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Here is a timeline of MI Abaga’s stint as an artist and CEO of Chocolate City Music

As an artist, MI Abaga went from relative obscurity to Africa's best and most sought after rapper. He transcended the genre of rap and proved that English rap can be consumed across Africa

Here is a timeline of MI Abaga’s stint as an artist and CEO of Chocolate City Music. (Instagram/MIAbaga)

You might remember that on September 13, 2019, Pulse Nigeria exclusively revealed that the rapper had vacated his position as Chief Executive Officer of Chocolate City. This came just after the mega entertainment company announced its deal with Warner Music Group.

Nigerian rapper, MI Abaga who has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Chocolate City since June 30, 2015 when he replaced Audu Maikori. But in a complete 180, Audu Maikori is now back to replace MI Abaga as CEO of Chocolate City Music.

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Importantly, MI Abaga moved from being an artist who signed to Chocolate City without an advance as he rapped on ‘Head of The Family,’ in 2016 into being the rapper who gave a chance to his comrades, Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince.

Then, in an excellent trajectory, he became a shareholder on Chocolate City (as he rapped on ‘The Viper’) and then, CEO.

'The Warner deal' is the partnership announced by Chocolate City and Warner Music Group on March 28, 2019.

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When the deal was announced, Group CEO of Chocolate City, Audu Maikori, "The partnership with Warner Music Group is unique in the sense that our clients get the best of both worlds -- curated and bespoke services by a highly experienced team across Africa and a dedicated global team to further push their music and their brands.

"At Chocolate City, we have always been passionate about discovering and developing the best talent across Africa and giving them a platform for global growth."

The deal, which was also said to broaden the reach of Chocolate City's roster of artists across the world, includes a strategic, reciprocal marketing agreement with WMG South Africa.

Ordinarily, it would mean more reach, more muscle and more power for Chocolate City Music and Chocolate City Group as a whole.

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Before then, the rumour was that Abaga was fired from his position as C.E.O by Maikori who is the C.E.O of Chocolate City Group, the parent company of Chocolate City Music. However, that seemed phony except the articles of association of the Chocolate City Group gives such power to the group CEO (Maikori) to fire any of his subordinates.

Otherwise, only the board of directors has such power to fire the C.E.O of any company as provided by Law.

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On September 11, 2019, M.I. Abaga alongside, AQ, Loose Kaynon and Blaqbonez of 100 Crowns released their second Martell Cypher within the space of seven months. It was released under Chocolate City, 100 Crowns and a new company, TASCK.

In the evening of the same day, M.I. Abaga posted a picture on his Twitter page. It was beneath an inscription, "TASCK." Accompanying the post, M.I wrote, "Incase people needed a pic of a boss/president/CEO type sitting on a chair flexing.. here you go."

However, not much is known about Incredible Music other than how it is MI Abaga’s new record label. On the other hand, TASCK has now been branded as a company that handles corporate social responsibility. On Tuesday, March 10, 2020, it will host an event at Kairos Hub, Lekki, Lagos.

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The event would be a coalition of people who matter to discuss the role and impact of the proposed social media bill. For MI Abaga who is maturing, this is a move in the right direction for a legendary human who is now staring into veteran status. Amazing.

However, Incredible Music isn’t the first time MI Abaga has attempted a record label.

On April 13, 2012, MI Abaga announced Loopy Records - his own record label. Interestingly, Audu Maikori, Paul Okeugo and Yahaya Maikori were missing at the launch. At the time, rumours swirled that he had left Chocolate City.

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But on February 25, 2012, MI Abaga announced that, “Public Service Announcement: I am not leaving Chocolate City. I am very much a Choc Boy Still and will be for a very long time amen.”

In a statement, Audu Maikori also stated that, “As far as I’m concerned MI is still with the label. It is just that people always want to find something to say whenever they are idle. MI was in my house last night (February 22, 2012). Maybe it’s because he has an agreement with us to sign some artiste that is why they are taking it the other way. We have no problem with him as far as I’m concerned.”

Loose Kaynon, rock band, Threadstone and Ruby Gyang were signed to the label in 2012. In 2013, Loopy Records signed MILLI, but that didn’t particularly end well.

On April 22, 2015 at the 2015 Nigerian Entertainment Conference, MI Abaga and Audu Maikori announced a merger with Loopy Records. This was one of the first public actions as Audu Maikori was preparing to step down from his role as CEO of Chocolate City Music and become just the CEO of Chocolate City Group.

On June 30, 2015, Audu officially stepped down as CEO of Chocolate City Music and MI assumed the role.

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Chocolate City Music is one of the leading record companies in Nigeria. It was founded by renowned Lawyer, Audu Maikori and his brother, Yahaya Maikori alongside current Chief Operations Officer (COO), Paul Okeugo in 2005. Currently, it is a subsidiary of Chocolate City Group.

Currently, it is home to acts like Dice Ailes, CKay, Blaqbonez, Classiq and so forth. In the past, the record label was home to popular acts like MI Abaga, Yung L, Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz, Brymo, Koker, DJ Lambo, Pryse, Ruby Gyan, Nosa, DJ Caise, Victoria Kimani and DJ Lambo and so forth.

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Tenure: 2007 - 2012 and 2019 - present

From when the label was founded in 2005, Maikori was Chief Executive Officer. He oversaw the rise of the label to arguably the biggest and most influential label in Nigerian - nigh African - music alongside Mo'hits/MAVIN Records (and South African label, Kalawa Jazmee Records.)

Under Maikori's stewardship, the label signed Jeremiah Gyang in 2005 and M.I. Abaga in 2006. A few years later, Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz and Brymo were signed to the label. M.I. Abaga released two critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, Talk About It and MI2: The Movie alongside a string of hits numbering more than six.

Abaga also released two critically acclaimed and commercially successful mixtapes, Illegal Music I and Illegal Music II.

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Asides that, the rapper became the best rapper in Africa and won two awards at the MTV African Music Awards in 2009. Ice Prince released two critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, Everybody Loves Ice Prince and Fire of Zamani. The rapper not only had a string of hits, he became Africa's leading act.

This feat was sealed by Ice Prince's 2013 award as Best International Act: Africa at the BET Awards. While certain people now lay claim to being premier acts in the early 2010s, Ice Prince was Nigeria’s leading rapper and to the UK, the only rapper that was worth associating with.

In equal measure, Jesse Jagz released a critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album, Jagz of All Nation. He also released a string of hits and successfully pivoted to a singer from a rapper.

Asides that, Jagz also became one of the leading producers in Nigeria but Brymo's debut album failed to impact as it was hoped. There were also questionable signings like DJ Caise, Victoria Kimani and Pryse. Brymo exited the label in 2013 amidst legal storm.

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Equally, it was under Audu Maikori’s leadership that MI Abaga’s third album, Chairman was a questionable release that had healthy numbers on streaming platforms. His greatest achievement was the Choc Boyz that really became a prominent part of Nigerian pop culture.

Tenure: 2015 - 2019

M.I. Abaga had a four-year stint as the Chief Executive Officer of Chocolate City Music. He assumed the role on June 30, 2015. One of his first acts as CEO was to greenlight the Indestructible Choc Boi Nation. It was a step in the right direction, but it came too late.

Before then, Brymo and Jesse Jagz had left the label. On the roster were Ice Prince, DJ Caise, Pryse, Victoria Kimani, and so forth.

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During Abaga's stint, Koker, DJ Lambo, CKay, Classiq, Kahli Abdu, Dice Ailes, Yung L and Ruby Gyang were signed to the label. Jesse Jagz also returned to the label in 2015.

During Abaga's stint, Koker, CKay, Dice Ailes and Yung L had hits on the label. Koker had two hits, Dice Ailes has had three hits, CKay has had one and Yung L has a sleeper hit. DJ Lambo became one of the leading DJs in Nigeria, but Jesse Jagz left in 2017 for a second time.

Abaga himself has also released three projects since he became C.E.O. During that period, he had the hit clarion call, 'You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives.' Track was on the album, Yxng Dxnzl: A Study On Self-Worth. For the track, Abaga was named Lyricist on the roll at the Headies Awards in 2018.

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In the same vein, Koker, Khali Abdu, Ice Prince and DJ Lambo have since left. Ice Prince left after his music pumped the brakes and the hits slowly dried up.

Under M.I's reign, the company also founded CCX lounge, a 400-capacity venue in Victoria Island, Lagos where events and live shows can be held. It was also towards the end of his label that the deal with Warner Music happened.

In equal measure, the company took on 100 Crowns. The label founded by rappers, AQ and Loose Kaynon and used to the home to Blaqbonez. The label still had moments, but as things dwindled from the label, M.I. Abaga attracted criticism from former Editor-In-Chief of Pulse Africa, Osagie Alonge.

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On November 20, 2015, Alonge started his show by saying, "I think M.I. has done absolutely nothing for Chocolate City."

Alonge's criticism came from his now-ended show, Facts Only. Another fierce critic of Abaga is A&R, talent manager and Abaga's former manager, Obinna Agwu also known as The Angry Mob. Between May 31, 2018 and June 1, 2019, Agwu and Abaga had a Twitter exchange over how labels are run in Nigeria.

In July 2018, Agwu joined Mazi Kaycee, Dro Ameh and Ene Edwin as a guest on The Renegade Podcast. The topic was, ''Artistes, Managers and the New Music Industry."

In May 2019, tweeted that, “I no go advise my enemy to sign for CC (Chocolate City) sha. #JustSaying.” Abaga replied that, “Love this… own your bad Belle.. #respect.”

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Agwu then replied, “Bad belle? Lol. Truth is, I’ll even take that label over your label. But don’t let me spoil your little celebration. I was only looking out for the next batch of unsuspecting victims.

This was shortly after the deal with Warner Music Group was announced.

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M.I. Abaga is the greatest rapper of his generation. More so, he is arguably the greatest Nigerian rapper of all time. For that, he is not liked by his peers and he knows it.

Some of these were addressed on M.I’s seventh studio project, Yxng Dxnzl: A Study on Self-Worth. It’s only normal that greats are not liked because they can’t please everyone who has a theory about how they should act.

Even though the dislike has always been alive, M.I's first beef was with Kelly Handsome.

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On M.I’s first album, Talk About It was a song titled, ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars.’ It featured a certain Wizkid. The song was a satire about the perils of seeking fast wealth, especially from a female perspective. He addressed women who only date men with money, cars and good clothes.

On the song, and speaking from the perspective of one of those women, M.I rapped that, “Kelly Handsome is Handsome, I’ll tell him when I see him. If I wanted a man, it would be Keke (Kenny Ogungbe) or D1 (Dayo Adeneye)…”

Around the same time, Kelly Handsome was popping with singles like, ‘Maga Don Pay’ and ‘Like Play.’ The problem was that, Kelly Handsome was signed to Kennis Music owned by Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye.

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Then as M.I prepared his debut Illegal Music mixtape, he released a refix of, D'Banj's 'Mogbono Felli Felli,' as 'I'm Hot (Remix).' On it, he rapped, "Don't know about you but I'm handsome. Handsome, M.I's advancing. My maga didn't pay, but I'm famzing Kelly Handsome and he fans with Richard Branson..."

To Kelly Handsome, M.I’s line from ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars’ was a diss that called him irrelevant. He replied MI with a song titled, ‘Catch Me If You Can.'

He rapped, “Life is a beef, but guess what, I got a long thing… Kelly Handsome, I don’t need you tell him. But before you start trouble, ask Keke, I’m the chosen one. So, let’s talk about it,’ TALK ABOUT WHAT? Short black dude says he’s sitting on top Naija Hip-Hop, but you’re so short, I’m the ladder to the top…”

In April 2010, Kelly Handsome also picked a fight with Wande Coal, Nigeria’s hottest artist at the time. Before then in November 2009, he had dissed Wande, D’Banj and Terry G on, ‘Igwe (Kom Kom)'.

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Everything was silent for two months, then Jesse Jagz released his debut album, Jagz of all Trades. On it is the classic, ‘Nobody Test Me’ which features Ice Prince and M.I. For his verse, M.I fired several shots at Kelly Handsome.

He started the verse with, “I got advice for the up and coming up quick. Don’t test me, even if you got testes, I’m a prick. First person wey go try me, that person go murd (die) first. Nobody can test me, even if na blood test… I’m mocking this the dude, something like a slow jam.

"Beef is like ganja, bring it let me smoke am. Gossip is like gaari, bring it, let me soak am. Only one Kelly that I know, Kelly Rowland. Why will I diss them, give them cheap promotion. I think that they’re so dry, I should give them lotion…”

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In July of that year, Handsome returned with ‘Chocolate Boys (Freestyle),’ a song laid on Rick Ross’ beat for, ‘Hustling.’ On it, he dissed M.I, Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz and Brymo. He dissed them and the fact that they were still living in rented apartments.

Things were quiet for four months. But then, M.I released his album, MI2: The Movie in November 2010.

More importantly, M.I had the track titled, ‘Beef’ which was an all-out assault on Kelly Handsome and Iceberg Slim. He even name-checked Kelly Handsome, “Kelechukwu, clap for yourself, well done.” It’s hook was a molestation of Kelly Handsome’s financial status and dwindling career.

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In January 2011, Kelly Handsome resumed the beef. This time flipping the popular 'Feelin the Boy' line in 'Oleku' for his diss track titled, ‘Finish You Boy.’ Again, it was aimed at M.I and Wande Coal.

The song started with a flip of M.I’s popular song, ‘Number 1,’ featuring Flavour. He opened by singing, “African rapper, number zero.

He continued by rapping, “Small boy, short like a maltina boy… It’s not about Ice when the Prince is here…” He then dissed MI2: The Movie for having too many features.

Who won?

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M.I won.

For some reason, this was dubbed, 'Mr. Incredible vs. Mr. International.' In 2009, Iceberg Slim was named the Best International Artist at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards. To celebrate the win, he released a song titled, ‘Mr International’ in July 2009.

On the song, he rapped, “Am I, better than M.I., I don't know, am I? Matter of fact, you should ask M.I. This aint Star Wars, no 'Return of the Jedi', but there's a few things ya can learn. On the M.I.-C, that ya don't wanna play with me, cuz that's a M.I.stake…

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M.I replied with 'Somebody Wants To Die' which features Ice Prince. He rapped, "...2009, MI rocking at the MAMA (MTV African Music Awards). You can buy my CV you can rock it with your MAMA... Nobody comes close, sort of like I'm orphan... These niggaz want promo, they standing way too close, they so close. They need to clean up their flows, they need omo"

More importantly, the hook reads, "Oh Lord, why do they keep pushing me..."

As if that was not enough, in November 2009, as Iceberg prepared for his mixtape The Fix, he turned the 'Am I Better than MI' line into a whole diss track to M.I. It was titled, 'Am I Better.'

He also used M.I's flows from 'Safe,' a flow which was a common feature throughout Talk About It. He raps, "Am I better than your favourite rapper? Maybe you should go and ask Mr. Abaga. You should check my swagger, Louis V bata (shoe). Oh, you didn't know that I know say I nor be akata..."

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Then on July 2, 2019, M.I was performing at the Nigerian Reunion in New concert to celebrate the July 4th Independence weekend. The event held in New York City. During his performance, M.I clowned both Iceberg Slim and Kelly Handsome.

Then, on September 20, 2010, a video of M.I. Abaga and Iceberg Slim battling at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards in New York, US surfaced on the YouTube.

Iceberg rapped on the beat to 'Make It Rain.' Incredibly, he took off his jacket, put his arms around M.I and rapped, "To tell the truth though, I love you. You my dude from Nigeria... To tell the truth, you can't f*** with me..."

After M.I told the DJ to cut the beat, he said that he respects Iceberg as a rapper and rapped that he rates Iceberg before proceeding to deliver his bit.

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This journey then takes us directly into the legendary track called, 'Beef.' In November 2010, M.I released his sophomore album, MI2: The Movie. 'Beef' was track six on it and verse two was dedicated to Iceberg Slim. Verse 1 was for Kelly Handsome.

M.I raps, "See musicians tryna beef me for real son. Maybe they doing it to promote they album. They know that using my name will help em sell some. So Iceberg its alright, ur welcome, but I'm not in their league help me tell them. The Super Eagles don't play against the Falcons. See worwor pikin dey form handsome..."

Who won?

M.I won.

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Asides that, MI Abaga also had a huge beef with Vector. You can read about that HERE, HERE and HERE.

As an artist, MI Abaga went from relative obscurity to Africa's best and most sought after rapper. He transcended the genre of rap and proved that English rap can be consumed across Africa on a major level if you could make the sound and language appealing. Under the label, he released MI2: The Movie - one of Nigeria's best albums in the past 20 years and by any genre.

Asides that, he also laid a legitimate claim to being Nigeria's greatest rapper ever. But as a CEO of Chocolate City, he oversaw the an immense slide of Chocolate City from a prime and enviable business and music institution into a caricature of itself. However, we can always argue that the downward spiral started in the final two years of Audu Maikori's reign.

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In his final two years, Audu Maikori oversaw some questionable signings that made it feel like Chocolate City was in a race to catch up with Nigeria's pop soundscape. Not only were those artists of questionable quality as music makers, they also had terrible branding and questionable star power.

MI Abaga seemed to be brought in to amend the situation. He proved that he had an eye for talent with signings of Koker, CKay and Dice Ailes. Those acts also had their moments in the stars, but they never transcended the realm of potential into bonafide superstars. Honestly, no label exec gets 100% of signings right.

However, with how Chocolate City has fared in recent years. It seems the label has been playing catch-up with the contemporary channels of music promotion and branding. There's a huge fissure somewhere. Now that the Chocolate City nightmare is over, we look forward to MI Abaga's stint as his own boss at Incredible Music.

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