until I learnt she was married. That crush went away but the beauty of this song has stayed over the years. M.I’s raspy voice creates a beautiful harmony with Lami’s syrupy voice and his short rap verse is straight to the point and sweet. I’m proposing to the future love of my life with this song in the background. (I’m single by the way – ish).
5) Must Be – Loose Kannon Ft. M.I
This is M.I’s essential slow whine jam, it’s not his song technically but it probably won’t be this good without him. With the help of autotune, M.I croons a dazing hook which is decorated by the percussive beat. Loose Kannon does his thing with two breezy verses while M.I closes out with a crisp verse. M.I’s singing and rapping leaves his fingerprints all over this well crafted song.
4) Thank You – Ice Prince Ft. The Choc Boiz
Ah, the good times. Highlight reel material from when the golden choc boi crew reigned supreme. If you hate Brymo’s hook on this amazing song, I hate you. The hook glues three superb verses, one from Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz and M.I. While Jagz gets major props for being the star of the show, M.I doesn’t get shown out. Rapping with a bloated inflection and a half-drunkard pose flow, M.I’s verse displays the dexterity we’ve come to expect from him and some with that cadence. Best choc boi song ever, don’t @ me!
3) 2010 – Sound Sultan Ft. M.I
Sound Sultan pulled an inspired verse from M.I on this politically charged cut. Sound Sultan sets a high octane environment and M.I fits right in with his quicksilver flow, letting his witty raps succinctly portray the angst of Nigerians concerning socioeconomic issues. Sadly, these issues are still very much around and the urgent message in this verse is still appropriate today.
2) Nobody Test Me – Jesse Jagz Ft. Ice Prince & M.I
You knew I was lying on number 4. You know ‘Nobody Test Me’ is the quintessential choc boi song and you know M.I destroyed his verse on this inherently great song. I imagine M.I brushed the dirt off his shoulder after recording this verse. M.I put on a dominant display, powering through the heavy, dingy beat to confidently send warning notes to every rival who planned on attacking his coveted throne. Especially the potent subliminal “only Kelly that I know is Kelly Rowland” line toward Kelly Handsome, whom he was embroiled in a beef with at the time.
1) 123 (Remix) – DJ Neptune Ft. M.I, Naeto C & Dagrin
M.I tackles this beat pound for pound, matching power with wit to create a magical verse which will make ‘the rapper that you know fear’. It’s like Bigfoot came out of hiding just to stomp all over the beat. Only right that one of the definitive hip-hop songs in Nigerian music history got kicked off by arguably the best verse of M.I’s illustrious career. Naeto C anf the late great, Dagrin follow up with winning verses as well.
Think we missed or misplaced a feature? See you in the comments section or ca(sss)tch us on Twitter.
Words by Dennis, aka Featured Writer, aka @ayo_dennis.