If ever the expression ‘an army of rappers’ can be excused, then nothing better captures the sight of Chocolate City commander MI and his trio of lieutenants - Jesse Jags, Ice Prince and Brymo - when they took the stage at the IndigO2 Millennium Dome, London, on the evening of April 28.The star was on a promotional tour the UK for ‘MI the Movie’ PHOTOS by Tolu Kusanu
Dressed identically in immaculate white jackets, white shirts and bowties, Nigeria’s newest - and I dare say, most successful - crop of rappers emerged onstage one after the other, heralded by a cartoon-animation video of the prelude track on ‘MI2: The Movie’, his sophomore album.
“They call… they call… they call me MI. Are you ready to dance with the devil? Let’s go!” concluded the skit, as the renowned ‘short, black boy’ stepped onstage to feverish cheers from the audience, who had gamely borne the efforts of several comic and musical acts in the first half of the concert.
The men-in-white took their business of entertainment to heart. Their movements were choreographed to exude practised grace. These ‘Chocolatiers’ had come to offer their own brand of confection to the Diaspora; and ladies dressed to the nines, trotting on high-heeled shoes, and young men sporting designer wear and adopted accents stood side by side in united admiration for MI. Most had forked out between 30 and 75 pounds for this privilege.
Rap music is the forte of the self-assured, and none exuded the confidence and swagger (pardon this clichéd street slang) better than the Choc Boys. MI, backed by Brymo, whipped the audience to a frenzy with a rendition of “Action Film”. Its chorus, “I would like to take you on a ride,” was nothing short of a promise of what the evening entailed. Extempore raps were on the cards as Jesse Jags boasted the wealth of his lyrics: “They call me Scarface, but everyday you can take my lines to the bank, they call it Barclays.”
MI might have visited London to promote his sophomore album but he was not about to have the adoring crowd forget the self-titled debut that had set him apart as the fastest-risen icon on the Nigerian music scene, in only three years. He proposed a musical equivalent of Truth or Dare with his label mates: concert-goers were given an opening cue to one of his old songs and then were expected to rap the rest to prove their knowledge of the track. Their reward was an item of clothing off one of the rappers.
“I’m a girl pleaser,” MI cued, and the audience screamed in response: “Big booty squeezer, teaser looking for a diva for sheezer. What you need is a geezer, cool like a freezer, rule like a Caesar,” finishing the hook of the hit, “Teaser”.
“Anoti”, “Fast Money Fast Cars”, “Mogbonofelifeli Remix”, “Nobody Test Me” and “Forever” followed in the same pattern until all four pristine jackets had being taken off, sometimes sparking catfights between eager hands as they were thrown into the appreciative crowd. Jesse Jags, perhaps not eager to stand before the crowd sans clothes, insisted that “one of those lines just ain’t right,” effectively ending the game.
MI without further ado introduced one of the most popular song of his new album, “Beef”, with a pep talk about “people that just be hating” – a reference to musician Kelly Handsome. Many eagerly rhymed along with him: “See musicians tryna beef me for real, son/ maybe they’re doing it to promote the album/ they know that using my name will help them sell some/ so Iceberg it’s all right, you’re welcome/ But I’m not in the league, help me tell them/ The Super Eagles don’t play against the Falcons/ see (ugly) pikin dey form handsome/ Kelechukwu clap for yourself, well done!”
One wondered fleetingly if the same crowd wouldn’t be just as keen to mouth the words to “Finish You Boy”, Handsome’s newly-released response to MI’s “Beef”. Perhaps the Nigerian crowd themselves are the fuel for the Tupac/Biggie-like scenarios recently plaguing Nigeria’s music industry.
Proving his dexterity as a lyricist, MI revealed the meaning behind some of his rap lines that might have been taken at face value: “Some sow broke, others wealth reaping,” and “How I would Fri as I Sat in the Sun through the weekend” – a play on weekdays, which express his struggles to make a name for himself in the industry.
Rhymes for Jos
But it wasn’t all beef and self-aggrandisement as MI calmed the crowd’s excitement with “Wild Wild West”, a song dedicated to the city of Jos. Accompanied by a video showing graphic images of the 2010 crises, MI told of his anger at the destruction that had “cancelled the (peaceful) name” of the place he calls home. “Better get your gun, better get your vest, in J-Town it’s the wild, wild, west/ I just wanna cry, I just wanna know why my people struggle to unify/ orphans, coffins, bastards, caskets, mass burials, how’re we gonna move past this?” he lamented to the solemn rhythms that accompanied his delivery.
Not many of the goings-on affecting the lives of the masses seemed to escape MI’s pen. He may have moved “from a legedis-benz to a Honda” but he had expended the effort to interview the street thugs of Lagos, and documented same in a video that introduced a song inspired by the soundtrack of an old Nigerian soap opera famous for the popular character, Jagua. “My head, my belle” is a song for the poor, one that encouraged them and yet was an apposite reflections of their circumstances.
Tracks like “Number One”, “Slown Down”, “Represent” and “One Naira” featuring Waje, who arrived sans make-up, straight from the airport, Ice Prince’s hit single “Oleku” and Jesse Jagz’s “Jargo” rounded off the evening.
The album launch was organised by Coko Bar, one of the more popular UK-based Nigerian entertainment promoters. Acknowledging the management of Audu Maikori, Chocolate City founder, comedian Seyi Law cracked a joke at MI’s expense, saying, “If no be for this man (Maikori), MI Abaga for dey run for gun now for Jos.”
Seyi Law and British comedy act Kevin Jay, who has perfected Nigerian patterns of speech and Pidgin English, had earlier reduced the audience to fits of laughter with their hilarious takes on Nigerian life. Other acts included 2kris, the duo of Nigerian-born brothers; and Tipsy, a feminine incarnation of Dagrin’s street style who performed a tribute to the late rapper.
MI may have been accused of diluting his style with ‘MI2: the Movie’, but every song is a brilliant reflection of the Nigerian struggle and aspiration, eliciting open adulation from the fans who crowded the IndigO2 and were crushed to see him leave at the show’s end. The emotion appeared to be mutual as it was a reluctant MI that was finally coaxed offstage by Coko Bar founder, Ropo Akin.
But not before MI had handed out all the accessories he was wearing. Eventually stripped of almost everything but the clothes on his back, and with several demanding fans left to satisfy, he had tried to lift some off the other Choc Boys. But they, unlike MI, were not as obliging. Hopefully, many a fan who left the show with a valuable memento in hand, wished the short black boy a long reign as “African rapper number one.”
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men its blue murder to say MI is the best rapper in naija, and if any one says so then it points to the fack that they dont really understand or listen to rap music , agreed mi is one of the best a few years back when his album dropped, but with this last effort, he has dropped down 3 notches... for me the best around is Neato C. check out his album compare and tell me wether M, was ever better.
C is an eccentric rapper he easilly churns out Classics, never heard of rhymes and punch lines Mi is doing so well and getting a lot of props simply because C's vidoes have not yet drop, mark my words when it does you;ii be forced to rewrite this article.