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The Defining Legacy of M.I

With his third album close by, we take a look at what M.I's legacy truly is.

As prepares to drop his third solo LP , Pulse Music will be posting daily articles about the Chocolate City rapper. It's obvious that the history of Nigerian rap cannot be written without dedicating at least a chapter to the J Town rapper.

The first article in the week long M.I themed week highlights his defining rap legacy. The Chairman season is here

It was a sunny day in the University of Lagos. I was in front of the Mass Communication Department waiting for the next lecture when two of my course mates Nnamdi and Tunde Triflin' walked towards me, and asked if I've heard of a Nigerian rapper called M.I. I replied in the negative. Their jaws dropped because of two reasons- I was the hottest music guru in Mass Comm. Me not knowing M.I I guess was like Alex Ferguson not knowing who CR7 was when he was in Porto. Secondly, they were so visibly moved because according to them this new guy had this dope song called 'Crowd Mentality', and his style of rap was ahead of the Nigerian rap game.I took their observation, and placed it in my back pocket. Two weeks later, while scanning through radio stations (I used to be a radio junkie back in the day. Radio today is so programmed which is a huge turn off me) I bumped into 'Crowd Mentality' by M.I. My first impression was that this dude could rap, really rap. I took an interest in M.I's career, and tracked his rare releases like listening to an early version of 'Talk About It' called 'Chicken Song' on Metro FM. I also had the opportunity to listen to 'Blaze' minus an Ice Prince verse on Raypower.

Come December 2008, the rap industry was in a frenzy over the arrival of M.I's debut. His lead single 'Safe' made him the most buzz-worthy rapper only equalled by another fresh rapper Naeto C. I remember the day I bought Talk About It. I was on my way to hang out with my friend Marcus. Actually I was more like a third wheel. It was a date with his babe and I was asked to tag along.My saving grace was M.I's album. While in his ride, we bumped that CD at least 15 times that day. All the songs had an instant punch effect that had we the occupants reeling and wondering how a Nigerian could rap so good? As the cliché goes, things were never the same after that.

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Hip Hop heads love talking about "The One', a rapper who would come and be what Neo was to The Matrix. M.I is the closest we will ever have to "The One". Five years after the release of his classic debut, and a week before the release of his third album, M.I's legacy has been largely debated by rap fans. This is because of his inconsistency and minor drop in the quality of his music over the years. Wherever M.I stands now, we must never forget that M.I has a defining legacy that must not be forgotten. Prior to Jude Abaga's arrival, rap in Nigeria wasn't cool. Cool in the sense that the cool kids didn't like Nigerian rap. It was for the nerds. M.I flipped a genre of music into a cool commodity. He took an artistic element and sold it to Nigerian pop culture. From thereon kids, teens, young adults started placing Nigerian rappers as their best acts.Also M.I's rap style, crisp, clear delivery with laid-back vocals ushered in a new style of rap that even the most rap averse person had no option than to be charmed by his bars. The way he ripped on 'Short Black Boy' was nothing short of mesmirizing. Nigerian rap before him was heavily boom bap and New York infleunced. M.I came and made it contemporary. That's why he was easily compared to Lil' Wayne and Kanye West early on. Essentially he made rap sound 'now' and not 1994.

On the game changing debut, M.I featured unknown acts who would later have their own success in the music industry- Jesse Jagz, M.I, Wizkid, and Y.Q. You could say it ushered in a new school of music players, and you would be right on the money.

If Chairman fails to take M.I to the top spot, his mark on rap music in Nigeria can never be forgotten. I definitely won't forget that day when I heard his first CD. I got goose pimples listening to 'Anoti', 'Area', 'Money', 'Fast Money, Fast Cars', 'Short Black Boy' as my friend's jeep moved on the 3rd Mainland Bridge with the Lagos sunset as backdrop. As my guy was cuddling his babe at the back of the jeep, M.I's crisp voice was blasting with full effect. At one point, the babe who didn't look as if she gave a hoot about rap asked "who is this? He can rap." I smiled and told her his name.

After that day I knew something had changed in the Nigerian Hip Hop scene. Talk About It was an instant classic, and changed the rap style. Most importantly he sold rap to the masses without losing artistic credibility. That is his legacy, and that can never be taken away from him.

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