Undisputed rapper and CEO of Loppy Music, Jude Abaga, famously known as MI, has released his most anticipated album, The Chairman, four years after he dropped M.I 2. The versatile rapper who emerged the most financially successfully rapper in 2013, spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Friday, November 21, 2014, on various issues, including his love life, and why he featured 26 superstars in the 17 tracker album…
Why did it take you five to six years to release an album?
It’s not up to six years. It was four years. I still remember, November 2010 and I released my new album, Chairman, November 2014.
Still, four years is a long time for an artiste like you. What happened?
Different things that came together but unconnected. I got the post of VP of Chocolate City. The next day, Brother Jesse quit. While we were yet to solve that problem, about a month later, Brymo also left. Chocolate City crisis affected a lot of people, and as the VP of the label, my attention went to other things.
Other things like?
Building the team. It affected a lot of people. We have to figure out what was going on, solve things and move on, because it wasn’t easy, two artistes left us. It was difficult for us as a label, but we were able to manage it. That affected my music.
Also, that same year, one of my many blessings came up. I got endorsements for different products. I was travellings for shows, touring different cities. All these were the reasons MI’s album was delayed till now.
Will it be right to say MI sacrificed his music for label in the face of crises?
I don’t want to see it like that because everybody sacrificed. When I was coming up, Jesse and Ice-Prince also sacrificed before Jesse left. It was a period of sacrifice for me to sit back. Although I didn’t expect it to be so long as it was eventually.
Can you tell us how you were able to maintain your fans for four years without an album?
Na God ooo (smiles). But the truth is, if you make the right music, your fans would always love you, no matter what it is. So, I think it’s because my music is unique. It’s not really a commercial music, because if you make commercial music, it won’t stay with people for long. My songs, such as Undisputed Champion, Whether Na One Naira, Nobody Talks About, among others, stayed with people. They listened to those songs, they all say, “MI is good.” Mind you, good is different from hot.
Tell us some of the endorsements you’ve got?
I am the UN ambassador under the office of drugs and crimes. So, I am an ambassador against smuggling of migrants; we are trying to find means to stop Nigerians from finding illegal means into entering Europe. I have worked for them for over a year. The next thing that’s important to me is the ambassador for Energy in Lagos State; meant to sensitize Lagosians on how to reduce expenditure on energy. Instead of spending N50,000 on diesel and fuel, we try to educate people on how to reduce it to like N30,000 and save the N20,000 for other purposes. After that, of course, is Globacom. It came in two: as the ambassador of the brand and one of the judges of Glo X-Factor. I was also ambassador for Lucozade Boost; 7Days, among others. We also did a project with Gillete. I have a partnership with Hennessy and a whole lot of other people.
During the same period, I started Loppy Music. This also took my time, coupled with the fact that I am one of the directors at Chocolate City. All these kept me busy.
You invested so much on Loppy Music, and it’s believed by many that you’ve started smiling to the banks…
(Cuts-in) That’s a wrong feeling; that’s not how you start making money. Wizkid got signed to EME two years before he released Holla At Your Boy, but people didn’t know. They didn’t see him when he was going to OJB studio, working hard to become known. My point is; it takes two-three years to build the right talent, it’s not easy. You don’t just start making money.
My first baby has been Chocolate City. It was a marriage between Audu Maikori, who owns Chocolate City, and MI. When I came to the label, I brought talents. I came with Jesse Jagz and Ice-Prince, because I already had Lobby, but I gave Chocolate City my first baby. Hence, I have to start again. We’re now starting brand new baby. To me, we are ahead of schedule, but thank God, we have Ruby, she’s doing very well. Loose Keynon is fantastic, and of course, DJ Lambogini. We also have one or two producers as well. We have been in this building for more than two-three years now (referring to Loppy Music at Gbagada). We’re growing gradually and the more you grow, the more you build competence; it is not about the money. We know, money will come at the right time.
Let’s talk about Jesse Jagz and Brymo exit from Chocolate City. Don’t you think you could have prevented them from leaving?
These are two different scenarios, but it’s like a biblical saying, “Hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Jesse had a vision for something called Jagz Nation, which is the opposite of Chocolate City brand. Chocolate City brand is a pop brand but Jagz Nation is spiritual brand (reggae). He couldn’t do both, even when he tried to. So, it’s a calling and he needed to leave at that time, nobody could prevent that. Today, I tell you, we’re cool. He gets support from Chocolate City. He was at my album listening party, and the next day, I read that MI and Jesse Jagz re-united. It was very funny because how would brothers re-unite? We’ve been brothers; friends.
What about business wise?
Even business wise, we’re cool. We still work together. There is no enemity whatsoever. He just wanted to do his own thing. As for Brymo, however, there was a rift, because when he left, he was unhappy with Chocolate City. Unfortunately, it happened. We wish him well in his career.
Chocolate City has since signed new artistes. Would you say you have replacements for them?
Chocolate City has signed new artistes, including a management deal with Femi Kuti. Right now, we have a very nice squad. We’re doing very well. However, you can’t replace Brymo and Jesse Jagz. They are unique in their own ways. Everybody loves Brymo’s voice, no doubt about that. You can only sign someone else and you move on. That’s life.
Let’s go back to your album, Chairman. What is the story behind, 2 sides of every story?
Everything has a double side. A point is when you and your brother are cool, doing fine; the next point is when Enemy enter to cause wahala. One side, people treat you anyhow, as if you’re not important; but when you’re successful, they celebrate you. So many instances. All these thoughts came to my mind as I was recording my album. Anything I want to talk about, there are two sides to it. For instance, I have money now but I feel sad when I see people that don’t have. But the reality is, everybody cannot be rich. That’s the concept.
You have more than 20 collaborations in this album…
(Cuts-in) I featured 26 artistes.
There have been criticisms on why you featured 26 artistes. Most people said you needed those faces to feature in your album to be reckoned with…
I think, the criticism started before people started listening to the album. When I read their comments, it made me laugh. Obviously not everybody will like it, that’s why I sang in one of the tracks, Middle .Not everybody will like what you’re doing. Even Jesus Christ was dissed by the Pharisees. I’m not worried about that. My worry now is, did they have problems with many features?
When you listen to my album, every collabo was strategic. The kind of reaction I want to hear now is, “Too many feature is good or bad for the album.” Obviously, when you listen to it, everything was properly put. Every collabo was strategic. Shekpe is with MI and Reminisce; Bullion Van, na so e suppose be with Phyno, Runtown and StormRex; Human Being with 2Face and Sound Sultan, and others. I didn’t make the album selfishly for me or for anybody else. There are other songs I could have put on the album, but I just wanted the best. I wanted to tell a story, I am happy that I said it in the best way. I can play you the original version of Enemy by MI without Patoranking, and you would love it. But Patoranking would give the listeners the feel I want. That’s why I called him. I could have been selfish and do it on my own, but it was the collaborative spirit that brings out the best. I don’t see collaboration as something we should criticise as an industry. I didn’t leave the album for other people.
How were you able to gather 26 great artistes?
Let me use this medium to thank all the artistes for the respect they showed me. From 2Face, Wizkid, Ice-Prince, Olamide, Sheyi Shay and others; they all came to my house. So much respect for me. We never thought about it. I am very grateful for their support, and to everybody for being part of the success.
Did you pay them for the feature, especially Wizkid, who recently revealed that he charges N10 million for collabo?
I didn’t pay them, except few. The payment was minimal, not much, just to help the collaboration. Let me quickly react to the rift between Wizkid and Miss Saeon. I think, personally, Wizkid did nothing wrong because it’s business. You approached him for business and he delivered. Business is business. In my own opinion, the way Miss Saeon went about it is wrong. You don’t talk about business deals in public. That’s how I feel. Personally, I don’t charge for collabo. Wizkid didn’t charge me; even when he came to record with one of my artistes here, he didn’t even drink water, not to talk of charging. However, if you meet my management and approach us with a business deal, we won’t turn it down.
Let’s talk about your love life. Why is MI not married?
MI doesn’t have a love life, not to talk of getting married. Most time people interview MI and MI has no relationship. However, Jude is very private, he’s not a public figure, and I am sure you’re not interested whether he gets married or not, because he’s not MI.
We’re interested in Jude getting married. When will that be?
Unfortunately, Jude is not here (smiles). You’re interviewing MI and MI is not going to get married. But I am sure Jude will soon get married, people should just watch out for the time.
How does MI cope with female fans?
Let me first say this, Nigerian girls are more decent. I tell you why? Fans in other countries go out of their ways for celebrities to sleep with them. But our girls are very decent. However, what I try to do in most cases is to stay in my hotel room anytime I go to event. That means, if you don’t want to, nobody would force you. I show my female fans a lot of respect. The love I have for them is not sexual. It is an appreciative love. The contact can now become sexual the more you communicate. The best thing is when they show you love, show them love; when they bless you, you bless them; when they greet you, you greet them; and you partways. I think that’s the best way.
How have you been able to be scandal free?
I can’t really say how I have been able to achieve that, but I love to keep my life private. I mind my business. That’s one of the reasons I have been scandal free, because “nobody holy pass”. I’m sure there are naked pictures of me; I’m sure there is someone outside that wants to blackmail me; but would you agree if they tell you it’s my naked picture? No! Why? Because MI is a simple guy, he would never involve himself in such scandal. That’s when respect comes in. I respect myself; respect people as much as I want to be respected.
The journey started rough for you, but today, you’re one of the most celebrated artistes. How do you feel about this?
You know what? This year, my feeling is, “MI, you need to work so hard.” I want to be number 1, I’m not trying to be arrogant. I just want to do the best. I want to inspire people. I want to make money in order to help people because the government will not help us; politicians will not help us; but I should be able to treat people that come to my path well; my family members; I want to help people. If I look at myself, I don’t think there is anything wrong in being a rich man. What is wrong if I have a hospital? If I have a hospital, I should be able to save lives and do other humanitarian works instead of buying Buggati and flaunt it on social media.
Are you saying flaunting of wealth is not proper?
I’m not saying it’s not proper, even if I buy a Buggati, I am trying to make more money. That’s the way I feel. In all, i am grateful to God where I am today, but I am hungry for more; I’m passionate for more.
Have you ever taken action that you eventually regretted?
Never! The only way that can happen is when I compare myself with somebody else. Let me cite an instance, Ice-Prince has won BET; he was nominated twice, but I haven’t, although I was nominated once. If I look at my life, I ask myself, “how did Ice-Prince, my younger brother manage to win BET before me?” By that time, one would start regretting, saying, “Maybe I should have released an album. Maybe I should have done this or that. Maybe I should have been the winner!” I would start regretting my actions.
But, the truth is – I have no regret, that’s why I’m full of praise to God. But there is the hunger to do more. That hunger is not as a result of jealousy. It’s just passion to become more relevant. If I had not gone through all these, I’d not have this passion. The passion has always made me to want to be Number 1.
– RASHEED ABUBAKAR