Chocolate City artiste and Loopy Music CEO, M.I Abaga dropped an amazing album a few weeks ago, four years after his last album.
The album was an instant success with a lot of people and even though there were initial reservations about him featuring 26 artistes on the album, the album has since become one of the best albums of the year.
In a chat with Encomium magazine, M.I talks about his collaborations, the thought process for the album, why it took so long to drop the album, losing Brymo and Jesse Jagz on Chocolate City as well as his personal life which he always keeps quite private.
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Read excerpts below.
Why did it take you five to six years to release an album? It’s not up to six years. It was four years. I still remember, November 2010 and I released my new album, Chairman, November 2014.
Still, four years is a long time for an artiste like you. What happened? Different things that came together but unconnected. I got the post of VP of Chocolate City. The next day, Brother Jesse quit. While we were yet to solve that problem, about a month later, Brymo also left. Chocolate City crisis affected a lot of people, and as the VP of the label, my attention went to other things.
Tell us some of the endorsements you’ve got? I am the UN ambassador under the office of drugs and crimes. So, I am an ambassador against smuggling of migrants; we are trying to find means to stop Nigerians from finding illegal means into entering Europe. I have worked for them for over a year. The next thing that’s important to me is the ambassador for Energy in Lagos State; meant to sensitize Lagosians on how to reduce expenditure on energy. Instead of spending N50,000 on diesel and fuel, we try to educate people on how to reduce it to like N30,000 and save the N20,000 for other purposes. After that, of course, is Globacom. It came in two: as the ambassador of the brand and one of the judges of Glo X-Factor. I was also ambassador for Lucozade Boost; 7Days, among others. We also did a project with Gillete. I have a partnership with Hennessy and a whole lot of other people. During the same period, I started Loppy Music. This also took my time, coupled with the fact that I am one of the directors at Chocolate City. All these kept me busy.
Let’s talk about Jesse Jagz and Brymo exit from Chocolate City. Don’t you think you could have prevented them from leaving? These are two different scenarios, but it’s like a biblical saying, “Hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Jesse had a vision for something called Jagz Nation, which is the opposite of Chocolate City brand. Chocolate City brand is a pop brand but Jagz Nation is spiritual brand (reggae). He couldn’t do both, even when he tried to. So, it’s a calling and he needed to leave at that time, nobody could prevent that. Today, I tell you, we’re cool. He gets support from Chocolate City. He was at my album listening party, and the next day, I read that MI and Jesse Jagz re-united. It was very funny because how would brothers re-unite? We’ve been brothers; friends.
Let’s go back to your album, Chairman. What is the story behind, 2 sides of every story? Everything has a double side. A point is when you and your brother are cool, doing fine; the next point is when Enemy enter to cause wahala. One side, people treat you anyhow, as if you’re not important; but when you’re successful, they celebrate you. So many instances. All these thoughts came to my mind as I was recording my album. Anything I want to talk about, there are two sides to it. For instance, I have money now but I feel sad when I see people that don’t have. But the reality is, everybody cannot be rich. That’s the concept.
There have been criticisms on why you featured 26 artistes. Most people said you needed those faces to feature in your album to be reckoned with… I think, the criticism started before people started listening to the album. When I read their comments, it made me laugh. Obviously not everybody will like it, that’s why I sang in one of the tracks, Middle .Not everybody will like what you’re doing. Even Jesus Christ was dissed by the Pharisees. I’m not worried about that. My worry now is, did they have problems with many features? When you listen to my album, every collabo was strategic. The kind of reaction I want to hear now is, “Too many feature is good or bad for the album.” Obviously, when you listen to it, everything was properly put. Every collabo was strategic. Shekpe is with MI and Reminisce; Bullion Van, na so e suppose be with Phyno, Runtown and StormRex; Human Being with 2Face and Sound Sultan, and others. I didn’t make the album selfishly for me or for anybody else. There are other songs I could have put on the album, but I just wanted the best. I wanted to tell a story, I am happy that I said it in the best way. I can play you the original version of Enemy by MI without Patoranking, and you would love it. But Patoranking would give the listeners the feel I want. That’s why I called him. I could have been selfish and do it on my own, but it was the collaborative spirit that brings out the best. I don’t see collaboration as something we should criticise as an industry. I didn’t leave the album for other people.
How were you able to gather 26 great artistes? Let me use this medium to thank all the artistes for the respect they showed me. From 2Face, Wizkid, Ice-Prince, Olamide, Sheyi Shay and others; they all came to my house. So much respect for me. We never thought about it. I am very grateful for their support, and to everybody for being part of the success.
Did you pay them for the feature, especially Wizkid, who recently revealed that he charges N10 million for collabo? I didn’t pay them, except few. The payment was minimal, not much, just to help the collaboration. Let me quickly react to the rift between Wizkid and Miss Saeon. I think, personally, Wizkid did nothing wrong because it’s business. You approached him for business and he delivered. Business is business. In my own opinion, the way Miss Saeon went about it is wrong. You don’t talk about business deals in public. That’s how I feel. Personally, I don’t charge for collabo. Wizkid didn’t charge me; even when he came to record with one of my artistes here, he didn’t even drink water, not to talk of charging. However, if you meet my management and approach us with a business deal, we won’t turn it down.
Let’s talk about your love life. Why is MI not married? MI doesn’t have a love life, not to talk of getting married. Most time people interview MI and MI has no relationship. However, Jude is very private, he’s not a public figure, and I am sure you’re not interested whether he gets married or not, because he’s not MI.
We’re interested in Jude getting married. When will that be? Unfortunately, Jude is not here (smiles). You’re interviewing MI and MI is not going to get married. But I am sure Jude will soon get married, people should just watch out for the time.