Jude Abaga was born on 4 October 1981. He’s better known as M.I Abaga, a Nigerian hip hop recording artist, and record producer. He 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. He has two brothers, Jesse Jagz who is also in the Nigerian and African music scene, and Jason Abaga. During his adolescence, he would listen to tracks from Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, Sarah Maclachlan, Pablo Neruda, Jay-Z, and DMX.
Age: 38 years old
His 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, which was actually the only “hip hop show” that Calvin College ever had. M.I. also made some amateur attempts at comedy but decided to stick to music because he was embarrassed when nobody laughed but him.
Years Active: 2004 – Present
He 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. The mixtape was followed by Illegal Music II which was released in 2012. Back in Jos, Nigeria, he teamed up with his brother, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, Ruby, Threadstone, Lindsay, Moses (Elbulk), E kelly to form Loopy Music.
Illegal Music 3 – The Finale was released on February 29, 2016. The ten-track mixtape was made available online for free, gathering over 400,000 downloads in just three days. On February 9, 2018, he 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.
He was later signed to the Chocolate City company, a renowned music label in Nigeria, which made him move from Jos city to the nation’s capital Abuja and also influenced the beginning of his successful career in the Nigerian music industry. He has also received international recognition in South Africa from the popular Channel O music Award, MTVbase Awards and also the American BET Awards. A proficient producer, lyricist, songwriter and instrumentalist, M.I has been described by DIV as the future of African hip-hop. He has produced and featured on the works of artists like Don Jazzy, Threadstone (Nigeria’s first rock band Kel, Djinee, Shifi (Styl Plus), Jesse Jags, Ice Prince, Ruby, Lindsey, Leony, Wizkid, etc. He also runs a production company, Rytchus Era Productions with his brother Jesse Abaga (Jesse Jagz).
In 2013 he was appointed by Nigerian telecommunication company Glo Mobile as a brand ambassador alongside other Nigerian artistes like Omawunmi, Burna Boy, etc. He was also a judge in Glo X-Factor, the Nigerian version of the reality singing show in 2013.
Contributions: Nigeria Music Industry
He’s role in the music industry cannot be overstated. He has been responsible for bringing out many upcoming artistes such as Wizkid, Vypa, Jesse Jagz, Ruby, Pype, Tone Ice Prince, Brymo and the latest is KhaliGraph Jones. He has been described by many Nigerian hip hop fans as Nigeria’s “Hip Hop Messiah”. He has done a lot to bring a Northern presence to the Nigerian music industry, he depicts the perfect example of bringing Nigeria together.
Awards and Nominations
- In 2008, he won the Best Rap Single at the Hip Hop World Awards. He also won the Musician of the Year at the Modemen Awards
- In 2009, he won Best Rap Album of the Year and Hip Hop Revelation of the Year at the Hip Hop World Awards. He also won the Best New Act of the Year at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards.
- In 2010, he won the Musician of the Year at the Future Awards. He also won the Musician of the Year at the City People Entertainment Awards.
- He has received several awards and honors. In 2018, he won the Best Rap Single of the Year and Lyricist on the Roll at The Headies Award for his greatest rap single “You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives”.
- In 2015, he won Best Rap Album of the Year at the Headies Awards for his album “The Chairman”.
He’s currently one of the richest and most influential artists and hip hop rapper in Nigeria with an estimated net worth of $3.7 million.