Referred to as African Rapper No. 1, M.I. meaning Mr. Incredible, rose to prominence in 2006, when his song “Crowd Mentality” became popular in his home town, Jos. He released his widely acclaimed debut album, “Talk About It” in December 2008 and has won several awards including MTV Africa Music Awards in 2009 and City People Artiste of the Year 2012. He was nominated for BET 2010 Awards for the Best International Act Category. M.I. is UN Ambassador on Drugs and Crime.
Why did you decide to take up the offer and be part of the judges for X-Factor West Africa?
First of all, X-Factor is the best talent-hunt show in West Africa and I am glad to be part of it. Secondly, you don’t say ‘No’ to Glo. (laughs) When Glo asks you to do something, you can’t say ‘No’. It is not that I can’t say ‘No’ or that I am afraid to say ‘No’, but because they always make an offer that you are happy about. You are happy to be part of the family. which is what X-Factor is all about. It is a great platform for me to be on. Lastly, I am glad to be here helping a new generation of talents, which is what X-Factor is all about.
What exactly are you looking for in a contestant?
That X-Factor; nobody knows it. That is why it is called X. You remember in Mathematics, they tell you to find ‘X’. You don’t know what X is until you find X. So, we are solving ‘Mathematics’ here; we are looking for X. When we find it, we will know what it is. For some people, it is their stage presence, their voice, carriage, the way they carry themselves, the way they present themselves. Whatever it is, we are look for the X-Factor. The competition is generally into music, singing and rapping. So far in the auditioning, we have a large number who have made it through. They have done a good job.
What are the measures that have been put in place to ensure that the process will not be rigged?
At the end of the day, the fans choose. If they choose a contestant because the person can smile or because the person can sing, so be it. Our powers as judges cease somewhere. After that, it is up to the fans. Until then, we will do our best to make sure we select only the best contestants to stand so that when it gets to that stage everybody has a fair chance to stand. The truth about it is that when you get to the finals and you have a big family and you come from a state where they love TV and they love music, you will have a good chance.
What have you been up to lately?
I have a new song called “Chairman”. We have been working on it for some time now; it will be released in June, after the X-Factor (contest). And, I still have many more things to come.
What were your early musical influences?
I grew up in the church. My dad is pastor. My mum can sing and that background helped me to love music. While I was growing up, I listened to lots of gospel songs from Panam Percy Paul, amongst others. All these people inspired me to be what I could be. Funny enough, you were there – at one of my first shows. That was my first performance in Lagos. It was quite a big step for me.
So from a gospel music background, you moved to secular music?
To me, it is all the same. How you live your life is different from what you do at your leisure. So, I am a musician. Sometimes, I will sing about God. At other times, I will sing about even my girl friend. If you listen to my music, you will notice that there is a wall. I don’t sing about everything. I sing about things that affect my life so, even if I sing a love song, it is from a positive point of view. I am a musician and a musician is different from a worship leader. A worship leader can go on to make commercial music; that is what we call gospel music.
Do you write your songs?
Yes, I write my songs but I get a lot of help. For instance, Ice Prince wrote “Africa Rapper Number One”. He came up with that chorus. Then, Flavour came and added his part. I always like to work with people. It helps to bring the best in you.
How has it been over the years?
I will say God is good but at the same time, when I say God is good, I know I have to work hard. It is a lot of dedication and hard work. Each time I reflect back, I realize that when that pistol went off, there were many people that I left behind. It is not because I am too good. It is just luck; God’s favour and so I am very grateful for all my blessings.
What message do you have for young people out there?
In this country today, the same way that people are working hard and moving forward, it is the same way that people are working hard and moving backward, doing a lot of bad things. My word to every young person is to please work hard and focus on the positive in the end. It will pay off. I have not reached the end of my life but I can tell you that it pays to work hard. It might not come as quickly as you want it to be. So, you have to be patient, work hard and definitely it will come.