This is not an endorsement of violence. Not in the least. But, oftentimes, we are faced with scenarios that make confrontation unavoidable. So, when a fight becomes inevitable, to stand a chance, it is important you go into battle with the right weapons. Goliath stepped into battle with assurance and a gargantuan frame. David went with a sling and a stone. We all know how it ended. Today, Nigerian hip-hop lovers are learning why it’s not too smart to step into a fight unprepared. Vector the Viper is learning so too, because a meteor has landed on his forehead. What many are seeing now is the rapper falling on his own face in slow-mo. But as it is, he hasn’t exactly landed with a thud yet. Time will tell. The bad blood between Vector the Viper and M.I Abaga did not start two weeks ago. It has been on for over 7 years now. Except that the two rappers just got more open about it. Vector had been the one repeatedly taking shots, most notably when he made a line out of M.I’s height on the 2012 song, “I No Send You”. “You can’t mess with me, I stay grounded like M.I,” Vector had rapped on “I No Send You”, a song which also featured a verse by the Chocolate City rapper. The two rappers were both shining at the time. They were front runners, racking up both critical and commercial acclaim. Even though they both were side-eyeing each other, it wasn’t until 2014 that the animosity spiralled after M.I turned down Vector’s request for a feature on the moderately successful single “King Kong”. It took Vector about six years to come out publicly to express his grievance. It came with “The Purge” and then a few weeks later, he dropped “Tetracyling”, which is a rehashed version of his unreleased 2017 freestyle. The two diss tracks immediately put him in winning position because at that point, M.I decided he wanted to be “mature” and quiet. But Nigerian hip-hop lovers were not having that maturity story. They wanted blood. They wanted M.I Abaga to show his worth and that he still has it in him. The J-town rapper dithered. He wasn’t in diss mood, but time was running out and Vector, as the rules had it, was leading. M.I’s reluctance to immediately respond to Vector’s double shot allowed mixed opinions to fester. Some quarters even questioned his ability to rap; this, it now appears, was mainly an effort to make M.I feel the need to reply. Surely, Vector was big enough to deserve a response from the Chairman. The days of counting down to M.I’s response caused a lot of anticipation. Nigerian music followers were genuinely interested in what M.I had to say about the trouble child that Vector had become. It took M.I almost 8 days before he finally responded with “The Viper”. However, there’s something worthy of note here. People will not often act the way they promised they will. And this is not even their fault. It is a behavioural bias embedded deep inside of every human, no matter how learned or unbiased they think they are.
The moment Vector decided it was time to fight M.I in the booth, was the moment he lost. Why? Because M.I Abaga will always win. The Chocolate City head honcho has built himself up to a point where he is now considered untouchable. M.I can do no wrong and there’s no amount of wrong anyone can possibly point out that’d make the audience question the venerated position he occupies in their hearts.
Although, this doesn’t mean that M.I is that influential. Especially with the audience and within his peers. In the last two years, the legendary rapper’s influence has waned. He can no longer shoot an artist to the stratosphere just by merely endorsing or putting them on a track.
This is exemplified by two artists — Vader the Wildcard and Blaqbonez — he’s backed between 2017 and now. The audience didn’t simply go out on a limb to engage with the work of these artists because M.I said so. Unlike when he tweeted the words, “AQ tho.” many years ago and got everyone wondering about the artiste.
M.I himself acknowledged this fact when he mentioned that Blaqbonez, for example, did his own work. He also seems to know where he belongs in the mind of the audience; a point he noted in “The Viper” when he said “I will not destroy you, instead I’ll give you maturity”.
On the surface, this appears like a good time to diss M.I; when he’s being reflective and past his bar-centred phase. Perhaps this was what Vector had in mind while conceptualizing his plans for “The Purge” and “Tetracycling”.
His plan: to bide his time and wait until the King is weak. Of course, this could have been a decent strategy, if it were against some other rapper who isn’t placed on such a high pedestal as Jude Abaga is.
“The Viper” is not mind-blowing per se. It is just quintessential M.I taking his weaknesses and turning it into one single formidable weapon. He is not the greatest when it comes to writing bars for diss songs. But M.I is a great storyteller; and with storytelling, one can dominate the world by pushing strong narratives. The rapper recognises this pillar, so instead of going on with Vector throwing needless bars, he told a story and contextualised the entire thing with a single theme: jealousy.
Focusing on that single emotion handed M.I an immediate win among everyone who listened to the song (even though the audience had already crowned him winner before the release of the song). The rapper outlined his successes, even pledging ₦20 million to help Vector’s fledgling career.
The way M.I communicated his success painted a clear picture in the minds of the audience that Vector is jealous of him because of his success. With something like this at hand, it’s not too hard to get supporters; as they want to be your own armour against people with bad eyes. M.I isn’t winning with technique; he’s doing so with his people.
Who are the people behind Vector? Well, they are not as much as those behind M.I. Word is that Vector used and discarded people. From YSG to AQ, who used to be cool with Vector, M.I referenced the breakdowns in these relationships, calling Vector a snake.
On Friday September 4, 2019, AQ wrote that since he joined forces with M.I, there’s been a noticeable difference. In fact, as he rightly said, his outing this year has been more impactful than the years before. This is an indictment of Vector. How do you explain your guys dumping you to join forces with another and flourishing while at it?
“AQ was your guy, you did nothing to help him blossom.
No persistence, but since he’s been around me,
Nigga has been doing awesome,”
M.I declares on “The Viper” track.
To test the fidelity of M.I’s claim, it’s easy to reel out names of artists the rapper has amplified since he shot into the mainstream. While one might accuse the rapper of sometimes latching on to the shine of some acts who were already rising on their own, it would be unfair to say he associated with many other acts with the same intent. But what is Vector’s legacy? Who Vector epp?
This is M.I’s first beef in 11 years and he’s winning, by good faith and alliance. Many people are still wishing M.I replied the proper bar-for-bar way. They think M.I is running away from that. What they probably don’t know is that bar-for-bar, the rapper will still win. All the time. Because he has people and diss tracks are mostly won, not by who spat the hardest bars, but by the party with the most loyal following and strongest alliance. M.I has the strongest alliances. He’s loyal and some people are also loyal to him.
So, in a battle against someone like this, to win, you must move the earth; and to move the earth, you need the right tools.
Unlike M.I who has people, stories and dollars behind him, Vector’s only fighting tools are weathered puns to flex.
Notiki Bello is an avid follower of the Nigerian music scene with special interest in the Alté movement.