Martell Cypher: The short man Jude Abaga best known as “M.I Abaga”, has been a lot of things in the past.
The man who created the template for classic hip-hop album and mixtapes, back in ’08. The man who put Wizkid on when nobody knew him; who gave us Ice Prince and Brymo, the man who delivered classics back to back. The CEO that made things happen at Chocolate City, and the man who woke rappers up in 2017. Now, he’s also the man giving Hennessy a run for their money.
Before anything else, this isn’t even about Hennessy, as you probably already figured. Hennessy just happens to be in the unedited, uncropped picture. For years, many at that, the Hennessy powered VS Class and Hennessy Cypher has been one of the most respected platforms for rap music and lyrical hip-hop, in Nigeria. The fact that it also keeps the battle rap (…ish) culture alive was a big factor, too.
Every year, new guys, as well as ‘Legends’, are brought in. Well, what goes down isn’t actually clear, but what the public sees, is the Cypher, groups teaming up bursting bars upon bars, doing some real hip-hop music. And every year, all these guys come, make their mark and go on to do other things.
Dremo was once on the Cypher, Blaqbonez, too. Vino, Payper, Holyfield and many of the guys that are rocking the underground rap scene in Naija. Also, there’s been editions where big guys like Falz and Yung6ix have come in. The “Femme Fatale” happened too, when all the boss ladies came in to spit bars. Vector is always doing something there, too. Amazing stuff.
Point is, wanna know how things happen in the rap music scene and also have a feel of some real-life bars, Hennessy is the go-to platform for that. Or, Hennessy used to be.
Then M.I came with Martell Cypher.
After his little ‘LAMB’ stunt, he wanted to take it even deeper. And he did just that. He once again assembled his guys, Blaq, Loose Kaynon and A-Q, for a session to teach Hennessy how to spend their budget! (He actually said a line like that on the track.)
His shots at Hennessy was real, but that’s not all it was about. Nah. M.I could keep telling you how he has done stuff and has aligned with the greats, how when you call 2Pac, Biggie, Jay Z, Nas, you gotta call his name next. You would never get bored because he actually got some truth to say. You might have heard the phrase “real-life bars”? Oh yeah, he got that.
And A-Q, their classic albums, on a row, and all the big stuff he’s done, he does like to tell critics to shove their criticism up their asses. Blaqbonez thinks he’s the best rapper in Africa, well, why not just prove it on a verse? And he does that, every time. Loose Kaynon is that Choc City prodigal son, probably just on the Cypher for sentimental reasons. His metaphors make sense sometimes, though.
Martell Cypher II, is like the second coming of Bad Meets Evil, they all got a lot to say. Blaq is fresh off his beef with guys who don’t think he’s good enough to be best in Africa. A-Q is keeping a low profile, but does he have bars? Hell yeah! M.I got ’em covered, digging up some really deep shit. He actually numbered the rappers in SA, Ghana, and Kenya.
Well, they probably still need 96 and half more crowns to be a hundred, and if that means expansion or inclusiveness, that’s good news for the fans. It also means other indigenous platforms can rise and start doing their own stuff, making headlines locally, keeping the rap game alive.
For now, though, it’s a war on Hennessy’s credibility. And what makes hip-hop interesting, if not the competition?