In the early 2000s, M.I Abaga was a US returnee who had shelved the idea of pursuing a career in comedy because no one laughed at his jokes. Rap was a second choice which he explored while in college via school events and a rap contest wherein he finished third place.
By the late 2000s, M.I Abaga had become an indomitable force in the Nigerian hip-hop scene with his instant classic debut album, Talk About It– a socially-charged project that screamed intelligence, an unprecedented lyrical capacity, metaphorical finesse, yet democratized.
The brilliant 18-track album was a game changer! Today December 1st 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the widely acclaimed album and in commemoration, we tapped M.I Abaga’s first formal manager, Agwu Obinna who goes by the moniker, Angry Mob.
The seasoned talent manager who began working with M.I during the creation of the album served as a guide/go-to guy to the rapper who at the time had just moved to Lagos from his hometown, Jos with the mission of getting heard and pushing his music to the big stage.
As much as he remembers, track by track, Obinna lets us in on some of the back stories on collaboration, promotion, production and happenings that influenced the 10-year-old Talk About It album.
How I Met M.I Abaga
I was chilling with my homeboy, and we were listening to the radio – we were listening to Top 7 Jamz at 7 with Jay Jay Da Mecadon and then this rap song was playing, it was really dope, but we were not really paying attention because we felt like; common this is Yankee music, what do you expect? So we just treated it like that until the record stopped and then Jay Jay goes; “That was M.I from Jos”, both of us just screamed.
That was Crowd Mentality! We just screamed like what the actual f**k. Immediately, I just told my homeboy, you know what, I’m going to find this guy, and work with him. Then two weeks later, just by luck, by chance really, I was going to HIP TV to do some business, he was going to Galaxy TV for an interview, and we just met an Ogundana junction. He was new and so unknown, that when I said M.I, he was so shocked like “oh my God, somebody knows me, wow!”.
We just met and from then, we started working together. M.I was the first person I managed professionally. I learnt on the job while working with M.I.
The Talk About It Backstory
The Yoruba on the Anoti record was done by a guy called Gabriel, he happened to be M.I’s homeboy in Jos. He is one of those Jos people who had been in Lagos for some time so he understood the lingua and how touts talk and everything. He is based in Jos but was unique that he could bring that authentic Lagos flavour and that is what M.I wanted on that record. It was good that he didn’t have to come all the way to Lagos to get that.
There must have been up to ten versions of Anoti, leading up to the one that finally made it to the album. M.I kept improving it until it was time for the album and that was the one he put out.
L Boogie Intro (Skit)
Lanre (L Boogie) lived closed to him. We were staying at Palmgroove and Lanre was at Illupeji and if you know Lagos very well, you know you literally just have to cross one road to the other side. Elbama (L Boogie) really helped because he worked with the radio. He wasn’t on air but he was assisting OAPs at the time so he was very instrumental and helped us gained prominent airplay on Rhythm FM because he really liked the music and believed in M.I.
So we just became friends and Elbama used to come hang out at the house a lot so M just said you know what, do me this honour and that was how the L Boogie skit happened.
By the way, Lanre changed his name from L Boogie to Elbama after former US president Barrack Obama got into office.
Short Black Boy
Short Black Boy is a very significant record in M.I’s growth and a significant one for me because we were doing a lot of work, he was on tour with the British Council on something called Bring The Noise. It was right in the middle of that tour that he got an opening for him to perform at the Future Awards. So M.I displayed incredible confidence by performing that song because the song wasn’t out, it was a song he was still writing and improving on like he always does. He felt it was good enough, he came for that performance right from the airport from Tanzania and he performed Short Black Boy for the first time, and everybody went crazy.
We didn’t even get to do Crowd Mentality or the other songs, Short Black Boy killed it. That performance was very important to us because a lot of things really really kicked off after that. A lot of people definitely began to ask questions pay more attention to what he was doing after the performance.
Teaser ft General Pype
M.I didn’t know Pype, I knew Pype and Pype’s manager at the time, Ayo Rotimi. So M.I played the Teaser record, in his usual fashion, he would spend time conceptualizing because he also a fantastic producer.
I think he started making the Teaser record in Jos when we went for a short visit and then he came back and started to work on it in Lagos. Then he was like I need someone on this record, I’m not sure if he did or did but Pype came to mind so I got Pype.
I must say, Pype is a genius. Recording and working with Pype was so easy and productive. After we sorted out everything with management and all that, he gave me a time and he showed up. He was with M.I for a bit and then said to me, get me a bottle of Chelsea, he had the Chelsea, both of us gisted for a while, then we got in there and said he is ready. He put his headphone, and General Pype and delivered in such a fantastically coherent manner. Like he really really wrote a song in his head. In fact, the main problem was post-production because he gave us too much on the song. I will say what eventually made it to the record is 40% of what he did.
Talk About It ft Leony
Leony and M.I have been friends for the longest time, they’ve been friends from Jos. These are people who use to dream together about making it big – they are almost childhood friends. At that time M used to wear a lot of Bob Marley and Fela T-shirts – he was in a certain mindstate so it’s not out of place that he would make a record like that.
M has always had that kind of awareness. We didn’t release it as a single. It was one of those outstanding records on the album that people discovered and loved on their own because he was really talking, on the end of the record, he was sarcastically calling names, it was a well targeted and the message was clear.
Safe ft DJinee
For Safe, I think he started making the beat in Jos also because sometimes, he would just take short trips. When made it in Jos, it was basically just the kick and the snare and one other instrument but from there, I could tell that it had a lot of promise. When he came to Lagos, he began to work on it further. We didn’t print a single CD for Safe, we just literally hooked up with our friends, I went to Ray Power, gave it to Neptunes on a flash and he started to bump it, immediately, other stations loved it and before we knew it, it really just spoke for itself. We did the little work of going to put it out there but then, the music just spoke for itself.
We were staying with DJinee right, and he was a part of all of these things I am talking about. It was one of those days, DJinee went out and came back very late, slightly tipsy and very excited, with that happiness and feeling, he just got into the studio and M.I said let’s do this thing, and they did it that night.
It was crazy, it was really crazy. Trust me, if you heard the original edit, you’d be wondering, is that DJinee? He said a lot of un-Djineeable things on the record. So post-production for that was fun.
Random Guy Buying (Skit)
That was just M.I having fun. For people who didn’t know, that was M.I on one of those days. He just wanted to make a skit.
Blaze ft Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince and Blaise
Blaze! The production, M.I always likes to say Jesse produced Blaze. Yes, Jesse started the production for Blaze. He laid down the initial idea, started the beat and did the chorus so M liked it and took it over from there – both of them actually produced the record.
Interestingly, the initial version of Blaze was M.I, Jesse, Ice Prince and Yung L but Yung L’s performance on that record was so dismal, everybody knew that it was not going to make it but they were all friends and he was in his growing stage so it’s interesting to see that same Yung L has come this far.
So L was taking out and it was just three of them. It really was at the last moment that M.I decided to add Blaise on the record. If you notice, the song had already ended then he started a whole new thing for Blaise to come in on. Blaise’s recording was like weeks to the final release.
Area ft YQ
YQ was popping at the time, he had just signed on to a certain label, they had YQ and Lala. They released some new music produced by Doctor Frabz and YQ’s own was doing very well so when it was time for the Area song, it was an easy one. The title, the whole vibe to it, YQ was just the guy, so we brought him into the studio and he did that.
YQ was amazing. We recorded in M.I’s room in DJinee’s house.
Fast Money, Fast Cars ft Wizkid
Fast Money, Fast Cars was a beat made by Kraft and then M.I did some building to improve the beat.
Wizkid used to come visit the house at the time, and his cousin used to make T-Shirts so they’ll bring customized T-Shirts for us. He was always around, he really liked M.I and wanted to be friends and you know M was like a big bro to him as well. So you know how artistes act when a producer puts on a beat and it’s not their session but they just start humming at the back or freestyling. Wizkid was doing that a lot, he was around during plenty of sessions, I just felt like he had shown enough seriousness on working with M.I. It got to a point and I was like let’s give this homeboy a chance, M was keen on it too so he asked him to jump on it.
The interesting thing about that song is that; on the intro, Wizkid actually said; “It’s your boy Wizzy, M.I and Dagrin” because Dagrin was supposed to be on the record. It at the last moment that we took out the Dagrin intro. Dagrin was supposed to be on it, but for some reason, it didn’t happen, and there wasn’t time.
Fast Money, Fast Cars was supposed to be M.I, Dagrin and Wizkid.