The chilly promotional pictures precluding the release of M.I and 2Baba’s single earlier this week rippled across the internet with a renewed attention to what the two artists will be bringing to the table. Between cryptic captions from several artists who joined in the promotion and the Game of Thrones themed concept art used for the campaign, fan excitement peaked enough for speculations about the possibility of a joint album to make rounds on the internet.
For 2Baba who hit the 40th birth year mark last year with a fanfare and celebration only worthy of a living legend, the curtains are slowly coming to a close amidst the need to pull off a final magic trick, M.I who accompanies him on this track likewise needs the same miracle. The Chocolate City boss released his final Illegal Music mixtape earlier this year, as a collection of songs that played like subtly tendered apologies for the mercenary route he has taken his career in contrast to the hip-hop culture he came on-board to propagate. Essentially, both artists are desperately in need to re-connect with fanbases that have dwindled over the last decade for varying reasons.
However, between a delivery fraught with bland songwriting and a broody theme, that aims to be motivational and picturesque but only manages claustrophobic despair, there are too many things fundamentally wrong with M.I and 2Baba’s Babylon that may discourage us from going any further with them wherever this journey leads.
2Baba manages to colour between the lines of all his infamous references to enemies and long-journey-ahead narratives, jollofed with overly familiar anecdotes like ‘Zion’ ‘Devil’, ‘Jah’ often affiliated his more reflective Reggae-infused numbers. There is nothing here — no matter how poetically weaved — we have not heard before from 2Baba.
Though M.I shares a bulk of 2Baba’s Babylon register, the rapper get’s off a good start by channeling his angst towards telling Jah that even a Buhari government ushered in with hope and fanfare has failed to solve Nigeria’s many problems. We voted for change/ but even change cannot solve them he raps, rehashing all of Nigeria’s problems in a manner we have heard from every so-called pro-Nigeria artist ever.
But for M, the end here is not to empathize with the Nigerian masses, but to to refocus the narrative on himself in a very Kanye-esque manner. As a man taking his problems to Zion with the heart of a lion, M.I knows God is defending him, which automatically means a free pass on crashing dollar rates, long fuel queues and epileptic power supply while the rest of the country languishes in hunger. His message is neither powerful enough to cover grander ideas nor lyrically ingenious enough to be worthy of a pass mark.
Babylon plays like the spark of an idea both M.I and 2Baba had in the spur of a moment and decided to go with without connecting all the dots. Their interpolated bridge is evidence both M.I and 2Baba still have the creative synergy they have shared on previous numbers like Be There, Nobody and Human Being. But when issues heavy with the moral and socio-political relevance are served up by two of Africa’s best, they have to present more than a vague skeleton of what the actual reality is.