ALSO READ: AQ – God’s Engineering [Album Review]
While AQ had swarm in belated Rose(s) since his Headies-nominated album dropped, this one was different. From all indications, he realized it too – as roses and commentary came off material moments from his fans, he replied with the innate self-esteem of an OG finally at peace with himself. The peace seemed like one peculiar to death – for AQ, it represented the death of doubt and trouble.
]]>In the following days, the odd tweet dropped a Molotov Cocktail to commend AQ’s lyrical mastery and musical delivery on God’s Engineering. Then on April 2, 2020, a twitter user, @M_CEO asked AQ, “@thisisAQ Chief, how many Rts for a joint album with @MI_Abaga?”
AQ replied that, “I’m not the one you should be asking bro.. Ask @MI_Abaga.” When MI Abaga saw the tweet, he replied, “See this dead guy!!! Lol.. let’s do it.. record a whole project before next week Saturday. And put it out.. down?”
Interestingly, this also came just a few weeks after MI Abaga released Judah EP – his ninth studio project. Abaga might be a problematic human being, but he stands tall with the regal exuberance of Xerxes as arguably the greatest Nigerian rapper of all-time.
When Judah EP dropped, it only confirmed what the world had known for a long time, M.I. is a genius at this music thing. On Bobrisky’s internet, not even stan culture or allegiance to another artist would make you deny that. Whenever you listen to him, you understand that he has perfected the art of making music. In his element, he’s like Bach to a music sheet or a piano.
But unlike Bach, Abaga does not write sofas with a pen, he writes bars. Even though he could flip a Requiem for a banging Hip-Hop track with deceptive cadences, Abaga does not compose Requiem unlike Bach. In between Judah EP and The Live Report, South African rapper, Nasty C named MI Abaga as the No. 1 rapper in Africa during a chat with Pulse Nigeria.
Just a day before this review dropped, Abaga also received an immense show of respect from another great African rapper named Tumi – popularly known as Stogie T. In just over 50 seconds, Abaga annihilated an instrumental of Drake’s timeless record, ‘Pound Cake.’ For these reasons, a collaboration project with AQ is not just a significant moment in Nigerian Hip-Hop.
It is a watershed moment that sees two of Nigeria’s best and biggest rappers collaborate on important subjects that have probably been rumbling in their minds and struggling with their intestines for weeks, months and years. More than the project itself, it is a legacy project in collaboration – something Nigerian Hip-Hop desperately needs.
By April 9, 2020, MI Abaga sent out a tweet that pointed to the idea behind this EP. A line from that tweet reads, “#TheLiveReport A Five Day Journal.” The project was mixed by MI Abaga. On that experience, he writes, “Can’t believe we did this!! @beatsbyBDJ made beats in 2 days .. we recorded in isolation for 3 days.. last two days I have been mixing.. haven’t slept in two days.”
By April 11, 2020, The Live Report was announced as a 6-track EP and was set to drop four days after that tweet. On April 15, 2020, The Live Report debuted on all platforms in the thick of increasing lockdown measures across Nigerian states to slow and hopefully contain the spread of COVID-19.
ALSO READ: The power of collaboration in Nigerian Hip-Hop
As a Nigerian, this moment has celebrated some of the well-documented ineptitude of Nigerian governments and put them on show. As people have become unable to work, some have lost their jobs due to economic strains while street boys have taken to daylight armed robbery.
On the global stage, it’s been a battle of capitalism that does not exactly value human life. It does not help that something about COVID-19 seems sinister. But as people try to find answers and blame someone, they have hilariously taken aim at the 5G network for spreading COVID-19 – whatever that means.
Even worse, some Nigerians are still contending with the government over religion. Instead of seeing the lockdown and close-down of churches and mosques as safety measures, they think they are being censored. People seem to have chose human-inspired forms of dedication to religion over dedication to God himself. Sad
]]>The Live Report is then like the dense, complex and written hypothesis of two Nigerians who hold up a physical representation of the globe, look at the effects of COVID-19, capitalism, corporate espionage, religion, vanity and the inevitability of death vis-a-vis how they affect humanity.
ALSO READ: The Robbers of Lagos State
The project is more a victory for what it represents than the musical experience it sells. Here is why;
Tone of The Conversation
The Live Report and this five-day journal opens up to the brilliance of Beats By Jayy. After a sampled vibrant epilogue from an unknown man who presumably galvanizes his troops with talk of the inevitability of war and their participation in it, Beats By Jayy is brilliant with the warped out vocal samples, thudding Hip-Hop drums and cloud strings just before the bass lines usher MI Abaga in.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Abaga went brazy. In one swoop, he set the tone for the song, the project and AQ’s verse. ‘Tone of The Conversation’ is like manifesto premised on braggadocio. It’s almost like MI Abaga and AQ read out their CVs and then say, ‘Just because of what you just heard, we are the only ones deserving of saying the things we are about to say on this EP.’
It’s also quite interesting that the song is titled, ‘Tone of The Conversation.’ MI Abaga raps, “You’re all about to witness the litmus of high vibration…” before extolling his 13 years of excellence and his defiance to death. This is like the appetizer or like wall screeding that comes before the gloss. MI Abaga’s technique is switched up like a combination of Pusha T and iLLBliss, but with MI Abaga at the helm.
]]>Even when he switched up his vocal texture like Kendrick Lamar around 1:27 just as he dropped the amazing line, “I earned my spot protecting you nigg*s, I’m Amotekun…” and gave a salute to all the rappers who came before him, including…
AQ enters with guns blazing despite his admission, “Never held a gun…” He adulates himself for being the only hardcore rapper getting money. He then fires shots, “Funny how all these rappers wanna get money on IG live. The problem is, you don’t get money on IG live…” The final piece of impression comes as AQ in turn shows respect to MI by showing excitement at being on the same project with MI.
The Live Report
The infamy of COVID-19 has brought with it some questions, stupidity and conspiracy theories because the entire existence of this virus is quite sinister. As stated earlier, a lot of Nigerians still believe the 5G network emits coronavirus. On this track, MI Abaga and AQ respond to some of those questions, acts of stupidity and conspiracy theories.
MI Abaga went first as he rapped in one of the opening lines to his verse, “I hear y’all talking about 5G like damn, y’all nig**s need common sense. But it’s that brainwashing in y’all’s defence…” Just before that, MI Abaga gave a shout-out to Boogie and after that, he took aim at the well-documented Nigerian problem of misplaced priority and wide dearth of knowledge.
To MI Abaga, we need to invest in education more than religion. Don’t get him wrong, he’s the son of a Reverend who has made Christian music in the past and who still probably practices Christianity. However, there’s a difference between idolatory of religion and logic. AQ comes in and absolutely blasts the track with intellectualism of conspiracy theories.
]]>To AQ, the problem is capitalism. He took aim at the gains of capitalism from this entire lockdown and COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies will make a killing, ordinary stores now sell sachets of Panadol for N200, streaming companies are making a killing while telecommunications companies and internet providers are the biggest gainers.
AQ is angry at how we ignored the problem of biological warfare and the addictive nature of the internet. He gave an example with the deft line, “As your time goes TikTok, they cashing out too. It’s adding up and they’re adding up a new challenge #FlipTheSwitch to #ToosieSlide all been arranged…” TikTok will make a killing off ads during this period.
MI Abaga came back with theories framed as questions through which he aims to make people questions the system. Through the existence of all other viruses like the Spanish Influenza, MI Abaga jokes that God might not end the world with a cold while theorizing that the vaccine might be part of the plan.
For his part, AQ thinks this is a ploy to make everything go online and raps, “This is not the end of the world, it’s the end of an era…” He then raps about the well-documented tech wars and instances of corporate espionage that’s been taking place between China and America for over 20 years. It piqued with Samsung vs. Apple in the early 2010s.
The last of those cases was when the American government banned Huawei from being used. Word was that Huawei products used in the pentagon could be reverse-engineered to mine American data. But like AQ raps, “Where is Africa in all this?” If there was ever a time for Africa to stand tall by creating its way out of this, it’s now. Instead, we waited and allowed the virus to grow.
]]>The beat is again impressive like something off Ryan Leslie and Kanye West in the 2000s. Particularly, it sounds shares subtle similarities with the Ryan Leslie-produced ‘Fly Together’ and shares a looped vocal sample with the one on ‘Runaway’ by Kanye West.
Jesus Said Use Your Head
In the thick of COVID-19 lockdown to control the spread of a lethal virus, Nigerians battled against the government trying to save their lives and jobs. They accused the government of over-bloating COVID-19 in order to prevent them from serving their versions of God. Elsewhere, some Muslims beat up members of a Nigerian security set-up because they wanted to attend Jumat.
On a good day, Nigerians value their pastors and place their religion even above other forms of religion. In 2019, Pulse Nigeria published a critique of comedian, Maraji’s take on the superiority of Christianity to other forms of religion. In other issues against religion, people exhibit worrying sings of extremism and hypocrisy with their thought process.
Then, there’s the ever-polarizing tithe issue which I will not extol – for now. But to AQ and MI Abaga, the negatives of religion are worth canvassing. The hook is amazing as MI Abaga and AQ take the place of Jesus and aim to emancipate the people from mental slavery imposed by the excesses of religion – a human concept.
MI Abaga – not for the first time – embodies The Lion of The Tribe of Judah. On the hook he sings, “Jesus said, use your head, use your brain…” AQ criticizes the extremism of religious ideologies, iconography and the idolatory of religion as people now see their pastors as gods who could flog them with sticks and whips.
]]>AQ importantly slams the people for their willful ignorance and fostering the excesses of religion. MI Abaga refuses to engage call-out culture, but he tells a more personal story. What MI Abaga raps from, “But in the meantime…” is just truth. He then raps, “Religion is the opium of the people…” just as he examines the wider problems from excessive financial obsession with religion.
One thing we forget is that religion was created by human beings based on what we feel was divine inspiration. Once we realize that there can be faults in that arsenal, we can move on and live right. Religion should be a channel to God, not a model to worship pastors or denigrate humanity.
“Don’t let another sheep convince you that you are sheep” – MI Abaga, 2020
“Some of your pastors are not Christ-like…” – AQ, 2020
Clap For Yourself featuring Big Daddy Jayy (Beats By Jaayy)
That hook is just mental as it satirically examines the power of lies in inter-personal relationships. MI Abaga’s and AQ’s verses are satires about the power of lies and vanity in Lagos circles. MI Abaga examines the impact of lies while AQ raps about the vicious circle of clout-chasing and philandering women.
Just as he is brilliant on the hook, BeatsByJayy crafts a trap beat on a pace similar to one he crafted for AQ on ‘Hmmmm’ Under the thudding drums and Travis Scott-esque psychedelic strings is a loop that was first heard on ‘Only’ by Nicki Minaj featuring Chris Brown, Drake and Lil Wayne.
]]>”All the money wey you get, I hear say na mp3..” – Big Daddy Jayy, 2020
When I’m Gone featuring Nawe
On ‘Flux Capacitor’ off Jay Electronica’s debut album, A Written Testimony, Jay Z rapped, “When I die please don’t tweet about my death (death), tryna get mentions, bringin’ attention to yourself. Please don’t post some pic from in the club, with some quote you stole like we was tighter than what we was, tryna get likes from my love. If you can’t go by the crib then give my momma a hug…”
Rappers are obsessed with the concept of death. On this sample-heavy Hip-Hop beat, AQ and MI Abaga go dark and talk about the concept of death. For so many people, death is to be unspoken, but to humanity, it is more inevitable than taxes. AQ uses the moment to discuss his wishes upon his death. Importantly, he shows he still wants to live, “Give me my flowers before I give it up…”
MI Abaga does not tempt the angel of death, instead he addresses death from the angle of suicide. Apparently, a friend of his – a DJ – committed suicide and he claims that he was surprised when it happens. MI Abaga wants all of us to know that we are susceptible to the whims of suicide as he raps, “We like to lie that we’re strong, but inside we are weak…”
Thus, Abaga claims that people should speak up. These deaths and the power of suicide then makes MI examine his own life post-mortem. Like AQ, he wants his roses while he lives – he doesn’t want people to sit on the fence anymore. Word on the street is that Nawe is Jesse Jagz’s daughter with Ruby Gyang.
You must have seen Braveheart, the fictional 1995 Mel Gibson classic about the life and martyrdom of William Wallace as he leads the Scottish war of Independence against England. You might also remember the classic James Horner scores as they tore through your subconscious and helped you channel the emotions the movie evoked.
Think of this AQ and MI Abaga version as the unification of the movie’s themes with music and the Nigerian spirit. AQ opens the song with, “Mel Gibson as William Wallace, I’m Bravehearted, fighting for love in the coliseum, I would die for my freedom…”
As BeatsByJayy constructs a beat that reminds one of No ID, AQ again embody the spirit of the intro ‘Tone of The Conversation’ for this outro. ‘Braveheart’ combines braggadocio with an epilogue that sees both rappers examine what they’ve said and the themes they have examined before basically saying, ‘Just because we are ****, we have said this. Deal with it, Nigeria *drops mic*’
From a place of pain, AQ immortalizes his name in the distance death and systemic demise of Nigeria. More importantly, AQ values his space as he refuses to respond to messages or do giveaways – the litmus test of true celebrity in 2020. Yo, this beat is a beauty with thudding drums and hazardous electric guitars.
“See, the psychology of a winner is diabolic,” is one of the biggest things that MI Abaga raps. Famously, MI Abaga is criticized by Nigerian Hip-Hop for being scarce. Sometimes, he is at fault for not making sacrifices, but usually, the culture forgets that he is also a human being with a life. MI Abaga addresses that with defiance, “I’m busy.”
]]>MI Abaga then addresses people who want to beef with him. He raps, “I diss you, I make you famous.” So, instead of replying, he wants to keep quiet. It’s also quite pressing that we need to ask, who is this ‘Dear Colleague’ that MI Abaga keeps referencing. Perhaps, he’s a fictional representation, created to address certain questions.
Perhaps, it’s a sub because shots are being fired. Whatever it is, only time will tell. When that happens and we’re still in journalism, we shall be there to unpack it. You know you love me. xoxo.
“Giveaways, my family needs my income…” – AQ, 2020.
First, another two years like this from BeatsByJayy with production credits that stretch beyond MI Abaga, AQ and Loose Kaynon as he keeps producing quality bodies of work, he will find himself in elite company. While MI Abaga and AQ might take all the plaudits, he might just be the unspoken star of this project. Kudos, homie.
When all is said and done, MI Abaga and AQ – since 2010 – will never release an average project. Don’t stress me, dear, it’s just going to happen. As noted before, take away the quality raps, the pedigree of the rappers and the empirical view/socio-politically charged messaging of this EP, this project represents something bigger – collaboration.
That said, it’s amazing how rappers could get out of their comfort zones just enough to retain some of the elements of those comfort zones while addressing larger-than-life topics. MI Abaga and AQ showcased Jay Z, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar levels of conscious raps charged at totems of society. AQ’s verse on ‘The Live Report’ as well as MI’s verse on ‘Tone of The Conversation’ are world class.
]]>The major problem though is slight. I did not enjoy the musical experience like I might enjoy another topically dense album even though the production is also amazing. There were times when the topics were carrying the experience, not the music. There are also one or two times that momentarily underwhelm – not for any particular thing, but for the musical experience.
Also noteworthy is how ‘The Live Report’ feels like the perfect track one in its overall spirit. The beat for ‘Tone of The Conversation’ would have made it a perfect track two, but the manifesto-style to it causes a conundrum. Something tells this writer both rappers might have thought long about the placement of both tracks.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
]]>Pulse Rating: /10
Content, Themes and Delivery: 2/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2
8.0 – Champion