The last time I covered an M.I Abaga project was back in 2018 when he put out the somewhat lukewarm Rendezvous playlist. He did follow it up with his fourth studio album A Study on Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl, which was a highly conceptual piece. However, after taking time off from music, tending to his numerous ventures and some beefs, Africa’s Number one rapper, The Chairman a/k/a Mr. Incredible returns with The Guy album, his 5th studio offering made up of 12 songs that weave rap, afropop, soul and highlife/afrobeat. The project sees MI as the guy, the rapper, the fighter, lover, fun guy and for the most part, a man trying to do the needful in a world where nothing is set in stone. MI sure holds his own on the record but also calls up names like Olamide, Phyno, The Cavemen and even Nas to help embellish the project.
“The Guy” kicks off with a brooding and bouncy atmosphere that serves as a harbinger of some sort. MI doesn’t try to overwhelm us with complex rhymes and sticks to a familiar territory where each line can be digested. he talks about his journey as one of the top emcees and delivers his lines in that new choppy drill cadence lines like “me and vector are cool even though we don’t chat on a daily/ look at Yung 6ix coming for the god emcee, mehn, that shxt pain me/ and my Loose got the Jordan connect like he is Isreali” sees him clearing the air on past beefs and shouting out his close friends, detractors all at once. The interesting bit is he even uses adlibs from the names he mentioned to buttress his point.
“The Hate” to me sounds more of an intro record but what do I know? This is here is MI in his bag and once again as the title suggests, he addresses why there is so much hate directed towards him despite all he has done for Nigerian hip-hop. He doesn’t name-drop anyone but he gives anecdotal views on the situation to let listeners know where he stands in the situation. The production is brooding, cinematic and dark, which is perfect for the rapper’s rage and outlet to weed out all the naysayers and whatnot. “Bigger” is the quintessential aspirational tune and continues the moody vibe set by the previous songs. The track features veteran Nigeria rapper Olamide who provides the hook and the legendary Queensbridge lyricist Nas who completely obliterates the track. The feature is quite interesting as many years ago, MI’s record label actually sued Nas for a feature that didn’t quite go their way but I guess things have been hashed out. Ok back to the record, MI’s performance is a bit lukewarm, reflective yes but for the most part serviceable while Olamide does a solid job with the uplifting chorus. Nas on the other hand, no wait, just listen to the verse. That is all I have to say.
“Soft Life Tony” features rapper Lord Vino and the title is a reference to Nigerian economist and philanthropist Tony Elumelu. The feel-good hustle anthem is bolstered by the summer aesthetics ripe with warm pads, pitched-up vocal samples and bouncy Afropop drums. Lord Vino sets the tone with his smooth flow and candid lyrics about the luxurious lifestyle everyone dreams of. M.I joins the fray and reminds us that “soft life”-slang for the life of extreme comfort doesn’t come without a price and that is why he is always grinding.
“The Front Door” and “Crazy” features Afrobeats artist Duncan Mighty and vocalist Ossi Grace and dive deep into the pop territory. The former is a groovy love tune that sees MI kicking game to the lady who caught his eye while the latter is an atmospheric alté tune ripe with ethereal textures and sparsely arranged drums. Veteran singer Wande Coal makes a brilliant appearance on the aptly titled “The Love Song”, he sure kills it with his earworm melodies and deep Yoruba inflections. The song is true to life as MI introduces us to his soon-to-be wife with adulation-filled yet playful lyrics. Lines like “Swear down, that is my guy, my ride or die / my confident, gave her old school game that Donkey Kong” made me chuckle a bit. Overall this track should be played at weddings.
“The Inside” is a splendid change in the mood as MI employs the services of acclaimed highlife band The Cavemen and rapper/singer Phyno for a smooth love number that channels the spirit of old-school Ghanaian tunes. The Cavemen lead the charge with their lilting melodic runs sung in pidgin English, this is followed by Phyno’s energetic performance, MI comes through with his laidback style and compliments the track. “Daddy” and “Soldier” are next up and the former is a laidback bouncy tune that is serviceable while the latter is a sombre insightful record about the daily struggles men face in this modern era. MI sure pours his heart into the subject matter and gives a vivid and heartfelt account of the many societal pressures put on men and their varying effects. The project closes out with “Oil” featuring singer BNXN and the closer “More Life” featuring the original Choc Boys Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz.
“Oil” is yet another sombre record but here MI talks about broken friendships and the favour the heavens have bestowed on him despite the odds. BNXN’s hook gets the job done but doesn’t quite break new grounds. “More Life” is a good way to end just as how he started his career with his friends. The record is an anthemic feel-good track that celebrates his accomplishments and also a toast to the life that he built. MI and Ice prince however do more singing while Jesse Jagz wraps it up with an insightful verse that blends his dancehall proclivities with a healthy dose of bravado.
Overall the album sounds more cohesive and consistent than some of his previous outings and it’s just 40 minutes long. The tracks are well-crafted and the subject matter does vary from time to time. His knack for blending genres seamlessly is applaudable and the features do work well for the most part with maybe a few minor glitches that can be overlooked.
Stream The Guy on all DSPs here.