MI Abaga talked about his journey to Lagos from Jos with nothing but a backpack, his relationship with current label mates as well as ex-label mate Brymo, and his romantic relationships, among others.
MI who was recently made the new CEO of Chocolate City, taking over from Audu Maikori, described his new role as interesting. For him, it was an epic journey from where he started as a young boy growing up in Jos.
He said: “You have to understand that I came from Jos, I came in with a backpack and a laptop in it. And somehow through hard work and having a great team and mentors around me, guys like Audu Maikori, Paul Okeugu and Yahaya Maikori I have somehow been able to get here. And I guess that’s an encouragement to everyone – keep working hard and believing you’ll get there.”
Still, he notes that it is not easy being a CEO, it comes with its own challenges, he says.
“The new role has been very interesting. There’s been a lot of pressure but I hope I’m equipped to handle it,” he said. “Oh… It’s slightly different these days. I have less time to myself now. My days are pretty packed than normal now. It’s busier, you know. I wake up 8:30AM or so in the mornings, pray and work-out then I leave the house at about 10:00AM, work till 7:00PM, and about 7:30PM I’m back home. I get to bed around midnight.”
Speaking on the Nigerian entertainment industry, MI called it “vibrant,” projecting a positive future.
He said: “You talked about baby mamas, web scandals and the likes. It’s going to get a lot more because people are gonna become more intensely-tuned into what’s happening. Social Media is gonna become more powerful. The blogs are gonna become more powerful. I also think it’s a good thing. I think people need to realize that when they sign up for this job they’d need to watch their brands and protect their identities and be responsible with the powers that… you know, the fame that they’ve gotten. Urm, also with more eyeballs come more followers and then more money. I think it’s great because more people are paying attention these days.”
MI has not been devoid of his own scandals or beefs either. He was recently embroiled in some altercation with Quilox night club.
He explained: “With Quilox, first off I wanna say a big shout out to the CEO Shina Peller. He’s a boss, he’s my boss and he handled it like a boss. Cuz I left Quilox and I wasn’t happy. The management there turned off the music while I was performing and I didn’t get an apology while I was there. I think it was an employee error. I wasn’t happy that day, but I guess what’s important is how we move on from what’s happened.
“As I said, Shina Peller was the boss in all of this. He called me when. When he got to me I was in South Africa, but he found my number and called me. This is someone who I have so much respect for, but my respect for him just went through the roof.
“In truth, he had no reason to do that because I’m a small fry to him… But then he reached out to me time and time again. So I say shout out to him, and God bless him for me.”
Chocolate City, itself, the label that brought us MI, Ice Price, Jesse Jaggz and Brymo in its early days has also experienced some controversy; the most notorious being the lawsuit it filed against MI’s ex-label mate Brymo. The Ara singer had attempted to quit the label before the expiration of its contract.
However, after some Twitter battle here and there, earlier this year, Brymo made some overtures towards his former label including reaching out to then label head, Audu.
Of Brymo, MI said: “You see, I can’t speak about him personally. I know him, rather, I knew him. Not so much anymore. But [regardless] I can’t say much about his personality. As far as I’m concerned, his grounds for leaving Chocolate City were business related. And so things like loyalty and what kind of person he is, I don’t really think they come into play here. I wouldn’t want him to judge my person also because of business.
“I would however say I think it’s unfortunate that he’s no longer at Chocolate City because I believe whatever issues people have in an organization can be resolved if they both wanna move forward because definitely it wasn’t the label saying they didn’t wanna move forward. I guess after that the next thing I’ll say is I wish him well.”
Jesse Jagz, MI’s brother around the time of the whole Brymo mess, had also left the label acrimoniously, although he waited for his contract to expire. But these days, Jesse is back at Chocolate City.
When asked about the possibility of such a return for Brymo, MI said: “As far as Brymo coming back to the Label is concerned it’s a bit different from Jesse’s case… A lot has been said, a lot of bridges have been burned and I know [Brymo] put [out] one or two on social media, [I mean] personal attacks on Audu.
“The court case is easier to resolve. But personal attacks, slander… you see, I’m a loyal person. And when someone makes an accusation at someone I consider mentor, in a public space, then you’re more or less alienating yourself from me. So there’s a lot more for us to resolve for us to work together again. However, depending on the court decision, he may still have to make music through Chocolate City. We’ll see how that goes.”
MI first took the Nigerian music scene by storm in 2008 with his single ‘Safe’. After dropping albums Talk About It, Illegal Music 1 and MI2, back to back from 2008 to 2010, he took a breather before releasing the Illegal Music 2 mix tape in 2012. And then The Chairman album in 2014.
However, these days the schedules are tighter. And for a rapper whose wordplay, breath control, cadence and flow pattern puts him high on many a hip hop list today, the fans will always yearn for the music. And Jude Abaga has assured there won’t be any break.
He does not see his new role as head of a record label affecting his output as a musician.
“I’m making music right now. The music will keep playing. The music will be there, not much space in between following the new role, hopefully,” he said.
When MI first started out, hip-hop was a much derided art form in Nigeria, with artists like Eedris Abdulkareem, making what some considered a mockery of the language of the urban American streets.
But the “short black dude” changed the game, inspiring more serious rappers and intense fan following.
On the acceptance of the hiphop in Nigeria today, he said: “The genre is a lot more recognized today. In hip hop, a lot more rappers are making money. People appreciate rap so much more now. Hip hop is everywhere. You think about the rappers that are successful today and you see that times have changed.”
Although he had been open on almost everything, MI, however shut down when he came to talks about his romantic relationships.
“I’m not looking for new relationships now,” he said coyly. “Everybody that’s around me has been there before now, and hopefully they’ll remain. I’m not looking for new friends. I’m comfortable with the people I have in my life, and if I were to get married it’ll be someone in my circle, someone I’ve always known.”