The Guy is the eleventh project in MI’s discography. The Guy is a compilation of 12 tracks featuring Tomi Owó, Ossi Grace, Olamide, Phyno, Nas, The Cavemen, Wande Coal, Jesse Jagz, Lord Vino, BNXN, Chillz and Duncan Mighty.
A week before the release of MI’s The Guy album, an old associate, whom MI worked with during his time at Chocolate City, AQ, called MI out on a new project titled Ethos. Therefore, The Guy arrives at a time fans were expectant of an MI response to AQ’s name-drop.
Background of the Artiste
Jude Abaga, 40 years old, was born in Jos, Plateau State. The rapper debuted his career with the single entitled Crowd Mentality in 2006. MI takes credits for the discovery of artistes like Wizkid, Brymo, Ice Prince, his brother Jesse Jags, Phyno etc.
MI, though signed under the label long before, became the CEO of Chocolate City between 2015 and 2020. The decorated rapper finally left the label in 2020. MI has records of different rifts with fellow rappers like Vector, Kelly Handsome, Iceberg Slim, the music blog NotJustOk as well as music journalist Joey Akan.
Thematic Preoccupation of the Project
1. Autobiographical Reminder Of Who The Guy Is
MI Abaga, a number of weeks ago announced, a change of name. The rapper had answered the name “Mr. Incredible (MI)” since his debut in 2006, and now in 2022, he felt the need to change it. The track, The Guy, is the rapper’s choice of a name to replace the decade-long MI Abaga. It is also the title of the album.
On the track, The Guy, the corkscrew of the album, reflective MI takes his listeners through the three decade old pilgrimage he names a career. The rapper recounts the past moments of his artistry and how excellence has always characterized the said artistry.
This is necessary to provide support for his claims of being the ultimate “guy” in the game of Hip Hop, especially in the Nigerian music industry. Here, with his undoubted longevity and his unmatched brilliance, MI Abaga taunts his counterparts in the field of rap, names himself the Alpha and Omega of rap and casually makes known his wish to marry “a Naija girl”.
Many may argue that MI is pompous on this track with regards to lines like “if I beef with you, gonna make you rich, so y’all gotta pay me”; however, MI’s perspective should be considered with the fact that the rapper has been faced with multiple call-outs from rappers like him in the past few years. This is what MI tags hate on the next track.
2. When The Hate From Associates Becomes Overwhelming
The track The Hate is both a soliloquy and an address to a group, though unnamed. The first track, The Guy, is a preamble for the second track, The Hate. On the track, The Guy, MI stated the following: “if you don’t say I’m the guy/That’s a lie because I’m the guy/If I beef with you is gonna make you rich so you gats to pay me/Even yung6ix coming for the MC, that thing pain me/Me and Vector are cool even though we don’t chat on a daily.”
These are the same lines MI dropped during a certain interview in December, 2021 that got Yung6ix reacting. Yung6ix, very annoyed, openly called MI out with claims that “MI loves outsmarting people”. Yung6ix had made reference to a particular occurrence between him and MI.
Recounting what happened at his industry night sometime ago, the rapper claimed “me and MI were supposed to perform, he told me he will come at the end but wanted all his artistes to perform at my industry night, when all Chocolate City artistes were done performing, he switched off his phone and never came for the industry nite, we went past that.” Yung6ix also claimed MI called him out on one of his albums afterwards.
Yung6ix first called MI out in January, 2020 when a particular radio station shared on Twitter a collaboration between MI and Yung6ix. Yung6ix had responded to the tweet thus: “the record MI refused to support even though he was on it. Chairman didn’t post or repost or agree to come for video. He didn’t also post my album, which he was a part of. Yes, it’s true idols turn rivals. Still like your old songs but I’ve lost every symptom of respect I have for you.”
Though AQ and Joey Akan, a certain music journalist, are the two most recent people to call MI out, the track The Hate is more of a response to Yung6ix December, 2021 name-drop. On this track, MI perceives hatred in the series of fallouts with, and name-calling from, his colleagues in the industry.
With references to Kratos, Pharaoh and Plato, MI demands respect from the unnamed assailant. MI uses two things to hurt the recipient of this address — his age and his achievements. All the artistes who have ever name-dropped MI are younger than him. This is why MI sarcastically states that “you don’t respect your elders anymore… (I’ve been a) boss since y’all was in nursery… My (younger) brother (Jesse Jags) is the emperor and you’re not even a sergeant.” This is why MI demands to be addressed as a king, a god, a lion and a legend, hinging it on the claims that he paved the way for the other rappers i.e “I made a way for you to eat”.
3. Proving Regenia Gagnier Right
The two tracks Bigger and Soft Life Tony are a proof that “human wants are insatiable”; a reference to Regenia Gagnier’s The Insatiability of Human Wants: Economics and Aesthetics in Market Society published in 2000.
On Bigger, MI Abaga reflects on his achievements so far in his career, though Olamide cites their height in the industry as “the number one”, MI believes “my vision… gets bigger with time”. It is so because “there are more steps to take on”.
Bigger is a reminder that humans will never be satisfied regardless of whatever height they attain in life. “There’s no draining of the swamp,” we are reminded by Nas. This line is the hand boxing open Olamide’s packaged hook of “getting bigger”. Instead of a swamp to be drained, it rather gets bigger.
Soft Life Tony which is first a reference to Nigerian business mogul, Tony Elumelu, also lends support to Economists’ popular theory of the insatiability of human wants. Both MI and Lord Vino wish for a business-oriented life like that of Tony Elumelu.
They don’t just wish. They work too by investing in “music tech” and floating the label “Incredible Music”. MI names all the viable advantages of wealth. Both MI and Lord Vino want Tony’s kind of life, they want his kind of money. It’s same way others wish to be like MI. It’s humans wanting and wanting. It’s just life!
4. Promises Borne Out Of Attraction
In April, 2022, MI unveiled his wife-to-be on Twitter. After declaring Eniola Mafe the woman of his heart with announcement of an impending marriage, MI further narrated how he met the woman in 2020 and instinctively knew he had found “the one”.
This is the story that forms the background of the song The Front Door featuring Duncan Mighty. Though the Port Harcourt Boy is assigned to the hook of the song, he does even more than just a hook; as MI piles up promises before his intended, Duncan Mighty instructively placates “Odo” to open her “door”.
5. An Eye-of-God Assessment Of The Current Society
Crazy is a lamentation about the current craze called the society. For serial inhumane reasons, the micro-blogging space, Twitter, has been referred to as the most toxic social media space and the most abused by Nigerians. Innumerable number of times, users attack other users for having a different opinion, make jest of others’ misfortune, practice the cancel culture, gang up against the weak, troll celebrities, preach hate and division, promote religious and tribal intolerance, tell lies amongst many other insane misbehavior.
With Crazy, the aforementioned craze is addressed by MI, a third person, with an eye of God, who has studied “the data like a scientist”. He admonishes social media users to “be kind, you never know what people are going through”. People are going through a lot as Ossi Grace lyrically signifies in the lines that precede MI’s verse on the song. Ossi Grace paints the bleakness of the relationship between two others. Confusion is a major characteristic here. These two are going through a lot already. Now imagine them logging on to the internet only to get abused again. This is the exact issue MI is addressing.
6. The Satisfaction Derivable From Love
MI and Wande Coal expose the listeners to the satisfaction they achieve in love. MI starts out by introducing his woman to the listeners, although no name is mentioned. MI is overwhelmed with love and this is why we hear him say things like “love her more than I love life… That’s wifey, I feel nice… I found me a ten”.
MI claims that he is “done” with playing games and one thing is clear with this statement, the rapper is now ready for marriage and domesticity. No wonder, on the track The Front Door, the rapper tells the listeners to question their readiness when it is time to marry. This theme of love continues to reflect on the Highlife song The Inside. Here, MI promises marriage again.
7. Sexualized Simile
The song Daddy captures lust with hyperbolic use of simile. The body, shape, gait and sex appeal of a woman and the urge to get in between her thighs are vividly described with the use of simile on this song.
Even as naughty and pleasure-driven this track is supposed to be, on two different occasions, MI subconsciously finds himself comparing something as miniature as sex to the sad reality that befell the End Sars protesters at the Toll Gate in Lekki in 2020.
MI, lost in the fantasy of sex, compares the tastiness of the addressed woman’s body to the tastiness of “protest jollof”. The End Sars protests saw people in different parts of Southern Nigeria contributing money to cook and feed protesters who passed the night on the different roads selected for the week-long protests.
MI addresses the “affinity” he is growing for the woman and blames it on the sexiness of her body. He goes further to tell her to stop pretending not to be guilty “like the Military”. This is also a reference to the Lagos State Government, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Federal Government and the Nigerian Military who are all accused of having a hand in the massacre of the said protesters. Each of these group outrightly denied their involvement in the incident.
8. Toxic Masculinity & Unrealistic Expectations Of The Society From The Male Gender
Soldier sees Tomi Owó urge the victim of life’s misfortune to “fight” and “not surrender”. MI condemns the age-old societal construct that the male gender is not expected to “cry”. MI states that this expectations placed on the male gender as a “pride” is the reason men are the “leading victims of suicide”.
This training of boys not to “cry” makes them emotionless and make a monster out of them. This emotionlessness and monstrosity push men to rape women, kill, join cult groups and gangs and make men become “the ones making the world unsafe at night”. This practice and societal unrealistic construct is the birth of “toxic masculinity”.
The male gender is basically raised to “be strong” and “find purpose” and “be tougher to feed and protect my lover”. Anything outside these laid down norms is weakness as well as worthlessness. MI, the voice of the male gender, wants to be different, but how can he be different from who he already is as a result of childhood upbringing?
MI argues that the monsters boys grow into make the female gender unsafe. He must prove this by asking ten of his female friends what it feels like to be a woman, and he is shocked to know that “six of them had been raped and all ten (sexually) assaulted”. By who? The men! It’s displeasing to face this reality that men are “faulted” in these women’s misfortune. Is it the men’s fault? Think of societal upbringing, MI’s argument.
9. Meditation, Gratitude & Requests
MI feels the need to make an assessment of his career that dates back to 2008. The rapper reflects on his wins, losses, betrayals by friends etc. With BNXN, one who has had a fair share of disappointment from the people around him, the story gets interesting.
MI will move on from his past to focus on the present. Realizing the present, MI is full of gratitude. However, he must make a wish of blessings for his family, friends and company. His success is tied to the belief that he is anointed or what Buju calls “oil dey my head”.
10. Distancing Self From Trouble
MI unites with Jesse Jagz, his brother, on More Life. This may be the response we have all been expecting MI give to AQ’s call-out on Family First, a song off AQ’s recent Ethos album. Closing The Guy album with More Life, MI and Jagz state clearly that they will not be making room for any beef again. Both rappers are focused on having “more life” instead. This is equivalent of “no response” to a hater as both rappers prepare to face the life that lies ahead of them.
Critical Evaluation of the Project
Although the Hip Hop world has moved past hardcore rap, MI comes with enough punchlines on The Guy. This includes the first two tracks, The Guy and The Hate. Both songs mirror the rap culture of diss, self-elevation and disregard for the others in the game.
If The Guy album was a market, every listener would have enough simile and pun to buy for himself. MI is so conversant with simile and pun that he adopts them on more than a half of the songs on the project.
The use of allusion is also very poignant. While fellow Nigerian artistes like Ladipoe, Tiwa Savage, Vector etc, got referenced, there are sharp allusions made to Pharaoh, the End Sars protests, Tony Elumelu, Plato, Paris Saint Germain, Twitter, New York etc. These are not mere references. These are references used to emphasize MI’s thoughts and ideas.
Although Yung6ix got called out on the opening track, Vector’s resolution with MI is ascertained; AQ is lucky enough to escape getting a response from MI. Loose Kaynon is another associate of MI that is honored. However, it’s interesting how Loose is honored by both MI and AQ on their respective projects (Ethos, The Guy).
MI’s The Guy is a sensitive project, it is beyond the musicality anyone may expect, especially from the singers adopted. The album addresses hate, inhumanity and the unchallenged antihuman norms of the society. Little wonder MI wants to be called The Guy “for all seasons”; beyond the known culture of diss, MI can still use rap to address pressing issues in the human society and still excel.