Lost Files is a column dedicated to celebrating older projects that might have flown under the radar when they were released. This week, Boluwatife Adeyemi takes a look at Milli's musical response to his infamous Chocolate City debacle, Don't Ask Me What Happened.
Chocolate City is one of the biggest hip-hop labels in the country and the continent at large. They have been responsible for producing some of the finest hip-hop acts the country has ever seen, most notably M.I Abaga, Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz. These three sat atop the rap game in Nigeria for a good number of years, steady delivering evergreen songs that largely soundtracked the late noughties to mid-10’s. After these famous trio’s dominance, they passed the torch down to a new set of younger artists signed to Choc City between 2014 to 2015 — Koker, Dice Ailes, Ruby Gyang, Kahli Abdu and possibly the most talented of the lot, Milli.
Milli had initially been signed to M.I’s Loopy Tunes, writing and co-producing songs for M.I's third studio album ー The Chairman. He later joined Chocolate City when both labels merged in 2015, quickly showcasing himself on The Indestructible Choc Boi Nation compilation project. He made a strong case for himself, bringing his delectable flow, witty lines and colourful melodies to tracks like ‘Heart Felt’ and ‘Drank’. After his standout performances on the compilation project, everyone was expectant of his next move. He had it all, the swagger, the charisma and most importantly, the talent. However, months passed, and nothing ever came. Rumours flew around that there was tension between him and Choc City behind the scenes but nothing was ever confirmed.
In 2016, Milli announced that he had left the label, sharing a five-part letter on a private Facebook group, clearly detailing his relationship with M.I, his time with Choc City and his reason for leaving. M.I, who was the label head at the time, also shared his side of the story, branding Milli as “difficult” and “problematic”. It all devolved into an ugly debacle, as jabs were thrown from both camps. Enter, Don’t Ask Me What Happened, Milli’s musical response to it all. He cleverly uses the 7-track EP to both tell his side of the story and display his undeniable talent and musicality for all to see.
On ‘Unlooking Uncensored (2016 Edit)’, the lead single from the EP, he wastes no time addressing the whole label snafu. In his letter addressing all the drama surrounding his exit from Choc City, he revealed that he had to rewrite ‘Unlooking’ because M.I thought it wasn’t ‘street’ enough. On the opening lines of the song, he doesn’t mince words, cutting right to the chase: “Teach me how to get this fucking wealth, but don’t teach me how to be somebody else / Don’t tell me how to write a fucking verse man, if I had a problem you’ll probably be the first.” His verse is just as menacing as the beat. Reinhard’s bubbling synths meshes well with his aggressive drums, which serve as a solid bedrock for Milli’s melodic raps and coos. He goes on to sing: “You say you’ve got love boy, you ain’t even help / But my art’s going to definitely speak for itself” like someone who has a point to prove.
“I don’t bite no fingers / I know to use a spoon,” he raps on ‘We Up’, the project opener, wittily flipping the script. While Milli addresses the elephant in the room with his clever one-liners and melodic croons, his approach is primarily sanctimonious. Luckily, that’s not all he does on the project. On ‘Jealous’, a trap-infused banger, he flexes his lyrical dexterity and his ability to conjure catchy hooks over a dark, ominous beat. South-African rapper, PatrickxxLee also delivers a stellar performance with his grungy voice and vicious flow on the tail-end of the song. On ‘Animals After Dark’, they both combine to good effect once again, employing catchy melodic trap flows.
On the colourful ‘The Hood’, Milli croons effortlessly, switching in and out of sweet, dulcet melodies. His bluesy coos both double as an ode to his hood and a reminder that his destiny is in his hands. The pensive ‘Made For This’ follows a similar sonic direction. However, here he’s more introspective. He sings: “Why the hell did a nigga turn the table / Why the hell did you leave the record label / Fighting with these people that’s a loss / If I burn these bridges how the hell I come across,” echoing the various rhetorics chucked around following his exit from Choc City. Throughout the tape, Milli exudes immense self-belief and chest-puffing confidence, yet, there are still bouts of vulnerability cloaked in all that assertion that still manage to come up for air. On this track, he lets his guard down for once, singing: “I don’t know if I’ll ever make it / but whatever happens, I’ll be grateful,” over gentle keys and generally moody production.
After the release of Don’t Ask Me What Happened, Milli quickly followed up with another excellent project – Childish EP – and then disappeared. Months turned to years, and nothing surfaced from him. However, sometime last year, his name was in circulation again following a nasty beef between M.I and Vector. He then granted an explicit interview with music journalist Joey Akan filling in a lot of the gaps. The interview revealed how much he has grown, not necessarily as an artist but as a person in general. He admits how he made mistakes, and the whole situation with Choc City wasn’t just down to their derelict or shortcomings. He also revealed that he (thankfully) hasn’t thrown in the towel, saying: “I'm going to come back. I said, ‘fuck all the retirement bullshit; I don’t want to retire for nothing.’ They reminded me why I got into this in the first place, so there's a bunch of shit on the way, literally. I'm going to move on with my life, forget Chocolate City, and I'd become that successful person that everybody always believed I should be.”
Shortly after the interview he began releasing music again, this time under a new moniker – SaveMilli. While he might not have the attention he once had, his talent is still very much on display as he conjures beautiful melodies on songs like ‘Bad Boy Dope’ and ‘Single Again’. He also recently announced the imminent arrival of his new project, Dark Horse, a project he hopes will remind everyone why they once paid close attention to him.