The voice behind rhythmic jams such as ‘Skin Tight’ and ‘Leg Over’, Mr Eazi is rapidly transcending an international sound-scope. With international tours and appearances on The Late Late show under his belt, it’s hard to ignore the compelling travel, growth and dominance of both Mr Eazi and the culture and artistry forging Afrobeats as a genre.
Our meeting is soundtracked by a few dozen important phone calls intermittently sounding off in an elegant yet minimalist lobby. Fresh drops, new sounds and the next wave of creativity inhabit the space. Over the hazy moan of music business chatter, a calming tone breaks the atmosphere as Mr Eazi cooly approaches me. No Entourage, management team or cluster of fussing assistants in sight, just his solo presence and a very open persona.
This is metaphorically definitive of the artist’s journey to date; he’s the voice and character making movements through pure will, charisma and a fortuitous unfolding of events. Throughout our time spent talking, it becomes apparent that he’s the type of person to discuss rather than proclaim his journey. His background and engagement are as colourful in his entrepreneurial ventures as his music. Combined with a wandering and inquisitive temperament, rich character and the clarity of this Western African voice, Mr Eazi’s distinction is evident.
How did you get end up in the music industry?
I was studying Mechanical Engineering at University, running a party business, spending time with DJ’s and being in the studio. But if I didn’t stop partying, my grades were looking like they’re gonna be shit. I had built a reputation as a showman from my party business in Ghana, I couldn’t just go to the club and sit down. I must go and pop bottles, so I was burning a lot of money. I was like, “This is not good for my grades, this is not [a] good for my pocket.” I became too much of a showman, so I stopped going to the club. The new hobby became going to the studio. I started putting my music out on Soundcloud, I never put my face as I wanted a career in engineering. When I finished school, I worked in engineering for eight months and saw that it was bullshit, I can’t live like that. I could predict where I would be in five or ten years. I got into gold mining in Ghana whilst doing my masters. It was illegal, it was bringing in good money and there were good prospects…
I moved back [to Nigeria] from Ghana, this was at a time when Ghana was really clamping down on illegal gold mining, I didn’t want to get arrested and so I had to get my business to standard so it would be considered legal. I had 25 acres of land, but it classified as small scale mining – that’s why it’s illegal. Because as a foreigner you must do 25,000 acres so that locals who don’t really have capital can mine small scale and get some of the benefits of having gold in their village/backyard. So I started putting all my money together to buy large scale land, I used a lot of money, I was broke by the time I was about to finish my MsC. I moved back to Nigeria to try and raise funds so that I could progress with my gold business, it was a tough time. During this time, I would go to the studio to record a skip, because the studio was the only time I was not thinking about my business. Then I got someone hitting me up saying, “Yo, Mr Eazi, I want you to do a verse.” I just go into the studio and I just said shit, then every two weeks, I’m getting paid for verses. I’m thinking this is not bad you know, I was enjoying it.
So last year I phoned my parents, told them, “Yo I’m a musician,” laid everything out for them. Shortly after that I played with Lauryn Hill in New York. I remember doing Instagram ads and promoting it in Nigeria, people [would] see it and go mad, “Who’s this guy we don’t know about who’s performing and shutting down London?” I’m like okay, I’m working with everybody I want to work with, fast forward to last year December, I had brought in new sound because I was in between Ghana and Nigeria. Fast forward to this year, that sound became the pop sound coming out of West Africa.
So from guest verses and skits in the studio, how did that turn into the contemporary Mr Eazi?
I started getting a local Ghana following from doing university tours. Then, I recorded ‘Skin Tight’ and dropped it late December 2015. I would travel to Ghana most weekends to do shows. At the time I didn’t want anyone to know I was doing music as I was trying to build a CEO career in Nigeria. I was dealing with CEO’s of telecommunication companies. They already didn’t like my hair, it would be another thing to see me on TV as this young boy in music. So I would never go out in Nigeria, I would never play shows in Nigeria. Nigeria was business, Ghana was artistry. Then in March, I got booked for the UK to come and play four shows, around the time of Ghanaian independence. People become aware of what I was doing and before I know it, I’m getting famous in Nigeria.
In your Vogue article on style and artistic aesthetics, you spoke on how there’s certain symbology that you carry with you visually at all times through jewellery and clothing. Is there anything idealistically you do this with in the context of music?
I feel like everybody is a product of their environment; the more I travel, I lose myself to the environment. It’s a trade off. I absorb emotions and vibes and energies from the places I go to. Since I don’t sit down and write songs, I usually hear the beat and go from the top, it’s something that’s coming from within. Sometimes when I sit down and hear the songs, I’m like “Yo, where did that come from?” I found myself rhyming, “Peng- ting looking like my next- ting” in the studio the other day. Since when do I use the words ‘Peng-ting’ and ‘Next-ting’. It’s London!
This is an extract from Viper’s AW17 cover story with Mr Eazi. Buy physical and digital copies via Viper World.