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Let’s Talk About It 10 Years Later: The Language of Legacy.

Referring to Talk About It as a seminal album is not a stretch by any imagination and for that reason, December 1, 2008 marked a turning point in the course of Nigerian Hip-Hop forever. M.I Abaga’s official introduction took the bar to new heights. 10 years to the day the album was released we have assembled a panel to discuss the legacy of the album.

The Panel

1. Hip-Hop connoisseur, Culture purist and Emcee; Lord GEM [Tweets @dageminiparadox]

2. Writer, Urban Central Feature Scribe and Cultural Commentator; Ibrahim Oga [Tweets @ibtouchdown]

3. Writer, Sound Engineer, Urban Central Feature Scribe, and Cultural Commentator; Samuel IShola [Tweets @UncleSmish]

THE TABLE- BACKGROUND

IB: I loved the simplicity of the cover art the first time I saw it. White background, black lettering and shadows, and a full image of a short man. This cover fitted perfectly into the paper, instead of plastic, CD casing typical of Nigerian albums. Another J-Town’s very own doing big things, of course we were excited to listen.

I remember when I heard his first single, ‘Crowd Mentality’. My brother had heard it from a show he attended. We were into J-Town Hip-Hop and it was hot. Law Breakers, T-Dogg, Big Wolf, Lord Large, Slayzin X, B Real, Iratee, Fish Family, Ceemo, Cryptic The Lyrical, etc all had hits on radio. He was telling me about the track when it came on radio. We were listening to Osama Bin U.J. and The Senator’s comedy show in the morning. ‘Crowd Mentality’ didn’t disappoint. It was so smooth, new, fresh, and outright creative. They played it through all the musical breaks in the show. The name M.I became part our hip hop conversations.

Samuel: In 2008, Hip-Hop in Nigeria had a niche following of sorts. It couldn’t be categorized as popular music by any means. This was around the time that M.I released Talk About It, to a rousing reception. If you ask any Hip-Hop head about the album today, they will tell you — grudgingly, perhaps — that the release was a watershed in Nigerian Hip-Hop history.

LORD GEM: Well Talk About it was and still is a revolutionary Hip-Hop material in terms of how relatable it was- to the old, young, male or female-commercial success, impressive lyricism and super talented feature contributions.

It’s not the most lyrical M.I album but at the time it was the most sought after and enjoyable Hip-Hop album (and believe me Hip-Hop albums in Nigeria were not enjoyed by many back then). Don’t get wrong we had Ruggedman, Mode9 and few others rocking the country but M.I came in and Hurricane Katrina-ed the industry, and had almost everyone miming along to each and every song on the record.

THE X FACTOR. WHERE X = ACCESSIBILITY

LORD GEM: The album has catchy rhyme schemes that are very comprehensible, and in as much as it is enjoyed by the listener, it also contains conscious contents which leaves you thinking and head bobbing at the same time. A perfect example is the title track of the album. Catchy hook but very intelligent and conscious verses. That’s a genius move in its simplicity.

Another genius move was the analogy of weed to dope Nigerian artists on the skit which preceded the ‘Blaze’ track. The Blaze track itself — still one of the highlights of the album- was an OMG moment. The skits as well were appreciated as they provided lovely entrances to the succeeding tracks. My favorites are ‘Area’, ‘Fast Money Fast Cars’, ‘Blaze’ and ‘Teaser’.

IB: I wasn’t very impressed with Talk About It. We played it a lot but we also skipped a lot. I played ‘Blaze’, ‘Hustle’, and ‘Crowd Mentality’ on repeat most of the time. When I went back to campus, everyone was crazy about M.I. He had a track for everyone. This was really good for M.I. There and then, I understood the need for those “Lagos commercial” tracks in the album. They were meant for bigger audience. Everyone was talking about him.

SAMUEL: There’s this popular talk in Christian circles, that: if King James hadn’t translated the bible in the 15th century, then Christianity probably wouldn’t be the most popular religion in the world today. I believe this to be true. If the Greek/Latin Bible had not been translated into the language that would later be the most popular in the world, then Christianity would have been limited to some parts of mainland Europe and the Middle East. Language, and the ability to communicate effectively to a group of people, is sometimes what makes or mar a movement. This is why, one of the first thing British traders and colonialists did, upon entering a foreign land, was to make sure that they took some “envoys” back to their homeland to learn their language and ways. Apart from the fact that Talk About It was a really good album, the language was specially crafted for the average Nigerian. Let me put this in perspective. Some of the biggest Hip-Hop songs in Nigeria between 2006 and 2008 were: Sauce Kid’s (now Sinzu) Yebariba Samboribobo, Terry Tha Rapman’s Beans, Mode9’s Cry and Nigerian Girls. These songs sounded like Nigerian spoofs of American songs — they were not really tailored for the average Nigerian-no disrespect meant. They watered the ground that M.I germinated and grew on. But Talk About It; from the beat on ‘Hustle’, to the local pop culture references on ‘Fast Money Fast Cars’, ‘Safe’, ‘Talk About It’, ‘Crowd Mentality’, ‘Area’ and ‘Blaze’, the entire album had a significant mainstream appeal, and wasn’t wack, or tacky. Of course we loved it. M.I, through this album, translated Hip-Hop into “Naija”.

A BONA FIDE CLASSIC?

LORD GEM: M.I is a smart fellow, he knows when to make beat breaks so as to accentuate some of his lines and he has an amazing ear for making beautiful music. He really went fully loaded when putting this album together and the effect can’t be overemphasized. Its 9.5 out of 10 for me. Happy Ten years anniversary to a masterpiece.

IB: Like Lagos, Jos musicians performed for Jos crowd, if others outside the city love it too then it’s a big plus. Dan Maraya, Jeremiah Gyang, old P Square, the list goes on. Talk About It didn’t have that ostentatious uniqueness of J-Town. So J-Town couldn’t claim it. The album tried to please everyone, so it lacked core theme and organisation. I think that was why I didn’t find it as satisfying as I had expected it to be.

M.I is a legend. He is legendary not because of Talk About It but because of his entire repertoire. While the album was a nice introduction of the legend, it is not a classic. This is sadly my verdict. We won’t talk about it if M.I wasn’t M.I, a few tracks off it maybe.

SAMUEL: Talk About It has aged well. 10 years after its release and it’s still gold. As I write this, I’m listening to Area (ft. YQ), and being swept in a wave of nostalgia. It is distracting, but then…

It is what it is, man,

[I] love the persona and inhale [him] like marijuana

I remember back when M wasn’t in demand,

Now [we] pay a couple of millions for the brand.

God damn!

ON LEGACY AND IMPACT

SAMUEL: Ultimately, I believe that Talk About It is the most influential Nigerian Hip-Hop album thus far, regardless of whatever metric you use. From cultural relevance, to sound, lyricism, commercial success and legacy, if you run the different great Hip-Hop albums by these parameters, Talk About It will always come up tops. But even beyond all that, the amount of people that started rapping, or listening to Nigerian Hip-Hop, because of this album is astounding. I know a lot of them. Talk About It ushered in a new generation of Hip-Hop producers and consumers, and for that, I say, Thank you, Jude Abaga.

IB: When I discussed the album with a lot of people, I realized Hip hop community couldn’t claim the album either. This is because the commercial appeal of it was overwhelming. It is like Nelly’s Country Grammar album. No matter how many times it went platinum, it just doesn’t come up in Hip-Hop conversations. And Talk About It had bigger competitions outside Hip-Hop, Naija music scene was hot. People were talking about the new MC, M.I, but not the album. He showed how great a rapper he can be in some tracks. His rapping style, voice, humour, and content were refreshing to the Hip hop atmosphere then. He was hot but came with less thuggery than the likes of Eedris, Ruggedman, and Mode9. Everyone was talking about him.

LORD GEM: The album birthed the Choc Boys Nation that we hear of today alongside Jesse Jags and Ice prince. Other historic products off the albums were YQ, General Pype, Eben and Wizkid. YQ and General Pype went on to give Efimile and Champion respectively. These records were massively accepted after inking a deal with Storm Records. Eben presently is a highly sought after gospel artist, he’s meeting with African presidents and touring Europe. The most impressive success story presently is Wizkid and it’s no secret why. Any history of his success is incomplete without throwing in Talk About it via the record Fast Money Fast Cars. This was the song that Banky W heard and immediately went on to sign him. The rest they say is history.

In summary, the album gave rappers hope that they can also make content that can get further than rap heads alone. The album opened doors for Hip-Hop to be greatly respected and recognized as a genre in Nigeria. The album gave rappers a sense of hope that success can be attained by actually rapping without trying to sound like everybody else.

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SPIRIT AND VOICE OF TIMES

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Urban Central is the Internet Magazine for the millennial mind, focused on the issues that matter for an evolving generation. Do follow us, Urban Central.

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