With a YouTube view count exceeding the 10 million mark on some songs, a rising profile in the vast Afrobeats landscape in West Africa, a knack for booty-swaying club smashes, and insider knowledge of the Nigerian and Ghanaian music industries, Mr Eazi’s riding his wave with tactical abandon, knocking hard-writ checks and balances onto signposts at every stop on his way to the top.
Born Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade to a pilot father and banker mother, the Port Harcourt, Nigeria native’s earliest memories include morning sessions where his father would cook breakfast for him and his three siblings. His mother didn’t want anyone else tending to her children so she elected to stay at home, on stand-by for all their requirements.
Mr Eazi’s family relocated to the outskirts of Lagos when he was 4 years old. He recalls hearing music around the house during those breakfast sessions — reggae by Majek Fashek and Bob Marley; pop by Madonna and Backstreet Boys; and rap music by the likes of Ja Rule. He finished high school at 15, and was sent by his mother to Ghana for university in 2007.
It was while at university that Mr Eazi’s knack for entrepreneurship flourished. During a four-year stretch he would found, among other ventures, a transport business throught which he’d transport university students in luxury cabs, and a gold mining business that exposed him to the high- and low-brow of Ghanaian society.
“I learnt quickly not to trust people. I learnt about fake love. At the point when my party business was down, I saw that there were people that were around just because I was poppin’. They all disappeared,” he says, reflecting on the company he used to keep before focusing his attention onto music, and eventually releasing his prophetic About to Blow mixtape in 2013 which contained songs like “Pipi Dance” and “Bankulize”.
Life Is Eazi, Vol. 1 – Accra to Lagos, his current effort released early 2017, is an homage to Nigeria and Ghana, the two countries which have influenced the evolution his Banku sound, the name itself a nod to his favourite Ghanaian dish. Mr Eazi is inching steadily towards the tipping point. His influence shines through, from the slang other artists have opted to incorporate into their songs, to the how they are planning their tours.
“Almost every song [released now] sounds like a Mr. Eazi song. People who have not even been in Ghana are singing about Ghanaian terms, about Ghanaian girls, because everybody thinks that it’s popping. I’d like to say that I’ve changed the sound, I’ve changed the game. The way I move right now, even beyond sound, with my kind of marketing…everybody’s following it,” says Mr Eazi.
Take “Leg Over” for beginners. It’s a cautious attack on the senses, easing one in with its clever employ of guitar riffs reminiscent of Mobutu-era groove champions Franko and his TP OK Jazz collective. The drums stumble in front of you, forcing you to do the same on the dancefloor – to jumble in an irregular, regular pattern. Eddie Kadi & Maleek Berry feature on the song, while Wizkid can be seen lounging in the video.
“Leg Over” follows on from dancefloor-tailored scorcher “Dance for Me” with Eugy from Ghana. These two songs, along with the Efya-featuring “Skin tight” and a few more, have found audiences from Lagos to Accra to London. Mr Eazi aims to penetrate globally in renegade-like, rugged roadman fashion.
Besides tours, plans are underway for a remix project, and for another mixtape perhaps. Mr Eazi’s intent on increasing his offline footprint. “I want to try and get people onto the sound before [taking] them to the next level,” he concludes.
(Opening image by Ike Edeani)