Oluwatosin Ajibade, better known as Mr Eazi, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. Mr Eazi is the pioneer of Banku music, a fusion of Ghanaian highlife and Nigerian chord progressions and patterns. Born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, but of Ogun State origin, the Leg Over singer relocated to Ghana in 2008, where he acquired most of his education and his first business. In this chat with Newton-Ray Ukwuoma, Mr Eazi discussed how he overcame some of the backlashes he has encountered among other things. Excerpts:
How would you describe Nigerians’ activities on social media?
One thing about Nigeria, if you look at data penetration in Africa, we are one of the highest, if you look at tech penetration in Africa; we are one of the highest. Companies like Facebook and Google cannot deny the impact of Nigeria to their bottom-line. Our population has made that possible. Most of us are with our phone on the social media. I feel like that is good and positive. I just hope that we use this knowledge we are getting to effect immediate change in our lives and in our country.
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How are you taking advantage of these online platforms in your music career?
Most of my music are marketed digitally. I have not made any CD of any of my songs. But if you check all the stores online, you will find them. There is no way you can be online and google Mr Eazi and you won’t find my songs. I make sure I am present online too.
How would you describe the Nigerian music industry today?
There has been massive improvement since I came into the industry. Growing up, there were just few super stars, but now we have a lot of artistes doing different kinds of music even the female artistes, whom I love so much. I have worked with Simi, Tiwa, DJ Cuppy and Niniola. My work with Simi will be dropping next. I have had some good time with the female artistes in Nigeria and that reflects on the dynamic nature of the music industry today.
Between Nigerian and Ghanaian music, would you say there isn’t much difference?
Going back to that issue, I must say now that people took me out of context because I didn’t say one was better than the other. No one heard me use the word “better”.
Would you say that the massive reactions by Nigerians about your comparison of Nigerian and Ghanaian music had some impact on your career? How did you handle them?
I have made the point that the things that happen to me come as a blessing and a curse first. I am blessed with the fact that I started out in Ghana even though my immediate background is in Nigeria. I also have accepted that fact. Now the curse is I have two homes. I have a first home, which is my country of origin, Nigeria and a second home which is my country of upbringing, Ghana.
And like I said, it is a blessing and a curse. As we grow in the industry and mature, we know how to handle things better. Everybody will try to remind you of your loyalty to them. I am a Nigerian. I support Nigeria but I am agrateful to Ghana for my upbringing. I went to school there. I stayed there for seven years. I got my BSc and MSc in Ghana.
I started my first business in Ghana. In the end, I had to realise that I am under the scrutiny of everybody for every statement I make. All of those influences have made me who I am today. It has opened me to the next chapter of my career. For me, everything that happened in my world has opened a new door to my career. So, it is what it is.
How busy have you been since the year?
It is the grace of God that has made the journey great and averted disgrace. He has removed shame from my face. If you watch you will see, there are a lot of things I have not done that I am supposed to have done, but the grace of God has moved me on. All I can do is to be grateful.
How would you describe 2018?
It has been a very good year. It was a year of expansion for me. Going from topping the chart in Africa and entering the chart across Europe. Right now, I am in between a tour with the second biggest artiste in the world, J Baldwin. He is from South America. So, you can see the expansion? The conversation has gone beyond my compound. I give the glory to God, to my fans, and my team.
Any plans for 2019?
New projects. There is a new video that dropped recently. There is a project launch in London happening in November. All of these are in preparation for 2019.
This year, we didn’t see much of your collaboration with Nigerian artistes. Would you like to explain why?
This year, most of the collaborations you have not seen will be unveiled when the project drops. And they are not the ones you expect. I paid particular attention to emerging artistes. If you follow me on social media, you will hear sometime in the year that I was giving out 300,000 dollars to 100 African artistes. This year, I put major focus on emerging African artistes. I also toured around Africa, shooting videos with these artistes.
We are approaching the election era, what are your thoughts on the elections?
Go and watch Keys to the City. I have summarised my thoughts about the election in three minutes. I will only add that we should be peaceful when we participate. Don’t sell your vote.
How did you get the title Eazi?
At school, I was always stopping people from fighting. I was always saying, “Take it easy”. And people started calling me Mr Eazi.
You recently signed an ambassadorial deal with a betting company. Why did you make the move?
First, if you know anything about me, you will know that I love tech. Besides tech, I love business. Betpawa is a company that is 100 per cent tech-driven. I believe with tech businesses, there is a higher chance of things being straight, everything is open for all to see, no lies. Putting my brand in something I am sure of its integrity was really key for me.
You posted something recently indicating you wanted to run for an elective office. Were you talking in jest or earnest?
Sometimes one might feel like some issues in this country do not affect one, but the truth is they do, no matter what. I might not be around much, but they still do. Imagine that! I am hardly in Nigeria. I am always doing shows outside of Nigeria. But there is always one prompt reminder of the sharp realities of being a Nigerian. Two things remind me of that. The first is immigration. No matter how much money you have made, the private jet you are flying, when you get to the immigration of any country one thing will unite you with everyone: your passport.
For the past two years, I have had four passports. With all that, when I stop at any immigration office, I am reminded that I am a Nigerian. I have had to be subjected to thorough search and all that, asked a lot of questions simply because I am a Nigerian. The second thing is road transportation. Whenever I have to see my mother in Ogun State I drive to see her. I actually drive myself to Ogun and I see the road and I am like, “What is going on!” So, I cannot escape my Nigerian heritage. The only thing I can do is to see how I can cause the change and that does not mean I want to run for office I just use my platform. That is my little way of causing the change.
Do you think you need to stay around some more to cause the change?
The reason I don’t stay in Nigeria so much is a blessing and a curse. It is blessing because I make music that people relate to. When people all over the world can relate to your product, it means you do not have one constituency anymore. I am originally from Yewa North, but Yewa North is no more my immediate constituency no more. It is now Nigeria, it is now America, and it is now the world. However, I first relate to my Nigerian fans, then my African fans and then my African fans in diaspora and then my new fans that are not Africans as one man. At the end of the day, we have to move the ministry to the permanent site and some things suffer. But any chance I get, I come back even if it is just to appear in one school or place. If you follow my social media accounts, I am always in the air. So, it is not something I love that I am not where my family is. My family is here. But it is the blessing and the curse that I live with.
You once said you never liked to perform where people are seated. Do you want to clarify why?
Because I feel like the only time I will love a place where people are standing than sitting. When I am speaking, it is okay for people to sit because I want them to understand. But for me as a concert goer, I don’t feel the vibe if I am sitting down. But if I am standing and someone is singing by all means I will have to shake my body or swing it somehow. The vibe is always purer when people are standing up.
Most people have alleged that you’re dating one of Otedola’s daughters. But not once have you confirmed it at least verbally. Do you want to do so now?
Yes. I don’t think there is any hidden thing. Temi is my girlfriend, my one and only girlfriend.
Has the father endorsed it?
This is not a political matter.