In June 2011, Nigerian producer and now veteran, mixer, Tha Suspect convened what is one of – if not – the greatest posse cut(s) in the history of Nigerian Hip-Hop.
It became a franchise that had four parts which ran from February 2011 and March 2012. On the second installment of this franchise, Suspect featured M.I Abaga and Vector. M.I’s verse which came after M-Fliss’ was filled with deft wordplay and reiteration of his status as the best or the king.
Vector’s verse came immediately after M.I’s and he ended it with what was a mix of a lighthearted comment and a cheap shot. He rapped, “I stay grounded like M.I”
At the time, both rappers only had competition-inspired tension between them. They were two of the biggest rappers of their generation and their respective fan bases constantly pitched them against each other. Vector had also made a very popular remix to 'Oleku,' Ice Prince's hit. The tension was building.
Over the years, tension became call-out and call-out became diss upon diss on cyphers. Three Fridays ago, Vector responded to M.I’s invitation on ‘Martell Cypher II: Purification’ with ‘The Purge.’
After all, M.I said it was going to be a “seismic event.” Either M.I baited Vector or not, the beef is here. On Friday, September 27, 2019, M.I announced an EP on which he would finally respond to Vector. A few minutes later, Vector fleshed up a 2017 freestyle and dropped, ‘Tetracycling.’
Who is winning?
Props to both sides for giving Nigerian Hip-Hop some excitement after a few summer months. It’s funny how almost all the exciting moments in Nigerian Hip-Hop over the past 10 years have involved M.I in some way.
Until earlier today, either for Vector’s questionable bars, M’s pettiness or M’s fan base, M.I was still in the game without as much as a breath. Yet, Vector had released two diss tracks.
Although Vector’s fans have called, ‘Tetracycling’ a bait. Well, maybe it is. But from where we stand, a diss track is a diss track - ain’t no bait here. ‘The Purge’ was not enough to hand M.I an ‘L.’ If not for the bad beat or the overly playful bars, then for how M.I somehow scooped Vector and his team.
However, with a much better track in ‘Tetracycling,’ Vector has combined two tracks to eventually land a jab. From where we stood and by the ‘Old Queens Rule’ of Hip-Hop beef, M.I had not replied with a song. Thus, Vector was still winning.
With bars like, “I hear you have dogs, I’m bringing some lions,” or “If you duck, I’m playing duck hunt…” ‘Tetracycling’ was not a top-notch track. However, the game is the game and rules are rules. Vector was winning. But now, M.I has released 'The Viper,' and it's definitely a shot from M.I. Thus, he is winning.
When all is said and done, something tells this writer that even after M.I drops his EP and reply, we’re unlikely to see the end of this beef.
But how have both rappers performed on previous beef?
Vector vs. Reminisce
In 2012, Nigerian Hip-Hop was coming off its golden era – 2009/2010. Although rappers had traction with commercial hit records, indigenous rappers had more reach than they could ever dream of. The power of language was underlined by the seamless rise of Ruggedman, Nigga Raw, Lord of Ajasa and so forth.
They taught us that rap will only thrive when the audience can relate to the language with which it is delivered, be it pidgin or local lect. By the end of 2008 and second quarter 2009, Dagrin was the worst nightmare of rappers like M.I and Vector. They couldn’t touch him.
He might not be as talented as they were, but he had just about enough talent to rally the streets and enough nous to consistently craft hits. Unfortunately, he died just over a year later. But in his place, Olamide and Reminisce emerged.
Although Reminisce was definitely a better rapper than Dagrin and had been popping underground for a minute, he just didn’t have the hit to truly rival Dagrin. Thus, he proved an easier target for Vector to get some attention from the mainstream that idolizes its indigenous rappers.
Thus, in 2012, Reminisce released the smash hit, ‘2 Mussh’ opened with, “Reminisce, legendary beats . . o ta lenu, Leggo.” Vector then got petty on Sauce Kid’s (now Sinzu’s) ‘Kitchen Street.’ In Yoruba, he said, “te ba fe ma form npe eyin lata, ani tomato to ma to . .”
In English, this means, “For the other boys forming spicy, we are sufficient for y’all…” On the subject of ‘ata’ which is Yoruba for ‘Pepper,’ Reminisce hopped into the studio and released the one-minute song titled, ‘Ata.’
He rapped, “Reminisce Ibile, your favourite rapper fear me…” While some lines seemed to address Reminisce on Vector’s sophomore album, The Second Coming, not much was heard till Vector pitched his tent with AQ for ‘Distractions.’ The track was a diss to Reminisce.
The track which features an interpolation of Jay Z’s line from, ‘Light Up,’ Drake’s song from his debut album, Thank Me Later saw Vector rap that, “You want us to meet, scrap the live beef… And I don’t give a crap about your vigilante groups, me I be barack boy, I roll with the Army crew… Your CV like abandoned ships, it makes no sale…”
Vector won this one.
Vector vs. AQ
AQ and Vector seemed cool. Before Vector dropped, ‘Where Is Vector?’ Both rappers had been on two songs together. But in 2014, as AQ prepared to release Son of John, Vector dropped ‘Where Is Vector?’ and rapped, “Somebody please mess with me, I need a new distraction. Damn A-Q, I bet that crazy n***a laughing…”
In hindsight, this rapper thinks AQ might have overreacted because it seemed Vector made a terrible attempt at a joke. But then, when you consider that he rapped, “Somebody please mess with me, I need a new distraction…” it seems he was asking for smoke.
AQ responded with expensively cordial bars on the same beat for, ‘Where Is Vector?’ He dissed Vector for singing before then praising Olamide, Phyno and Reminisce.
Fun Fact: In 2015, AQ then dissed Olamide, Reminisce and Phyno on ‘International Rapper,’ his reply to ‘Local Rappers.’
M.I vs Kelly Handsome
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.
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.
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)'.
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…”
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.
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.
M.I vs Iceberg Slim
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…”
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..."
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.
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..."