Eazi's Music Follows the Afrobeats Herd
Illustration by Ope Arogunmati
My expectations for new artists are tougher than most, who consume and enjoy music. I have a soft spot for artists who push the boundaries of music irrespective of their genre. Those who seek to elevate music and not and are looking to make a leap in the music they produce rather than adding on an incremental change that is good in the present but lacks in true longevity in its impact on the genre. The easy approach is to conclude that I am ignoring the changing landscape of music and should embrace mediocrity simply because it is catchy. Hip Hop now has many fly by night artists who are there to add one song to the genre and then disappear once the fake buzz subsides and another artist releases a song that dominates the airwaves until the cycle repeats itself. This is a sad state that I think can only be corrected through incentivizing artists who truly care about the art that they produce. This is not an easy task because artists have to make a living and the duty to be more artistic than commercialized is an opportunity cost that is a constant conflict. Likewise, Afrobeats, the leading commercial music of Africa is battling the same dilemma.
Mr. Eazi is a star, a friend of mine argues. I disagreed.
A dilemma for critics in the current music landscape is how to assess the qualities of a musician to come to the conclusion that the artist is a star. In an age of personal brands, Instagram followers, and streaming data analytics, one might argue that the criteria for determining a star should change with the time.
Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade, known by his more famous stage name, Mr. Eazi is on the rise in the Afrobeats sphere. He is regarded as the pioneer of Banku Music, fusing the sounds of Ghanaian bounces, Ghanaian highlife, and Nigerian production in his music style. The music he produces can be compared to other artists such as Burna Boy, another Port Harcourt native, Wizkid, and Ycee.
One way he differentiates himself from the aforementioned artists is to straddle the line between his Nigerian background and his Ghanaian upbringing, thus capturing two markets simultaneously. This is one differentiation that I believe his working for him because until very recently many thought he was Ghanaian and not Nigerian.
I assessed the data behind Mr. Eazi's records through the Spotify music application to get behind the numbers. His biggest song to date is Skin Tight with over 13 million listens, Leg Over at 7.8 million listens, Dance for me at 18.5 million and Bankulize at 1.38 million. These are four hits that have performed extremely well on a platform that is currently the leading music app. Spotify states that he has over eight hundred thousand monthly listens, which is a much lower figure than that of Wizkid at over 5 million listens, ranked as the 324th most listens. On Youtube, the numbers correlate with the results on Spotify, except Leg Over’s video leads the way with 16.5 million views on the platform.
I did not expect to see these massive numbers on the two leading content providers for Mr. Eazi and this speaks to the likeability of his music by both casual and hardcore fans. While I give him the benefit of making music that connects with his fans, I still struggle with saying that he is a star because his music can be easily replicated. One can argue that imitation by new artists would prove his star quality, however, I doubt that he has built the level of recognition for us to attribute a particular sound to him.
In order to form a more thorough conclusion, I believe the first commercially released record can speak to the impact an artist will make in their genre. In a genre like Hip Hop, a through artistic and creative album can solidify your position among the greats because of the quality of the art. In exploring Mr. Eazi's music I came to the conclusion that while he displays some creativity, he follows an expected formula that has become widespread among many other Afrobeats artists.
New Mixtape – From Accra to Lagos
Artists have stopped referring to records as albums and prefer calling their records mixtapes or playlists. There is a financial rationale for this decision as the cost of producing a mixtape is significantly less than that of an album. Artists can sample records and avoid the legal clearance required on a commercial studio album. However, the most important reason is that the pressure and expectation on a mixtape are significantly less than that of an album. I wonder if this was the same rationale for Mr. Eazi when he released his mixtape called From Accra to Lagos.
The production on the album is very similar to other established artists in the genre. You get the drums and percussion sounds that dominate Afrobeats starting with the first song on the mixtape Leg Over. This was the single of the mixtape and I am a big fan of the record. Throughout the album, Mr. Eazi sticks to more mellow tempo for the album with a few upbeat records. Other standouts on the album include the title track Accra to Lagos and In the Morning. Apart from these three records, I found the rest of the album lukewarm and received them with very little excitement even after multiple listens.
Lyrically, I find Mr. Eazi to be in the same lane as his contemporaries with lyrics that lack any significant depth but are catchy in their simplicity. The mixtape title is misleading because it contains original music with a total of eleven tracks along with three bonus tracks. I still believe artists should start calling mixtapes albums if you provide ten or more original songs, rather than extending the amateur phase of your career.
Overall, the mixtape is average and has failed to convince me that it is setting a new bar for the genre. Mr. Eazi’s mixtape says him and his team have made the decision to stay commercially viable. He is being touted as the next Afrobeats star, while I disagree, I have been wrong before and I hope he does prove me wrong.