Album Review: ‘The Chairman’ by MI Abaga – Perfect moniker or a misnomer?

by Henry Igwe 

The Chairman Project is fast becoming that staple album as we speak and it’s obvious how much Jude Abaga buries into it in terms of time, energy and artistry. Jude’s work here captures the kernel of the Nigerian living conditions and delicate societal shadings in forms of language, happenings and commonplace nuances; making this one worth the four year wait.

He begins the Album on that satirical note, a brilliant engaging Intro whose idea is a pastiche of Craze off his MI2.

Mine is a super love material that has MI and WizKid on some riveting studio inputs. But for everything MI and Wiz achieve on this, it isn’t so much compared to Always Love with Seyi Shay. O’ my! Both songs though, proper good ones. Awesome. Amazing. Astounding. And a lot more.

Shekpe is regular mainstream music; upbeat, touched with some street textures and what have you, it makes for a hit in the clubs. Major shouts to Sarz for that. Rich is upbeat and utterly positive, with Koker taking the cake right in front of his host. Sublime.

Bullion Van highlights the blustering rapper image that is what we’ve come to know today, with guest appearances from Phyno, Runtown and Stormrex. Smashing effort, it has MI swinging between pidgin lines, passing the baton to Runtown and then to Phyno who adopts a feral approach as expected. Super track but when we crunch the numbers, we see that it is Stormrex who actually dispatches Bullion Van. And it is painful yet interesting how she isn’t a rapper; neither does she spit a word of vainglory in achieving this. It is even more painful the brevity of her appearance on the over four minutes recording. Glass ceiling, that?

The story continues, leading us to Brother, and on this the emotion is deep; flowing, and almost palpable. Jude digs into his other side, the side which has him writing some priceless lines. His reminiscences about the Choc Boys’ love-gone-sour are painful and melancholic, almost like a dirge.

He carries this same nostalgia into Human Being, another sound record on the Project, perhaps one of the finest cuts here. Tuface Idibia is around to bring in some balance and grace to the chorus, as well as Sound Sultan who helps round off on this 16th song on Chairman. Human Being opens with a sonorous voice, leading us into the gems that MI spits on the nearly six minutes song. It is real what he says on here, real and touching, with logical lines that toe a different course from the rest of the album. The song ends with piercing distinct cherubic underlying sounds and voices.

Next up is Track 17; and, damn, this one is beyond me. It borrows same sounds of the intro cut, features Oritse Femi, Frank Edwards and Nanya, impresses us to the brim, and does a lot more than this pen has the skills to interpret. Oritse is particularly glorious on this, as well as is the A1 Frank Edward windup. “The End/ Chairman” is on some legendary shit; a peachy, crackerjack studio effort with all the flashes of genius thinkable. The song showers praises on the Creator, takes a bit of innuendo jabs at the number one citizen and then sheds some light on the exact idea behind the Chairman theme. Rightly put.

“Wheelbarrow” is a wonderful Reggae Music replica. Initially, it hits you with an odd swing, the effects of which impress an indifference of sorts on you. At first listen, it is at best a ridiculous waste of studio time and travel resources, considering the expat recruit on it. But, boy, this one is some heavy piece executed with exquisite precision. Emmy Ace struggles in the introductory parts of the song to get us in tune, but soon as he gets his mojo on the chorus is something like a gemstone. Beenie Man is on point. MI falls off the radar in the first verse, makes an attempt to redeem on the second verse and falls again. He sounds languid, as though lacking the gas to burn. He doesn’t particularly connect our attentions with his rhyming, something a bit too second-rate and uninviting.

But for all the weakness on Wheel Barrow, MI retrieves image and delivers Yours with the sweet duo of Milli and Debbie, a superb restoration that satisfies his Chairman hypothesis. Then comes The Middle, which features Olamide and IJ but it isn’t exactly sterling enough to justify time investments we make on the 3 minutes cut, leaving us with nothing of interest to bank on. It feels subpar to the max in large areas other than on the chorus; with Ola seeming to us like one fresh from a sunny day marathon that leaves him hyperventilating between rhymes. I want to say it is un-repeat worthy what The Middle does to the ear, but I edit and let that pass for what the Short Black Boy spits in those concluding lines. Jamming and radio-fitting.

Following The Middle, there is need for some more bragging so MI invites Ice Prince and Sarkodie to his Millionaira Champagne. DJ Lambo opens the cut with some encomium, the beat switches, and then Ice takes the first verse on which he spills typical Ice Prince bars. Nothing unusual, nothing spectacular. Next enters Sarkodie and the fella takes no prisoners. He kills his bit so bad we start to fear he’d take the shine on another Chocolate City offering (the first being on a previous Ice Prince collaboration). And frankly, Sarkodie nearly does. But there’s a reason MI is who he is today. Son, MI is a menace when he wants to be. He assumes jurisdiction over the track and takes shit apart specifically from the seconds leading into the fifth minute, something of a rarity on which he tongue-twists his way out of the mix, kills the track, brings it back to life and then kills it all over. Vicious, pestilent behavior.

Beg is cool and groovy. Bad Belle is good chorus and production that sits on the shoulders of deficient rapping. “Niggas saying that we’re jealous, cuz dem done dey jam me for Quilox/ You wan buy all the drinks, wan pick up all the girls you be Hilux?”, he raps, venturing into spoken words and all at some point yet changing nothing. The song is some weak ass delivery, maybe not outright pedestrian but a very tired set of verses from the sound of which we can peep through into MI’s mind and tell that he isn’t at his most lyrical. It gets narrower in the following minutes and eventually peters out.

The Chairman is, inter alia, a smoking hot body of work and the strength of it will be how MI scores yet another commercially viable album, an album consistent with the game in spite of his long break. So technically, seeing as Jude furnishes the peoples’ considerations with an enduring piece de resistance, The Chairman means a satisfying extension of his oeuvre and acclaim. But what else is expected? For this much steadfast love and following, it is only right. Anything short would have been piss-poor, disturbing and not worth discussing or letting us spill our quills on.

The minuses on The Chairman range from the fact of too many awkward herb and sex allusions to frivolous self-conceit. Also, on Human Being the lyrics and production are nonpareil but put side by side with Shekpe or Bullion Van, the feedback casts a shadow of oxymoron on Jude’s thought process, seeing as he dwells on the opposing ends of the continuum.

The result of this earns him a certain queer reputation of a profligate who isn’t really able to afford the grand style he brags about. Lastly, if it took four years for our man to see if his absence could raise a group of picketing fans and loyalists, then I guess he’s okay now. And I’m thinking he won’t have to stall this long again considering how much timing is everything today. The dynamics of the Music Industry ensure that hardly any one stays atop the scheme of things for too long. It is an Industry where old wines aren’t exactly the finest. Given this, we hope Jude dissects properly for future works and understands that punctuality is the soul of every business.

PS: Be sure to support MI’s The Chairman Project. Visit recognized dealers and stores and cop some for you and yours today.

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