From Accra to Lagos, and from Lagos to London
Meet Mr. Eazi

Mr. Eazi’s unabashedly joyous music will soon make physical barriers, such as borders, a thing of the past.

Oluwatosin Ajibade was born in Port Harcourt, a city in the south region of Nigeria. He spent his childhood in Lagos, until the pursuit of an academic degree in Mechanical Engineering would add a third migration, this time to the neighbouring country of Ghana.

Inspired by the genius of businessman such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, Eazi’s entrepreneurial endeavours would lead to starting his own company – Swagger Entertainment – while still at college.

Being a promoter granted Eazi access to the continent’s underground scene, yet the lifestyle associated with running a successful business made him switch gears on the final year of his master’s degree. “It was eating me up. When I found music I felt like it was something that I could do without any condemnation. I could just go to the studio and sing about love, or someone that I loved that I couldn’t get.” – Eazi comments on his initial studio sessions

Ditching Friday nights at the club for overnight studio sessions turned out to be fruitful. These studio sessions would materialize, at a later stage, as his trademark fusion sound, Banku Music. Banku merges West African traditional music, such as Ghanian Azonto and Highlife, with contemporary global music such as dancehall and R&B and hip-hop.

Following the release of his debut project ‘About to Blow’ (2013), his increased demand saw him moving from club parties to concerts and fashion shows. Having built a strong following across Africa and the UK, it would only be a matter of time until Eazi’s melodies circulated across the continents vast diasporan following on both sides of the Atlantic. Eazi debuted in the US in 2016, opening for none other than Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Building on the momentum gained, Eazi’s sophomore mixtape, ‘Life is Eazi, Vol 1 – ‘Accra to Lagos’, is a sonic tribute to the two cities that have played a crucial role in developing his identity. Emerging from the depths of the cyberspace, his unique musical twist has broadened and elevated our sonic palate. The project’s breakout hit, ‘Leg Over’ was ubiquitous across the airwaves of the three continents, soon filtering into our collective consciousness.

As we reminisce on the project, Eazi finally has the opportunity to share the story behind ‘Tilapia’, a Del-B assisted single where he pays homage to Ghanaian highlife music, alongside singer Fela Makafu. During our together, Eazi translates a sequence of cunning parallelisms between the nations staple fish and not-so-PG sexual innuendo, hidden in the tracks shape-shifting idioms.

It must be mentioned here that music deemed too sexual is still barred from the continent’s radio stations, but hiding the plot in elegant analogies allowed the single to go as far afield as London’s NTS Radio, Apple Music’s Beats1, and BBCR1.

“Tilapia it is one that I really put a lot of thought into it. The melodies in there are one of the purest that I have ever done.” – Mr. Eazi’s comments on Tilapia – “When we did the video, I initially wanted it to be super erotic. Expose the plot and the content of the lyrics, but then the filmmaker we were bouncing off ideas, and we decided to create a different story.” – Eazi shares on the thought process behind the single’s visual treatment

Tilapia’s emotive music video is a refined modern African love story, shot in the fisherman village of Ebri in Ghana. Since its release, the music video has racked up over a million streams on YouTube, activating curiosity towards the country at a global level. “There’s no electricity, wires, lamps. We shot the village exactly as it is.” – he pauses – “It is very important for me to show this as it is. Show there’s a beauty to it, even though that might look to the Western world as suffering.”

From sun-soaked Accra to the hustle and bustle of Lagos, ‘Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2 – ‘Lagos to London’,  Eazi’s third project celebrated and cemented his cross-continental jump.

The increased level of experimentation, versatility, and adaptability of the Nigerian native are noted at first listen. His uniquely disarming melodic delivery seen in previous hits such ‘Skintight,‘ is contrasted in this project with sing-rapping on ‘Chicken Curry’, slowing it down to a hypnotic monotone on his Diplo assisted-single ‘Open & Close’.  Chronixx, Burna Boy, Sneakbo, Giggs and Lotto Boys were also enlisted to share a verse to the project.

Much to the rejoice of his devoted London-fanbase, Eazi invited his friends and fans to celebrate the album’s release at London’s Roundhouse. The 2017’s ‘Life is Eazi Culture Festival’ had vibrant première in British Capital, joining thousands in a celebration of African music, culture, and fashion.

Ceaselessly touring since, opportunity arose to perform at this year’s Coachella’s edition. Eazi’s trademark coin-phrase ‘zagadat’ echoed through the crowds that braved the desert heat, waiting for him to appear on stage. Backed by a life-sized replica of the yellow bus that fronts the cover of ‘Lagos to London’, Eazi’s lively band and dancers elevated the crowd’s spirit into an ecstatic groove, inviting us to celebrate the truest plurality of African cultures and its diasporas around the world.

“Dancers are an accessory for a lot of people, but for me, my dancers are integral to my music.” – he proceeds – “From the African dancers on Instagram to Africans in the diaspora – Dance is the vehicle that Afrobeats and Afropop have been running on, and the chief promoter for African Music. That’s why I always bring my dancers. I owe it to them.”

 

There’s been a crescendo of press coverage on the African culture and music in recent years. However, the information available online fails to paint a comprehensive picture of how the scene has been thriving and the multitude of layers of connectivity within the continent.

Following the mental footsteps of giants such as Facebook or Uber, Eazi has set up a new business venture that will provide the necessary infrastructure for emerging artists to lead the next wave of African musical talent. “The homegrown energy is stronger than what we are seeing.” – he proceeds – ” The growth of Kwesi showed me that you can find a kid that is talented, and with right mentorship and funding, you can kick-start a career -you don’t really need to own the artists.” – Eazi shares how his professional evolution and collaboration Kwesi Arthur inspired his new venture.

Launched December last year, the Empawa 100 campaign provided emerging artists with the unique opportunity to submit one of their songs directly to Eazi and his team. The final selected 100 artists recorded the submitted song, received full funding for the song’s music video, as well as masterclasses in the music business, media, and marketing, network and investment to kickstart their careers.

The campaign was mostly announced via social media, receiving over 22K submissions from 13 different African countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Rwanda, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Mali, Togo, South Sudan, DR Congo.

“It was the biggest campaign that I have ever done.” – Eazi shares enthusiastically – “Most of these artists didn’t even have a place to record the music. It took me back to how I started. I had to buy studio materials and set up studios in 4 different countries so that people can go and record that song they were submitting.”

Consequent to the campaign’s success, Mr. Eazi announced that he’s launching Empowa’s publishing and distribution arm, in July. “We saw people going from posting their entry and then now I see them performing on stage. It is beautiful to see that we funded all of 100 videos. We’re planting the seed. We’re launching publishing and distribution and all guided by fair deals.”

Honesty and due diligence are crucial to all Mr. Eazi’s ventures, and his success has given him a fortified sense to be an ambassador of his culture Having just concluded his North American tour, Eazi is also actively recording new material. The following stop on his journey is yet to be announced, but Mr. Eazi is slowly, but surely, asserting his place as one of the most influential artists of his time.

Mr. Eazi wears Dsquared2, Coach, Zegna, Alyx, Beautiful Ful, and Third Crown.

Words by Catarina Ramalho / Photography by Noa Grayevsky / Styling by Marissa Pelly

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