‘A Study on Self-Worth: Yxng Dxnzl’ is M.I Abaga’s fifth studio album. The second instalment of the much touted (and tweeted) Chocolate City’s L.A.M.B intervention, Yxng Dxnzl is 10 discrete tracks stitched together by snippets of psychotherapy sessions lasting about 39 minutes.
Interestingly, each track’s title is instructional and about the length of a short sentence. For example, “Love never fails, but where there are prophecies love will cease to remain.”
Coming five months after M.I’s Rendezvous playlist, the rapper cum executive shows without equivocation that his creative juices are flowing.
He has also served as foreman of L.A.M.B providing A&R, production as well post-production services.
Yxng Dxnzl drops at a time when rap music, globally and locally, has been dichotomised. Globally, rap music has been shorn of its gangster garb. In its new incarnation, rappers surf on trap drumbeats with a post-millennial attempt at being deliberately in-articulate. Of course, OGs are having none of this!
On the local scene, a handful of renegade rappers subverted the blossoming Hip-Hop milieu for their own gains by deploying local languages and their coup has been successful.
This came on the heels of M. I’s double success with his albums and mixtapes. At the time, he was undisputedly the most successful cross-over rapper with both critical and commercial acclaim something his predecessors like Mode 9 and Six Foot Plus couldn’t quite manage.
It is worthy of note that since this local rapper onslaught, his career has quivered. His attempt at joining the bandwagon recoiled on his third album ‘Chairman’ and on his fourth, Rendezvous, he embraced the alternative underground sound but acceptance has been slow.
This is the baggage M.I tries to unpack in his latest project. It is supposedly ‘A Study on Self Worth’ which is a thinly disguised examination of M.I’s vulnerability as a consequence of societal malady. In MI’s reckoning, he is that fantastic slept-on wordsmith when, in actual fact, he was fast asleep when the rug of acclaim was mobilised from under his somnolent body.
The pitfall of Yxng Dxnzl is its explanatory mode, preachy tendency, motivational meanderings and hasty generalisations.
There is an annoying claim on the first song with regard to our upward development as Africans which insinuates that “until we hate racism more than we hate each other, nothing is going to change.”
The initial response is to assume that it is a case of the wrong ‘–ism’ (i.e. a conflation of racism for colonialism) but these problems run deeper in still waters. It is presumptuous to chalk up our problem to a duel between racism with a big R and tribalism with a small T.
Seriki, a local rapper, has provided the perfect riposte to M.I’s claim that Chocolate City is the biggest record label Africa ever created which he makes on the track: ‘Another thing, do not be a groupie.’
Seriki’ s apt comeback is: Sakamanje!
Of course, Chocolate City has been a force in contemporary Nigerian music but calling it the biggest record label is a mere brag at best.
‘You rappers should fix up your lives’ enjoyed a prior existence as a single but fits into this album as part of the tirade against the music scene. MI opines that there are better rappers in South Africa than in Nigeria and this is one of the reasons he has not gone into retirement. His venom takes the back-burner while he rhymes eloquently about his grouse with rappers who sing etc. This is rich when you consider the fact that the “singinest” rapper in Nigeria is a Choc Boy. If you say Ice Prince, na you sabi.
Any ardent follower of pop culture saw this happen to American music, it was only a matter of time for same to consume our own local spaces.
And, in the same breath, it is contradictory that MI insists that he must come out of retirement.
He seems to forget that rappers like Jesse Jagz, A-Q and Loose Kaynon are still in the game. How much more Mode 9, a towering rap god who also happens be Nigerian? There is a counter-argument that MI is peerless but this is in-accurate. MI indeed has peers whom he has refused to acknowledge except for Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince.
The column of songs from Track 5 to 7 are delightful and vintage M.I with exquisite word play and rhymes that bite, however the exuberant chorus of ‘The Self-Evaluation of Yxng Dxnzl’ bears unmistakable similarities to FuQ, a song released on The Shutterbug Project Vol. 1 by Eso (previously known as FliQ).
Yxng Dxnzl could have been masterful if it was not so self-explanatory. M.I seems to be projecting on Freud’s couch—discussing sibling rivalry, Oedipal conflict, identity crisis and psychological homelessness—instead of facing, headlong, the real reason why he hasn’t been No. 1 since 2010: an era has passed but M.I remains clueless.