Mr. Eazi is exhausted. He’s shot three music videos over the past three days. “If I see one more camera, I’m gonna punch it,” he quips, the exhaustion clear in his speech.
He’ll barely be able to catch a bit of respite because in a couple of hours he’ll be flying out to London before heading off to his show in Dublin. As he explains this, he remembers that he still needs to pick up his passport. Him and his manager debate the exact pick-up hours and how they’re going to go about making sure everything runs smoothly.
Yesterday, Mr. Eazi was in Durban and on one of his Instagram Story posts he gushed over the city and said he’d love to move there. “Durban is like Miami,” he says. “And Miami is my favourite place in the US. So when I got to Durban I was like, ‘Where are we?’ I’ve been to Cape Town and I still felt like I was in South Africa. I’ve been in Joburg so many times… But when I was in Durban it was like I was in a different place. The soul of Durban is just different.”
Mr. Eazi has a cosy, laid-back demeanour – and his music is no different. His lyrics tend to be simple, easy to sing along to, full of slang, and his hooks are typically repetitive. However, two of his recent releases, London Town and Overload, steer in a different direction. “For London Town I wanted to do something grime. I’ve been in the UK for a while now and I’ve been soaking it up. I felt like there’s no better record to signify what I’m trying to do now, which is the sonic trip from Lagos to London, than a grimy song called London Town with Giggs. Overload is not going to be on the project, but with Overload I just wanted to do a street record for Nigeria.”
Last year Mr. Eazi put out a song called Haters with Shatta Wale that was also very experimental. It was a song inspired by the sound he’d heard during a trip out in Ghana and his yearning for creating something different.
I ask him how challenging it’s been moving away from the sound he’s become so synonymous with and what inspired the new direction. “To be honest, I was bored,” he says, frankly. “On my laptop there’s probably 100 records that will never come out because I’m listening to it and it feels the same. But sometimes I’m wrong, like, I’d never have put out Pour Me Water because I felt like it sounded like Leg Over. But we were just like this is not the main single so let’s just put it out because we had not put out any record since Accra to Lagos. We dropped it and boom it became a single so we had to hold off on the other record, which I gave to a DJ. He put that record out in December and it didn’t do anything.”
Another such example is Leg Over, which also wasn’t meant to be a single until it leaked and blew up. “I felt it was boring. I felt it was too me. It’s like when there’s a certain meal you cook every time and they know you because you cook it so well. Let’s use pasta as an example. After some time you’re not going to be excited about making pasta anymore. And then you want to cook something different but for all you know the people eating your food are not coming to you because you can cook steak. They don’t care about your steak. Yeah, maybe your steak is nice but they don’t really care. They want to eat your pasta.”
It’s an interesting analogy. Mr. Eazi is deeply analytical. His attentiveness and thoughtfulness allow him to be very aware of his appeal and how that relates to the grander scheme of things.
The dynamic between his Ghanaian and Nigerian roots, Banku Music, and how it all comes together.
“I’ve always said that whether we like it or not, we’re products of our environment. An environment being where we stay, what we listen to, what we watch. I’ve been influenced by my environment. I feel like my formative years were in Ghana – from the age of 15 I spent 7 years in Ghana and would only go to Nigeria once in a while. Banku Music became that part of me and expressing who I’d become, which is a product of Nigeria and Ghana. I feel like it even keeps evolving because now when I listen to a record on this tape I’m like, ‘Who are you?’ Because now going back and forth to the UK I’ve seen that there’s a strong UK influence whether I like it or not in the way I’m writing songs.”
Universal Music, broader reach and his label’s direction
Mr. Eazi recently signed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group Africa. It’s a deal that’s been in the offing since a meeting with the global head of Universal Music and a few other senior playmakers about two years ago. “It was a huge meeting and they were giving me a big label deal. It gave me a headache for two days because I was just thinking about it. I ended up not signing it because I felt like it wasn’t the right time. I didn’t feel like I had enough information to sign the deal. Yeah your lawyers can help you to a point, but you have to know what you’re getting into. And it wasn’t going to be just for me because I’d have to sign other people off the misinformation that made me sign my deal. And then pass that misinformation on to other people or start giving people shit deals because I got one. I didn’t want to be in that situation.”
With a better understanding of the deal at hand, and after feeling like he had come so far over the past two years through reinvestment; this year Mr. Eazi decided that partnering with Universal was the most viable option because they have the manpower and money to invest into the music. “So I’m not signed to Universal,” he clarifies. “But my label’s next project is licensed to Universal just for Africa.”
Mr. Eazi is about to go on tour with Lauryn Hill. He recalls how the first time he ever played in the US was on one of her shows at Kings Theatre in early 2016. “I wasn’t even popping. That show was maybe off one good song, so I thought it was a lie,” he laughs.
He also opened for her in his first big show in Ghana. He recalls how that was the first time he was flown in to a show, put in a hotel and driven around to interviews. With him now at the peak of his powers, Lauryn Hill has inadvertently been part of significantly important junctures in his career. What’s next: “I feel like the music is just a phase. The music is a pathway. I feel like music is just opening doors for my business interests. It gives you a lot of tools and, as a businessman, I don’t feel it’s the ultimate destination.”