Album Review: MI Abaga’s “Judah” reminds us how incredible Mr Incredible used to be- Udochukwu Ikwuagwu

Since “Crowd Mentality” his 2006 debut, MI Abaga has repeatedly proven to be one of the best Nigerian rappers. He has undoubtedly surpassed his peers: Naeto C, Ikechukwu, Sauce Kid, Choc Boys, Kel.

5 solo albums, 1 collaborative album and 3 mixtapes later, he decides to drop his 10th project which marked his exit from Chocolate City Records.

M.I. Abaga’s departure was sudden. As a self proclaimed Choc Boy for life, M.I delivered stellar projects. Unfortunately, his final hours as a Choc Boy are not his finest. Years take the best of every artist and M.I. Abaga is no exception.

Judah EP chronicles his last days as a Choc boy. Prior to its release, a pair of singles, “The Viper” and “The Warrior” were released. The former was a scathing attack on Vector while the latter re-introduced singer Kauna. These references are important because they help shape the overall experience on the Judah EP:

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thyhandshall be inthe neck of thine enemies; thyfather’s children shall bow down before thee.”

Like every rapper, M.I. Abaga has been known to signpost his credibility and relevance by bringing up past glories, retinue of stans, lists of co-signs, achievements and success stories. On “Judah EP”, he continues this trend but the difference: he sounds like a sad king.

At the height of Jude Abaga’s reign, you expect praises to come from his brethren, as prophesied on “The Viper”, but the reverse is the case on this project. We get a self-absorbed and paranoid king questioning  anybody who doesn’t pay obeisance. Joy is lost on songs on this EP. The M.I. Abaga of the witty rhymes is gone. The M.I. Abaga who made fun and lyricism has been replaced by a paranoid Jude Abaga.

Separating the man from his art has never been an easy task as artists’ personal turmoil, internal conflicts and troubles are known to seep through their art. Unlike other projects M.I. Abaga has released, on Judah EP, it is difficult to separate the art from the artist. One thing you should expect on this project as the title predicted: a lot of self-adulation.

On the Judah EP, M.I. Abaga employs religious imagery to tell his story. The opening track, “The Parable” is rather confusing: is M.I. Abaga confirming Vector’s accusation of him being a rat or is he admitting to have lost his powers? Is M.I. Abaga the rat/mouse or the lion? M.I. Abaga, the son of an evangelist, who has taken the moniker, “Lion of the Tribe of Judah”, defends his legacy on sombre “The Lion”. His lamentations begin on the aforementioned track with much despair: “King of the jungle, are you ever weak?/For the whole world’s turned its back on you/And left you here alone”. Though he tries to convince listeners that he remains the king of hip hop, this EP tells a story of a  ruler’s decline. The atmosphere is subdued, lacking the excitement that M.I. Abaga brought to the music industry eons ago.

To think his contemplations begun recently is to ignore the signs. Kauna-assisted “The Warrior” off this EP follows in the steps of Ruby-assisted “Remember Me” off Illegal Music III and the pseudo-therapy that was Yxng Dxnzl. M.I. Abaga has been concerned about his legacy since his first hiatus between 2012 and 2014. On his songs, since that episode, with critics and music blogs questioning his supremacy, he became irritable. Eventually, his music suffered. “The Warrior” does nothing to listeners; it’s merely ego wax for M.I. Abaga who invites Kauna to parrot his incredibility.

Birthdays are not for dying. Not for M.I. Abaga who delivers a battle speech on birthday song, “The Blood”. For Jude Abaga, birthdays are a time to address loyalty, betrayals, brotherhood, forces and vectors plotting against him. You will be hard pressed to find joy on “The Blood” or this EP.

Judah EP is melancholic. It is an 8-track epilogue before he bows out of Chocolate City. Every track reminds listeners of how incredible Mister Incredible used to be. M.I. Abaga takes his time to chronicle all his past brilliance while offering nothing new. The irony of the sole light-hearted song on Judah EP, “The Commandment”, is that it is dedicated to fuck boys.

M.I. Abaga has paid his dues so he doesn’t have to guilt trip listeners to accord him the respect or royalty he believes he deserves. According to M.I. Abaga, he isn’t retiring from the music industry yet. However, after listening to this EP, one can only conclude that M.I. Abaga, has begun to take himself too seriously.

Perhaps, it’s time for him to harken to his own counsel on “The Sacrifice”: “If you love something, let it go!”

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