Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mission Impossible For Mr. Incredible?

Album Review

Artiste: M.I.
Album: Talk About It (64 mins 23 secs)
Producers: Audu Maikori (Executive Producer),
Jude “MI” Abaga, Jesse “Jesse Jagz” Abaga, Kraft
Label: Chocolate City Music
Released: December 2008
Reviewed: 20th December 2008

The Intro: December 16th, 2008. Location: Ile-Ife, Osun State. These weren’t exactly the friendliest of times to be walking around a town that had experienced multiple bank robberies barely 24 hours ago. To make matters worse, this writer had on an all-black attire and carried a knapsack. Several policemen looked at him suspiciously as he trudged the streets asking questions. The Mission? To get a copy of the recently released Talk About It CD.

Those happened to be the circumstances under which I went looking for M.I. a.k.a. Jude Abaga’s over-hyped and highly anticipated album. Unfortunately, it almost turned out to be a Mission Impossible most likely because Osun State had absolutely no part in the album anticipation whatsoever. After walking up and down Ife I could only find one stained copy of the album and you can trust my Ibo cronies! The guy, banking on my desperation and tiredness, sold it for me for N150 instead of the regular 100 bucks! (The CD is now readily available in almost every part of the country).

The cover design aside (which by the way, was unimpressive probably because I’d seen a very artsy pre-release version); in popped the CD as I awaited Naija’s self-proclaimed lyrical messiah to take me to the Afro/Hip-Hop promised land. One quick spin and I must say I was fairly disappointed at first.

Ok, hold up! Before you M.I. fans tear me apart, hear me out. For one, Talk About It is an 18-tracker album made up of 13 full tracks and 5 skits inclusive of Thank You’s. FIVE skits! Hmmm… That number of intervals in a CD can - if not well handled - turn into a distraction rather than an interesting diversion.

The first, An Outrageous Intro Starring The President can be roughly termed pre-election Arnold Schwarzenegger meets post-election Yar’ Adua. Some people might find the commando-President dialogue amusing but it does step a bit too close to overkill (no pun intended). A slight correction too…Did the album drop on the December 1 launch date or September 1 as the Intro says?

After that comes Anoti, MI’s lyrical proclamation featuring Gabriel on the Yoruba-influenced hook. It’s obvious that Anoti, which some say contains lyrics from Feel E - another MI track - has a hook meant to appeal to South-Western listeners whose followership can actually make or break an album (some other artistes like Timaya on the other hand didn’t include Yoruba on their sold-out debut albums). One good point: I like the “Anoti, Anoti” chant in the song even without knowing its meaning.

MI also commands ALL the respect I can give him here especially towards the end of each verse when he spits out his attributes Twista-style. His soft-spoken lyrical flow makes this Mister Incredible, Most Immaculate Mic Inspector, MC Interrogator, Music Innovator, Mankind Illustrator knock me out flat with his rapid fire yet ice-cold wordplay.

The L Boogie skit that comes next is unnecessary except that it probably ushers in the beat for Track 4, Short Black Guy. (And meanwhile, who really is L Boogie? A Nigerian male Lauryn Hill?) SBG which is rendered in a mellow, almost whisper-mode still delivers the cold style MI has successfully made his.

Pype, notorious on Sasha’s Strong Thing single teams up with the son of the Evangelist on Teaser, a song with a lively beat. Another favourite of mine, my only beef with Teaser stems from the fact that the instrumentals and Pype’s patois delivery sometimes overlap MI’s rap lines making them difficult for me at least to grasp. A very small price to pay for a great song though.

Talk About It which happens to be the title track of the CD is basically MI’s crusade against The System. Featuring Leony, repeated syllables at the end of the bars, a silly-sounding yet delightful hook and a very professional bangin’ instrumental, this song achieves its aim as a title track as Jude “talks about it”, critically drawing our attention to the current corrupt nature of things. As Jude himself says, we dey feel you, guy!

But the real attention-grabber is the diss track, Safe. Apart from the subtle and sometimes open lyrical bashing he gives certain MC’s by borrowing, incorporating and working their lines into his lyrics, even the hook of this song can be interpreted as a subtle diss. Just hide the album cover and ask anyone around listening to guess who featured on the hook and 9 times out of 10, you’ll get the answer “Tuface”. Wrong! Djinee’s impersonation of Tuface in the hook and adlibs seems as if to rub in the fact that Tuface’s freelance style doesn’t quite require talent.

The skit before track 9 (Blaze) tagged Random Guy Buying Blaze From Dodgy Guy is avoidable still and its novelty wears off quickly. Enough said. Blaze itself features MI, his brother Jesse Jagz (another very good lyricist), Ice Prince and the female rapper, Blaise. The rap lines are way tight as usual but putting Blaise’s line towards the end with the tempo slowed down weakens the strength of her delivery and makes her inclusion unfortunately, look like an afterthought. Throwing her smack dab in the middle of the lyrical battle would have enforced her standing as a rapper equal with her male contemporaries instead of the condescending effect achieved by her seemingly slowed-down lines.

On Area, MI features his 9th guest artiste, YQ. This song, despite its fine points, does sound “commercial” - a CD track filler. Fast Money, Fast Cars which comes next chronicles the life of a high-class street-walker and features a complex beat courtesy of Kraft (Mode 9’s sidekick?) and yet another Yoruba-influenced hook by Wizkid. MI’s message in the lyrics comes across very clearly even through the forest of name-dropping. As he says towards the end, “Ashawo na ashawo no matter what you drive / You can spend your life to get money / But you can’t spend money to buy life”. Of all the songs in this CD, this one hits home hardest.

A Short Discussion On The Situation of Things By Two Yoruba Women is exactly that. The title of this skit apart from being the longest says it all actually. This by far is the best skit and despite the fact that the entire conversation is carried out in Yoruba, one still gets the sense of what is being said. Moreover, it works very well as an Intro to Money, MI’s reflections on his growing-up experiences and his efforts to make that stash. The million dollar rhetorical question asked in the simple hook is a question everyone asks almost every day: Where money dey go?

My undisputed fav song in the entire album is Forever, a love track complete with smooth, silky blends of Hip-hop and R&B vocals with an engaging drum-centric instrumental. I could write a whole review of this song alone but I won’t. It’s my BEST, period!

After that comes the predictable religious tribute Jehovah though there’s nothing typical about this starting from the beautiful recitation of Psalm 23 in the beginning, MI’s flow and the Eben and Lindsey chorus. Jehovah apart from the sincerity and depth in the message still goes to show that religious isn’t necessarily synonymous with dull. MI would mos’ def succeed as a Gospel-rap artiste if he fully toed that line.

Depth and sincerity are also evident in Hustle, a clarion call of sorts to all hustlers to “run for us, run” and even though it means getting that H-1 visa, he still urges them to eventually return because “if you don’t come back, what good have you done?” The only thing wrong with this song is its position in the playlist as it seems a bit misplaced (to my musical ear) sitting just after Jehovah. I can’t really tell what it is but the continuity effect in the CD gets lost here somehow. Well, if you have a problem with that, just use your shuffle button.

Then the Thank You’s and Ova Ish… I don’t know about you but I always let this play to the end like as if it was a full track of its own. The instrumental to “Jehovah” and the way MI takes time out to thank everybody (well, almost) while still introducing two more of his future musical projects does it for me. Novel. The way I listen to it continuously, you’d think I was expecting him to thank me on the track!

And finally, Crowd Mentality. Most people use this track as a pointer to who MI is. When I heard MI was releasing a CD, I actually said, “Oh, isn’t he that guy who sang “Crowd Mentality”? What can I say about this track that hasn’t been said already? If you’re still unsure, you can even check out the dopest lyrics ever here. If Hip-hop was a national anthem, this track is definitely one of its stanzas. I would still buy the CD even if this was the only song on it.

As an aside, it’s quite interesting the descriptive way M.I. captions his skits but my media player/MP3 converter didn’t find the lengthy full-sentence filenames funny. Never since Mya’s If You Died I Wouldn’t Cry (‘Cos I Never Loved You Anyway) have I seen song titles this long. Had to re-name one of them, “A Short Discussion” before my converter would have anything to do with it...

After the hour-plus experience that is Talk About It, is this album really worth talking to people about? I’ve got just one thing to say: What kind of question is that anyway?

If you are into Hip-hop and still haven’t gotten it, then you must have been drinking some cheap stuvvs. So what if this review pointed out a few flaws? If I had to appraise all the fine points of this album, each song would be a whole new post of its own. After this CD, I’m totally convinced I’ll be buying his “Illegal Music” and “One” projects whenever they drop.

Remember that Media player/MP3 converter I talked about earlier? I used it to convert my own copy of this album for my PC, my phone and my media player meaning that no matter where I am, anytime of the day, MI’s tracks keep blasting in my ears. I’ve got lots of music but only one other CD has that distinction.

MI’s got it down cold! This album is dope! This Abaga’s album fully deserves a 9 out of 10. Now go talk about it.

This review is done… One!

Additional Resources:
www.myspace.com/pyeriboy
http://www.chocolatecitymusic.com
www.miishiphop.blogspot.com

13 comments:

exschoolnerd said...

forever's my fav song too!

Naughty Eyes said...

@ XsN: Good to know we share something in common...

Buttercup said...

Wow..this was a very in-depth analysis. Very impressive. I agree with most of ur points. Great job!

Naughty Eyes said...

@ BC: Thanks!
I put in a lot of effort into it so I'm glad you liked it.
However, in-depth means it had to be lenghty too!

bumight said...

u took ALL the words right out of my mouth. i bought the album, kept it unopened for about a month, and was disappointed the first time i played it. It definitely grows on u.

the skits, should have been removed, ALL OF THEM. the most annoying one is the "A Short Discussion On The Situation of Things By Two Yoruba Women" - It was very fake, downright pretentious. it just didnt work.

I love "Forever". "Anoti" was the first song to catch my attention, then "safe"- which i think was very creative, even downright genius.

The review on its own gets 10/10 from me.

Naughty Eyes said...

@ Bumight: Thanks, dear! And there I was thinking nobody would like this review because of its excessive detailing!
Funny enough, I liked the "A Short Discussion..." skit probably because of the backing instrumental. Language barriers meant I couldn't understand what they were saying anyway.
As for the "Random Guy..." one, let's not even go there...

Chari said...

*APPLAUSE*

Nice one bruv! you try!!! Loved the indepth analysis mahn!

tobenna said...

fantastic review NE.
spot on for most of the songs, especially the yoruba songs it seems every album must have these days

Penelope said...

OH wow...u really did analyse this album didn't you? I absolutely love that you broke it down for us really..atleast now i can cool down on the whole being obssesd wv M.I n all

Tho he's quite a lyricist!!

But nicely done..Nice Nice..

Naughty Eyes said...

@ Chari: * bowing to applause* I try abi? My head don dey swell oh! Thanks man! E don tey we yarn small oh. How your side?

@ Tobenna: Thanks. The Yoruba thing... I'm not discriminating oh, but I think a good song is a good song, Yoruba or not!

@ Penelope: LOL @ "cooling down with the obsession". Last time I checked, there was no crime with being obsessed...
I agree he is THE lyricist!
Thanks and drop by often, OK? Have a swell weekend!

Dante said...

Damn!!spot on!!
This review is good. MI is the ish...yeah yeah...he could have done without the skits but a first album in Nigeria? wonderful.

My best is forever too..lol, then money slow enter....
fast cars with whizkid hits home well for all those aristo chicks...

I have already copped illegal music and Choc boys is blowing me up...those jos boys eh..watch out for ice prince...crazy!

Chari said...

Yeah mahn I dey oh! jus halla me when next u dey on top msngr

Faruq said...

Nice in depth review, loved most of the trax on d album even tho it didnt quite match my expectations considering the trax i'd heard before d album came out
and oh yeah d album version of Blaze is horrible compared to d one dat leaked earlier......