With Afrobeats taking over on a global scale, the world at large is being introduced to many of the genre’s key players. Case in point Mr Eazi.
The Nigerian sensation, whose rise to prominence includes spells in Lagos, Accra, and London, has been making major moves on the scene and now looks poised for even greater success.
His flavorsome sound caught the attention of renown producer Diplo – who has paired up with the star both creatively and entrepreneurially as part of his exciting artist development venture emPawa.
Currently prepping a UK tour, Eazi chatted it up with That Grape Juice about the trek, new music, playing Coachella, his bold goals for Afrobeats, and much more.
Join us below for more…
That Grape Juice: You’ve been making all the right waves since ‘About To Blow’ and have seen your career grow on a global scale. But for those who are new to Mr Eazi, tell us a little about your journey.
Mr. Eazi: I started as a club promoter in my university and that got me hanging around so many artists. And then by the time of my Masters degree, emerging acts who either wanted to be on my shows or at my parties surrounded me. I learned a lot about recording with them and my friends too.
I then later went back to Nigeria to start a business; which is where I also learned to gauge that market when it comes to experimenting and marketing my music.
I started getting invited to perform both locally and internationally. Right after that they booked to do five shows in the UK and then headline a major venue and it just moved from there. I had to quit my other business and just face the music full time. It’s been lovely.
That Grape Juice: The live circuit has been where many have seen your magic in action. How would you describe your approach to performing?
Mr. Eazi: I just try to have fun to be honest, I just try to find out who I’m performing to and then try and curate [my set] to suit the kind of audience. And I just try and make sure I have fun regardless.
That Grape Juice: You recently performed at Coachella. What was that like? How does the crowd there compare to playing in – say – London, Lagos, Accra?
Mr. Eazi: The bulk of that crowd was just discovering me; so it was a blessing. But it’s tougher though because it’s different from when you’re performing to crowds that know all your songs. It’s also beautiful, but for me the most important take-away from Coachella was that there’s so much more to do. It felt like I was just starting. So it’s been beautiful because it made me get back to the studio to record more music, want to do more.
That Grape Juice: Which is a great segue way. Your new EP ‘Life is Eazi Vol. 2’ is arriving soon, what can listeners expect from that?
Mr. Eazi: Yes, new music is coming, ‘Lagos to London’ was the last one, I dropped it in November and now I’m working on a new one. I’ve not really given it a name [yet]. I don’t think it’s going to be one destination to another. It’s rather going to be a vibe of multiple places and multiple genre blends. That’s how I’m feeling right now… global.
That Grape Juice: For sure and your name is going global as well so it’s very apt. And in terms of collaborators, who can we expect to see on the project, who are you working with, who would you like to work with perhaps as well?
Mr. Eazi: I’m working with a lot of dancehall artists, a lot of reggae artists. And then a lot of African artists as well.
That Grape Juice: Any names that you can share?
Mr. Eazi: No, top secret [laughs].
That Grape Juice: You have a UK tour coming up later this year that your fans are super excited about. What can they expect?
Mr. Eazi: I’m excited too. I tried to make it as intimate as possible so some songs are stripped-down, some songs played with all the production and all that. At the end of the day, it is like an intimate, yet energetic show. When people leave, I want them to feel like they know me on a different level.
That Grape Juice: Another of your projects that has a lot of buzz is emPawa, which is aimed at birthing the stars of tomorrow. It’s really cool. For those who don’t know, what’s it about?
Mr. Eazi: emPawa is kind of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) meets business meets music… by way of funding.
Much like I was supported by others, it’s me funding videos for independent artists across Africa.
I got to a point where I felt it was somewhat easy for me to move forward with music yet hard for young people. Specifically with things like access to studios, platforms, publishing, to rights management, and marketing.
So, this venture sees me strive to make a difference from sides; I’ve set up emPawa Distribution launching in July, emPawa Publishing is also launching in July and emPawa Life as well. If you want to build an ecosystem you either wait for someone to do it or you build it yourself. So that’s what I’m trying to do and hopefully we won’t run out of money and make some profit on the way [laughs].
That Grape Juice: You’re helping launch the careers of others, who have been some of the key influences for you musically?
Mr. Eazi: They keep changing dependent on where I am. I think Jay-Z has always been my number-one influence. Lagbaja on the creative side, Burna Boy on the creative side. Dbanj, Bob Marley, J Balvin. Yeah, it’s a mix and it all depends on where I am at the time.
That Grape Juice: An eclectic mix!
How easy has it been for Mr Eazi to adjust to fame and this unconventional lifestyle?
Mr. Eazi: I think you never really get the hang of it; it’s like something you learn on the job, I just try to be myself, try and not let the fame or the attention get to me. So I just try to live life as if nobody knew me. Although sometimes it gets me in trouble because maybe I could say something or do something and then people were like, “Oh you did this”, and then I have to remember. Sometimes I try to go to the cinema back home [In Nigeria], then a lot of people come to me for pictures, I’m like, “Oh, I just wanted to come and watch a movie”, but then you remind yourself that, “Okay yeah, I’m in the public life”. But it’s also a blessing and it’s an opportunity like we’re doing the thing with the UN now, trying to raise awareness for farming in Africa, so that’s one of the advantages. If I were a nobody and I spoke about farming, not all people would listen to me. But now I’ve put it on a record and having people from all over the world dancing to a song about farming and indirectly knowing about what farming is, making farming look cool.
That Grape Juice: Indeed.
We hear you signed with Diplo How did that come about and what’s it been like being attached to one of the world’s most renown producers?
Mr. Eazi: Diplo is like my brother and we met off some smart chat on Twitter, and we’ve been more than friends, we’ve been brothers since then. He flew out to South Africa, almost a flight of 18 hours to come help me with the emPawa project and worked with all these new artists, mentor them, production, give out his direct numbers to them. He’s more like a brother now, we talk almost every day. My manager texts me and says, “Oh, you’re boyfriend is calling.” [Laughs]
That Grape Juice: Can we expect a collab between you two?
Mr. Eazi: I think after this phone call I’ll call him and put something out!
That Grape Juice: Best and worst advice you’ve received on your journey?
Mr. Eazi: I think the best advice will be just like, “Do you.” I think that’s also the worst advice, because sometimes you can benefit from the insight of other approaches. It’s like a double-edged sword.
That Grape Juice: Moving forward, what’s the broader goal for Mr Eazi?
Mr. Eazi: I feel like the most important thing for me now is emPowa. I’m very passionate right now about building the ecosystem for African music and maintaining ownership for African music, so African artists can easily launch, not just locally, but the world and also profit from it. If in the next couple of years, I can build that ecosystem, just like Jay-Z in some ways has done, that will be incredible.
Tickets for Mr Eazi’s UK tour, which kicks off in November, are available via Metropolis Music.
Check out his newly released single ‘Supernova’…