Aribaba: So we decided we’d take a bit of time to listen to the most anticipated mixtape of the past year, Illegal Music 2. As much as I thought MI kept posting us like DHL on this, I still waited for mixtape, and went to download when it dropped. I couldn’t help it. I just had to.
I won’t get into the website crash after 5 mins or the fact that there wasn’t a link to download the full tape until hours later. We’ll forget all that now. Was the tape worth all the wahala it caused us fans? Overall, yes it is. MI really took it back to original hip-hop on this, and didn’t try to dilute it a little bit as tempting as it may have been.
Without too much gist let’s get into it.
9jaSoulja: Agreed. I must confess that I was not part of the stampede that crashed the site. Waited for a few hours before I got my copy. Got tired of refreshing websites every time MI tweeted, lol. But yes, in summary, the mixtape met up to expectations. Recently I tried to find out the difference between a mixtape and an album (besides the fact that one is free). I think mixtapes are like experiments, avenues for artists to try new concepts, ideas, and generally ‘play’ in the studio to see what can come out. And albums are basically money makers. So that’s what i kept in mind when listening to IM2.
TRACK BY TRACK BREAKDOWN:
Coming Home ft. Tonii (Sampled from “Two lovely pillows” by Laura Lee)
Aribaba: A nice intro to the tape. It doesn’t make you jump and scream, but it’s still solid. MI gives us the arrogant self we love to hate. I would’ve preferred Yemi Alade on the hook as originally stated but Tonni still holds her own. 7/10
9jaSoulja: As far as Intro’s go this was a good one. The track had that kind eager anticipation beat to it, and even though I don’t know this chick, Tonni, I think she handled the hook pretty well. MI starting his verse with “Did you miss me?”.. that was nice!. and we all know Mr. Incredible doesn’t lack punchlines. When he said “Did illegal music 2 take long?” though, I literally said “YES!”. 7/10
6ft, 7ft ft. Phenom (sampled from 6ft, 7ft by Lil Wayne)
Aribaba: This just might be as hot as the original by Lil Wayne. It was released earlier in the year but still sounds fresh as ever. MI straight went bananas on this with a lot of solid punch lines, and Phenom did try to hold his own, but with MI going in it’s almost lost cause . “Niggaz puffing think they BIG and I hit em up” 8/10
9jaSoulja: The first thing that jumped at me on this track was the violin part added to the beat. That was sick! The track was remixed very well. MI complemented the beat by going hard on it. Phenom killed it too, although that initial bit about “I know you broke, but please pay attention” made me frown a bit. Still he covered that up with the rest of the verse. 8.5/10
Lost ft. Loose Kaynon (Sampled from Lost by Cold Play)
Aribaba: Forget that this is almost a year old, it’s still hard as ever. With a great sample from Cold play MI & Loose set the tone for IM2 when this song was released. 8/10
9jaSoulja: As usual the production on this track was on point. I was a fan if this track since it came out, and that hasn’t changed. Truthfully I paid little attention to Loose before this track, but he showed himself on this. 7.5/10
Love Sex BS ft. Kahli Abdu (Sampled from “No Bullsh*t” by Chris brown)
Aribaba: After a hard start to the tape, it’s great to slow it down a notch. MI shows his us his better side with the “toasting flow”, and Kahli’s calm bars made me feel like I was in a room with candles and incense . Kinda gets a bit drawn out after a few listens thoough, but still a nice one depending on the mood. 7.5/10
9jaSoulja: Even though it was leaked, this track still held it’s ground on the tape. If you listen to just the beat, it’ll be hard to put rap to it, but MI pulls it off and don’t let me get started on Kahli. I mean his intro alone on the track was smooth and I kid you not, take kahli’s verse and tell it to a girl, thank me later. I do agree with you though, the track depends on the listeners mood. You shouldn’t be in a 6ft 7ft mood and then play this. Still, as a track by itself, it’s a good one. 8/10
Do I Move You (Sampled from “Do I move you” by Nina Simone)
Aribaba: This is favorite track on the album. The whole composition as a whole is great music and this is where I give my hats off to MI for having great taste in music, and great production skills. Nina Simone would be proud. 9/10
9jaSoulja: The first 45 seconds of this track kept me holding my breath so to speak. I was trying to imagine, again, how this guy would mold the track. And he brought out a work of art baba. Considering the sampling and rap style, I agree this is arguably the best track out of the tape. If I were to picture a video for this, it’d be straight out of the bar scene from Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”… “You Hanna Montana? You F***ing with Tony!” that was a sick line! 8.5/10
N.Otis ft. Pryse (Sampled from Otis by JayZ and Kanye west)
Aribaba: The original version of this song was short and sweet. The extended version is great but I don’t feel like I saw the best from Pryse in the latter part of the song. Still a strong showing regardless and the sampling is nice. Pryse still held it down for the femcees on this. 7.5/10
9jaSoulja: I have to agree with you about Pryse on this track. Not her best work, I prefer her on “Femcee toh bahd“. And I must say I was surprised when I heard about her signing, but that’s what I said about Brymo so I’ve learned to hear before I speak. All in all the track was just ok for me, I think it’s because the original set the bar in space. I mean, it’s Jay and Kanye. 7/10
Star ft. 5mic & Efa (Sampled from “Stay scheming” by Drake)
Aribaba: I love Efa and 5Mics on a good day. The sampling of Drake’s Star Scheming was cool, but all together I wasn’t completely wowed by this track. It almost feels too forced to be hardcore hip-hop, and all 3 MCs on this didn’t move me much. 5/10
9jaSoulja: Again I agree with you on this. All I can add is, this is the track that I almost always skip. 5Mics did pretty good on this, but that alone couldn’t lift up the track. Didn’t feel MI’s voice on this also. Sounded Lil Wayne-ish. 6/10
Superhuman ft. HHP (Sampled from Novacane by Frank Ocean)
Aribaba: The sample from Malcolm X’s “By Any Mean Necessary” speech at the beginning tells you everything you need to know when you hear this initially. It won’t capture you initially but listen well and the lyrics will leave you more than impressed. Both from HHP and MI. MI reminds us of his 2007-08 form. 8/10
9jaSoulja: HHP is another rapper I didn’t pay attention to before this, after I heard his verse I’m all ears. Secretly I prayed for a Frank Ocean sample on IM2 and when I heard the beat on this recognized immediately. Doesn’t bring that wow-factor when you hear it, but I love it. The Malxom X bit speaks volumes too. 7.5/10
The X.O Bit
Aribaba: MI said he won’t go in, but he did. X.O “rapped in the afterlife” and brought the beat back to life. Strong showing from both MCs and this track the hip-hop heads will definitely love. Studio Magic hooked the beat that reminds us of 90s hip-hop. Almost Wu-tang like. Overall track is blazing. 8.5/10.
9jaSoulja: By now if you don’t recognize X.O please go back under your rock. As good as MI’s verse was, sometimes I want to forward to X.O’s part. That guy is lyrically insane. If you ever see this guy perform live, you might want to have Oxford mini-dictionary in your back pocket. My only set back on this track is the beat, I know it’s supposed to be all Hip Hop and what-not, but I just didn’t like it. Truthfully it kinda annoyed me a bit, but that’s just me. The verses compensated for the beat though. “My flow is so Calabar, what is a common dog?” #XONation 8/10
F**K You ft. Ice Prince (Sampled from “F**k you Symphony” by Millie Jackson)
Aribaba: One of the late additions to IM2, this short black boy just went on a middle finger flicking spree. I like the “eminem square-dance” flow and the balance from Ice Prince. There are punch lines but you don’t need to research much to get the message. F**k Me. Oh yeah, Kid Konnect did something special with this beat. 8/10
9jaSoulja: I’ll say this is the track that impressed me the most. The fact that MI did it all with that comical voice was pretty impressive. I mean, try saying a few sentences like that and see. The sample is tight, Ice prince hit hard on this one, arguably one of his best works, no?. Regardless, the song is a good one. 8.5/10
My Eyes ft. Makiller (Sampled from “Kick of successful” by Drake & Trey Songz)
Aribaba: This is where MI would normally excel but for some reason I didn’t feel it come together 100%. It almost feels a bit like a generic “slow love rap song“. I also think the voicing made it bit difficult to capture everything being said. Makiller’s verse saved the song in my opinion. 6/10
9jaSoulja: I agree with you about the tuning of MI’s voice, didn’t help the track. I think he should have replaced this track with “7 days”, that’s a better song. Makiller definitely did a better job, and it feels like the track would have been better an outro. And it come long again. 6.5/10
Export ft. Yung6ix (Sampled from “Devil in a new dress” by Kanye West)
Aribaba: Sampling was great. MI delivers punchline after punchline. Yung6ix “The King of the South” held his own, but in comparison was a tad bit weak with the punchlines and flow. Not the best we’ve heard from 6ix. That Soyinka line didn’t work. 6.5/10
9jaSoulja: Sampling was definitely great. But, the song was weak. When I was listening to the tape I started to feel like it should have ended somewhere here, because it started to sound like the same thing on a different beat. 6.5/10
Beg For It ft. Maytronomy & Funbi
Aribaba: The hook is pretty catchy. Maytronomy is impressive on this track, and MI’s flow is standard operating procedure. The “you gotta pay for that pipe, reverse plumbing” line hit the spot. The song kind of gets a bit boring after a few mins and it’s not one to see the repeat button often. 6.5/10
9jaSoulja: This track to me was all about Maytronomy, he really held it down on this one. I mean, MI brought the goods too o, not like he fell hand or anything, I just noticed Maytronomy more on this track. I think in general I like the track. The sampling is mellow, and indeed catchy 7.5/10
Ridiculous ft. Hench & Boogey (Sampled from “Call me” by Ceelo)
Aribaba: Without the talking intro, the song is arguably hits the hardest on the tape. MI straight up kills it with the resampling of the Ceelo’s Call Me. On the lyrics, Hench brought some heat, and so did MI, but Boogey stole the show on this. Hands Down. Good thing he went last. “I love hip-hop to death, I am Romeo in a body bag.” Gotta respect Boogey. 8.5/10
9jaSoulja: Yea that intro didn’t work out for me too. But the track definitely brought back the life on the mixtape. Quality sampling and sick flows from all parties involved, even though it’s a hard choice between MI and Boogey’s verse. They should do another track together. 8.5/10
Pain ft. Shaydee & Pope
Aribaba: This track is a great ‘filler’ song. MI take shots at critics and others, Pope pours his heart out with regards to the struggles in the music game. All in all it’s a nice song, but not one I’d be looking for in the album. 7/10
9jaSoulja: This song kinda reminded me of IM1. Probably something about the sampling, can’t place a finger to it yet. But it was a pretty good track I’d say, MI’s verse was on point. Pope’s was even better. I like the end part where MI flows with the switched up beat. Pretty good stuff. 7/10
Loving Me (Sampled from “It’s good to be in love” by Frou Frou)
Aribaba: This is again where MI excels and this time he definitely did. From the production to the lyrics, everything comes together almost perfectly. Actually perfectly. This is where you stop and acknowledge MI as a musician that just so happens to rap. It comes off as a typical love song, but listen carefully and it’s more about self-love than your everyday love song. 9/10
9jaSoulja: The sample stole my heart man. Then when MI got in, I knew the mixtape is not over until the fat lady sings! You put it so well that I’ll just say MI was definitely in his zone on this one. 8.5/10
Heart of the City ft. SDC & Ruby (Sampled from “Heart of the city” by Jay-Z)
Aribaba: MI, SDC, Ruby together on a song and if it doesn’t hit the spot then something is wrong. Nice sampling of Jay-Z’s Heart Of The City, strong vocals from the ever impressive Ruby, and SDC and MI have a strong showing. Only down side, the song is a bit too long and after a few listens it can lose one’s attention due to the length. But I can’t seem to figure out what I’d cut out. 8/10
9jaSoulja: I love love this track. The sample is nice, the verses are correct, no gra gra, the hook… Ruby showed off the vocals. I didn’t even notice the track was that long till you mentioned it. Normally I would get bored after 5 minutes on a normal track, but I don’t mind these 8 minutes. 8.5/10
Wild Flower ft. Ruby (Sampled from “Wild flower” by Ceelo)
Aribaba: Nice beat from Kahli (Yes he produces). A nice way to end one of the best pieces of work we’ve seen in the past year. Not bad, but not exactly wowing. 7/10
9jaSoulja: Kahli indeed produces. Very good in fact. The sampling was very well done. I just wasn’t a big fan of the hook. Sounded a little bland to me. But the verses came out good. 7/10
Aribaba: All together IM2 is a solid tape and one that will keep MI’s original fans happy. It’s hard to compare this with IM1 as they came at different times in history with respect to hip-hop appreciation in Nigeria, but my gut feeling is that IM2 is just as good as IM1 and if not it’s not too far off. But it’s not better.
MI did a nice job providing a platform for upcoming acts to showcase their muscle. Some took advantage, and some not so much. On the flipside you could also argue that MI might have looked even better against MCs that are upcoming and still developing. Either way you look at it, the body of work is still one of the best we’ve seen over the past year. Coupled with the sample selections, production and total composition MI proved to me and many that he’s more than a great MC, he’s a great musician.
9jaSoulja: IM1 is quite the work of art and I think I’d still pick it over IM2. But Illegal Music 2 lived up to what I had in mind. It’s a hip-hop mixtape and judging it by any other standards (i.e MI2) will be like judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree. I absolutely love the way the songs were sampled, most even more than the originals.
The idea of featuring upcoming talents is a very good one and I tip my hat off to Mr. Incredible for that. But with the number of tracks on it (18 to be precise) I expected to see at least 2 or 3 other heavy weights in the industry (Sauce kid, mode9, vector, NaetoC(?), IceBerg Slim, rapman etc etc).
Speaking about the number of tracks, I have to applaud MI for releasing an 18 track mixtape. Think about that, dropping 18 tracks at once (for free again). Not easy to come up with that amount of material. That’s like an added .5 right there.
OVERALL GRADE: 8/10