Jude Abaga (born 4 October 1981), better known by his stage name M.I Abaga, is a Nigerian hip hop recording artist and record producer. He has been the CEO of Chocolate City since June 2015. He won Best Hip Hop and Best New Act at the 2009 MTV Africa Music Awards, and was nominated in the Best International Act category at the BET Awards 2010. He rose to prominence in 2006 when his song "Crowd Mentality" became popular in his hometown of Jos. His critically acclaimed debut studio album, Talk About It, was released on 11 December 2008. The LP was succeeded by M.I 2 (2010)
Jude was born in Jos, Plateau State. His parents, Pastor and Mrs Abaga are from Takum, Taraba state, both of Jukun-Nigerian descent. He attended Baptist High School, Jos where his mother purchased basic music notations and later, a 7-key mini piano which launched him into the music world.Jude has two brothers, Jesse Jagz who is also in the Nigerian and African music scene, and Jason Abaga. During Jude's adolescence, he would listen to tracks from Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, Sarah Maclachlan, Pablo Neruda, Jay-Z and DMX. Jude's venture in the hip hop world started with the sampling of musical works from DMX and Lauryn Hill as early as 1998. After his stint at Calvin College, Michigan, US, he delved into poetry while pursuing a career in Business and Economics.There, he performed regularly at the school's major hip hop shows and concerts. His impressive rap flows and attitude gained him a third-place finish at the Calvin College show tagged 'HipHopera' in 2003,
Jude began his music career when he returned to Nigeria in 2003. Finding his place in an industry dominated by the likes of Modenine, Ruggedman and Eedris Abdulkareem, he quickly commenced the production of mixtapes with his friend Djinee. This led to the critically acclaimed single "Safe", (a song which he parodied popular Nigerian songs in its lyrics) which gathered impressive airplay by African radio and music video stations such as MTV Vibe. The track also earned him awards at the Nigerian Music Video Awards, City People, N.E.A among others.
The hype surrounding the release of Safe led to the critical acclaim given to his first studio album titled Talk About It and was rated 8.5/10 by Oye Akideinde of 360nobs The album gathered awards such as Musician of the Year (Modemen Awards in 2008), Best Hip Hop Artist (City People Awards). His first mixtape was PYERIBOY. He later went on to bring out a sample mixtape titled: Illegal Music in 2009, in which he fully exploits his lyrical prowess.
On February 9, 2018, M. I released his seventh studio project titled Rendezvous, a playlist with a style generally different from the regular. The project came as a surprise to fans as it was released merely a day after the rapper announced the release date for Yxng Dxnzl.
Yxng Dxnzl (pronounced Yung Denzl) was itself released on August 24, 2018, about three months later than the initial release date. The album was tagged "A Study on Self Worth" and included the single You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives - which triggered a slew of responses
There has been a rivalry between Nigerian artists, M.I. Abaga and Kelly Hansome. This started when M.I. in his track Fast Money, Fast Cars stated, "Kelly Hansome is handsome, I'll tell him when I see him. But if I want a man, it'd be Keke or D1". Kelly Hansome did not take kindly to these words and from there they both have gone track for track with Kelly Hansome releasing Catch Me If You Can, where he goes in on the whole Chocolate City label. In response, the Choc City camp released Nobody Test Me with a line from M.I talking directly to Kelly Hansome, saying, " Only one Kelly that I know, Kelly Rowland. Why would I diss them, give them cheap promotion. I think that they're so dry, I should give them lotion". Later, Kelly Hansome released Chocolate Boys (Chocolate City members). M.I. released a track on his 2010 album, M.I.2 named Beef. With Kelly hearing this, brought out the track Finish You Boy.
In 2009 a US-based rapper by the name Iceberg Slim released a single titled Mr International where he said the lines: "Am I better than M.I? I don't know. Am I? Matter of fact you should ask M.I". That apparently didn't sit too well with M.I, prompting him to release a single known as "Somebody Wants To Die", featuring his label mate Ice Prince on the track. Less than 48 hours after the release of M.I's Somebody Wants To Die IceBerg Slim released Assassination and sources quote that his Facebook status at the time of the release read "Somebody Wants To Die, I'll be responsible for the Assassination … let the countdown begin … (I told em it would be a M.I.stake, but they didn't listen)".There was a contest in the mind of rap fans on who happened to be the best rapper in Nigeria M.I developed more fans than Iceberg Slim and had more hit records, while Iceberg Slim gained hearts on Nigerian rap fans in a very short and unusual period. In 2012, both rappers decided to sweep the feud under the rug. Iceberg stated, "I don't think I picked on MI. It was a healthy competition in Hip-Hop, which most people don't understand. In Hip-Hop community, we could be best friends or brothers and I can say I'm the best rapper in the world and no one takes offense or takes it personal. My shot at MI wasn't a sign of disrespect in any way. Though sarcastic, it was healthy. People just took it out of context and thought I was dissing him. Rap music is all about competition because it helps you grow and improve on yourself
International recognition, charitable works and causes
M.I was appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in 2012. M.I also supports the Jostified campaign.
M.I has achieved worldwide recognition as part of the vanguard of the "Afrobeats" wave.