As MI Abaga delivered the much anticipated tenth project to the Tribe of Judah on Friday 19th August 2022, a wave of nostalgia hits the country and beyond. The last full-length studio effort from ‘African rapper number one’ was 2018’s ‘A Study On Self Love: Yxng Dxnzl.’ Although he has been busy on cyphers, an EP, and Joint projects with LAMB and AQ, also executive producing albums for CRWN and starting TASCK, Incredible Music and breaking in a new artiste.
In honor of the release of Judah’s Sixth studio album, we ranked the top ten best songs that stand out from ‘The Guy’s’ very decorated catalogue based on several criteria including lyricism, production, overall quality, impact, and how iconic they are, read on to see if your favorite M song made it on the list.
Also note that an artist’s most iconic song or project ay not be the ones of best writing or production but one with bigger impact, we put all of these into consideration while compiling this list.
20. Wild Wild West
MI cleverly brought the insurgency in his home town of Jos to the public on this very underrated song.
19. My Head, My Belle
The song chronicled the struggles of the average Nigerian chap trying to market weather in Lagos traffic or Jos hillsides, the impact of this song is only limited by its lack of visuals.
Three hot verses from Nigeria’s hottest budding rappers at the time and probably the most iconic moment of Nigerian female hip hop ever as Blaise went head to head with the hottest new male emcees in the game at the time and came out unscathed.
This song being the one to introduce us to what will later become the choc boys alone is enough to make it iconic.
This is probably where MI began his amazing run of delivering infectious hooks with the ”put your lighters in the airr…” hook.
Using Marijuana metaphors to show just how dope their rapping was in the verses. It’s still a debate who had the best verse on this one and probably began the lyrical sibling rivalry between Jesse and Jude.
An infectious Chigurl hook, Patience Jonathan bars, probably his best show of pidgin rap, and an epic last victory lap verse announced Judo’s return to the game after a four-year hiatus on ‘The Chairman’ album.
16. Bad Belle
”You wan test all the drugs you be Dora?” and other lines of the sort showed how deep-rooted in Nigerian pop culture and clever Abaga could be, he understands the Nigerian ears and writed bars that appeals to them.
One of the most iconic beats in his catalog and one of the best videos he has ever made came out of this song championed by it’s one-liner hook.
Most MI fans will argue that this is one of M’s best lyrical showmanships and how he glides on the beat declaring himself as epic, just sounds like a victory lap, the song is like a less humble version of ”Imperfect Me.’
After a long hiatus, Jude returned with this warning single to any rapper aiming for his throne, from the production, hook which he delivered himself, and lyricism, plus a befitting kemetic video, this song is as iconic as can be.
M tackled greed, envy, growth, and detractors on lyrics like ”I’ve seen money make a man go against his maker, they start to get bread and forget the baker,”
13. Human Being
The mortalization of ‘Naija’s rap Messiah,’ 2Face and M.I go together like bread and Akara, then Sound Sultan’s bridge being the icing on the bean cake.
Probably the most vulnerable Abaga has ever been, talking about the struggles of superstars especially himself beyond all the glitz and glamour.
The most humbling song of his career houses one of the most braggadocious bars he has ever spat ”…put the flow’s got an SS genotype.”
”They got your gist in their windpipe, they will all choke” is a message to detractors, and how good was that namedropping of about a dozen Nigerian celebrities to tie into the narrative that stars also feel pain, ”ask Omotola, ask Genevieve..”
The iconic line on the 2face assisted hook ”if nobody talk about you then you are nobody” is still very valid to this day.”
Anoti is probably M’s first national hit, from his debut album ‘Talk About It.’ ‘Anoti’ put M’s lyrical skills on the map and solidified his style of breaking down multi-syllabic rhymes like no other in his class or beyond.
10. All Falls Down
Every fan of mixtape Jude can remember that time an unknown Poe, before he became Mavin signed Ladipoe gave Abaga a run for his money with his epic verse starting with the lines ”gravity’s working harder now,” this song is how many of us were introduced to Poe way before Falz’ ‘Marry Me.’ MI’s verse was also nothing short of grace and that whispery infectious hook.
9. Crowd Mentality
‘When I say jump…’ and the rest they say is history. In 2008 a fresh faced, Jos boy was thrust in our faces with this socially conscious street bop that saw more than its fair share of spins on Nigezie. AT a time when Mode 9 and Ruggedman stopped dropping music except for diss tracks toward each other and the mantle of Naija rap needed to fall on the shoulders of a new emcee. M took the torch and ran with it.
On this song Jude cleverly killed several birds with one stone, tackling Kelly Handsome and other detractors in a few clever verses with iconic lines like ‘ the Super Eagles never play against the Falcons.”
7. Short Black Boy
Before he finally got his collab with Nas on his latest album, before the debacle that had him suing the American legend a few years back, M had already declared himself the Nigerian Nas.
”It’s one short black boy with a very big heart
He flow like Jigga and he sound like Nas
Maybe he’s the best, Nigeria’s own Kanye West”
On this song with the simplest but infectious hook and a beat produced by his brother Jesse Jagz.
”And the ladies say, “Ooh, who do this beat?
It’s the type of jam can get me up on my feet”
Ahh, rock me slow, it’s so sweet, c’mon, feel the heat, feel the heat
The ladies say, “Ooh, who do this song?
It’s the type of jam I’ve been wanting for so long”
Ahh, rock me slow, it’s so strong
Let’s get it on, get it on”
6. Number One
Flavour’s amazing hook declaring MI the ”African rapper number one,” and probably’s most memorable rhyme scheme ever, this song is a perfect blend of highlife and hip hop, a lyrical street anthem, and probably the favorite MI song of the fairer gender, bar none but ‘One Naira.’
”Helicopter flow, tireless ah,’ ”they must be high like Aloha” are just a few bars that sprawled the whole song.
This song not having a video is still a mystery but Abaga is fund of not paying attention to his visuals until 2014’s ‘The Chairman era, just as 2022’s ‘Daddy’ does not have a video.
Another gem from the ‘MI2’ era, the song where he bragged all through but began the first verse with ” no be brag, no be boast.”
The song is like a checklist of his accomplishments laced on a solemn beat and iconic hook.
”Now we suicide bomber we all gon blow up,” a testament to the dream he chased with Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz and everybody who had hands in making his career happen, including Audu Maikori, Ruby and Jeremiah Gyang etc.
‘Top of the continent like Cairo, even down south I rock like Kwaito” is just one of the dope bars this song is replete with.
Rapping a highlife-inspired hip hop beat, made for spitting bars and dancing alike MI hit the pinnacle of rap braggadocio on this cut.
”Flow so hot it burns on pyro”
3. One Naira
I still remember the feeling of hearing the preview of this song for the first time ever before its official release at the Calabar Festival in 2009. An iconic recurring loop on the beat, an unforgettable hook by then-girlfriend Waje, and dope rememberable verses beginning with ”hey princess I’m so into you.”
Undebatably the favorite MI song to the fairer sex and a forever classic.
A song romanticizing trenches love that would make a Nollywood film dwarf in comparison.
The first verse of this song belongs in the Louvre:
I’m so into you
Cause u see past what my revenue is
And love me for me clever you
Leave you that is something I will never do
Other girls just wanna get rich quick
See them running things like Olympics
Married men chopping them like biscuits
They’re fast food girls their fish stinks
But what we have is so realistic
There’s no forming girl no film tricks
I no go chop outside no picnics
Cause you and I above the statistics
It don’t matter if I got ego
We got something we can build on Lego
And even if your friends don’t say so
What do they know’
2. Action Film
Brymo’s hook gets any crowd hyped till today, especially if there’s an abundance of females.
On this song he declared his return to the game with another one of is unique rhyme schemes playing lyrical superhero back to save African hip hop.
Dope verses laced on sirens and a marvel movie theme-type soundtrack, it doesn’t get any better than this, except maybe ‘Safe.’
”Yo back with a banger, for the hood for the streets for the zanga”… and the rest is history.
The song that thrust MI into International stardom and launched the legend that we know today. SA rapper Nasty C even admitted to M in a podcast that this song was one of the songs that made him want to rap, and he had never seen anything like the song’s visual.
We feel you Junior, the video was the stuff of Star Trek at the time, first of it’s kind but that wasn’t the only firsts about this song.
The lyrical technique employed by Abaga, using popular excerpts of the hottest songs in the country to make metaphors and puns was copied by many, but none did it remotely as good.
Djinee’s unforgettable hook and bridge served as the dessert on his amazing three-course lyrical diss.
With so much good music in his large catalogue it was really a herculean task to compile this list.
Let us know your favorite songs by Abaga in the comments.
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Lucas Henshaw is a versatile writer and music blogger who has written countless reviews and blog posts for several big brands. Follow his work @Lucas Henshaw on Facebook, @lucas_9ja on Twitter and @Lucas Henshaw on Linkedin.