Tag Archives: Nigeria

Mr. Eazi: A Man in his Moment

5 copy

Almost two weeks later, the city is still buzzing with talk of Mr. Eazi’s epic Toronto show. There are a few video clips floating online that might approximate the experience but it was certainly one of those “you had to be there” moments.   By the time his 16 song run of back to back hits had concluded, the rising Afrobeats star had made it clear that if his time had not already arrived before, it had certainly arrived NOW. Shedding off his usually laid-back stage demeanour, Mr. Eazi energetically attacked his performance like a man possessed with purpose. He utilized every inch of the massive stage at Rebel, at times walking on the thin side walls separating the VIP section and then finally wading through the almost 1500 strong crowd just to “feel what the vibe felt like in the middle”.

11 copy

Backed by a DJ, a 6 -piece band and a trio of dancers, Mr. Eazi commanded the crowd like a seasoned veteran. At times it was easy to forget that the “Skintight” single that catapulted him onto the radar of the burgeoning Afrobeats scene (in Nigeria/Ghana/UK) was only released in 2015. How many times have you seen a performance with a relatively new artist where every single song in his set gets the full “sing along” from the crowd? Despite his somewhat defensive insistence that he was not a “singer”, Mr. Eazi has nothing to worry about his vocal performance going forward if his shows remain at this high energy level where he sounds best. This was not his first live show of this magnitude but it was certainly one of his top ones. The Toronto performance seemed to mark a turning point from being reluctantly thrust into the spotlight to boldly and believably owning every second of the moment. The concert concluded with a long awaited performance of his summer smash “Leg Over” and then quickly pivoted into a big after-party in the nightclub upstairs. With Mr. Eazi staying on as the party’s host and hype man, the night ended on a euphoric high note long after the 2am last call had been announced. Toronto’s “Summer of Afrobeats” had found its crowning moment.

15 copy

Mr. Eazi’s morning the day of the show had started out on a low key note. When we met up with the artist at his suite in the King Edward Hotel to take him out for an exclusive photoshoot, we found him sitting on the carpeted floor, slouched against the wall, trying to stave off the jet lag and tour exhaustion with a tall cup of coffee. We had expected to find him in a celebratory mood. Just two days prior, he had been announced as Apple’s coveted “Up Next” artist of the month. His image was already gracing Apple billboards around the world and he had just performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden. After cornering the Afrobeats market as its second most streamed artist, Mr. Eazi was about to become known to an even wider demographic: potentially all 27 million subscribers of Apple Music. He had every good reason to pop champagne at 11am if he so desired but his mind was already elsewhere: two steps ahead plotting how to maximize the opportunity. We observed his pensive mood and decided to shoot him in that intimate moment rather than force our original vision.

18 copy

As he tried on different outfits for the shoot, phone calls kept pouring in from friends calling to congratulate him on his moves: “Chale, I just dey watch your instagram and it’s like wow!”. There were also business calls. There seemed to be a lot of things in motion and Mr. Eazi was certainly hands on with his career. When the shoot was over, I had a chance to talk to him about his career and the future of Afrobeats: a genre whose DNA is already being grafted into songs on the pop-charts without the involvement of African artists themselves.  He was appreciative of the attention his music was getting but was under no delusion nor apprehension about the hard work it would take to reach his full potential especially outside Africa. So why not just sign to a major label? Labels have been sniffing around almost since the beginning of his career but him and his team have a long term strategy. “The machine” still had it’s use but they have come so far without it, they had the liberty to pick and choose which cog of the machine they wanted working for them. It was refreshing to hear.

24 copy

We strolled up Yonge St and made a detour through the Apple store so he could pick up a charger for his MacBook. Some of the blue-shirted staff stared at him as we walked around the store. We were both puzzled as to what was going until one of them pointed at one of the display iMacs which was a running a video loop of Apple “Up Next” artists. He explained that Mr. Eazi was featured as the default screen on devices across Apple’s 498 stores in 22 countries. Big! Before he was ferried off to his rehearsal for the night’s show, I remarked that 2017 had been his best year so far. He was quiet for a moment, perhaps weighing his present status against his vision for the future then he smiled and replied “Ehn? You think so? Just wait for 2018!”

30 copy

Words/Styling/Direction: Chinedu Ukabam for SUPAFRIK
Photography: SoTeeOh
All clothing: Chinedesign (except artist’s own black pants)
Accessories: Papaya & Co (Ankara Tie and pocket square), Bohten (all glasses)

Note: SUPAFRIK was a co-presenter for Mr. Eazi’s Toronto show “Life is Eazi”. More photos from the shoot can be found on the Chinedesign facebook page here: Also check out the official mixtape of Mr. Eazi’s Toronto stop.  Compiled and mixed by DJ Revy B, The Eazi Motion Mixtape is a quick 25 minute intro the sounds of Mr. Eazi.

 

Naija Beats – SUPAFRIK’s Top 10

NaijaBeats-Dec13-COVER

Here’s a little something to help you get over the hump. Nigerian pop music or “Afrobeats” does not really any introduction these days so let’s get right into it. We recently went on a trip to Nigeria and these are the top 10 songs as heard in the clubs, house parties and market stalls! You can stream the playlist or download it. Enjoy!

10. BURNA BOY [Run My Race] – Around this time last year Burna Boy was riding high on his smash hits “Like to Party” and “Tonight” , and we predicted he’d be the next thing to come out of Nigeria. His rise (internationally) has not been quite as meteoric as we expected but he has since carved out his spot as a marquee local artist thanks in no small part to his dynamic in-house beatmaker extraordinatire LeriQ. Surprisingly, the slow almost haunting “Run My Race” gets heavier rotation in the club than the ol-skool dancehall-tinged “Yawa Dey”.

9. P-SQUARE [Personally] – Surprised this song was still getting heavy rotation so many months after it had spread like wildfire across the world aided by the MJ inspired, Clarence-Peters directed music video. “Personally”seems has the same staying power as P-Square, one of the most popular groups in Nigeria and Africa in general.

8. J MARTINS ft DJ ARAFAT [Touching Body] – Barely five years ago, Coupe Decale music from Cote D’Ivoire spread like wildfire across the African continent and diaspora. DJ Arafat was at the helm of that movement as a producer and recording artist. Fast forward to 2013 and his biggest hit is a feature on Nigerian pop artist’s single. To his credit, J Martin’s has always managed to pull off natural collaborations from a pan-African pastiche and the sensual basslined “Touching Body” is no exception.

7. TIMAYA [Ukwu] – The follow up to the monster hit “Malo Nogede”, the dancefloor-filling “Ukwu” takes a page from the South African House sound courtesy of Johanesburg-based Nigerian producer Masterkraft. Timaya might start running out of body parts to sing about. Prior to “Ukwu”(waist), he already had a big hit with a song called “Bum Bum”.

6. KCEE [Limpopo] – Although he’s not new to the scene, this is the song that catapulted KCEE from relative obscurity to super stardom. The sublime “Limpopo” starts out like another David Guetta-esque ode to nightlife but once the percussion and claps kick in, there is no doubt this is pure Afrobeats business.

5. FLAVA [Shake] – After releasing arguably one the biggest cross-continental hits in recent memory (2011’s “Nwa Baby (Ashawo)”, Flava could have drifted into. Everything he touches turns to gold. Almost every song on the album is a hit. “Shake” just happens to be the most popular one in December. Flava has redefined the meaning of “selling out”. Both his albums have literally sold out it in all the markets of eastern Nigeria.

4. MAFIKIZOLO [Khona] – A South African house track so massive that it has muscled its way that it onto this all-Nigerian list. “Khona” has even spawned a bunch of Nigerian versions: the official remix with May D, an Igbo version (comedically capitalizing on some linguistic coincidences), a Pidgin version and a Yoruba version.

3. KCEE [Pull Over] – This playful song about picking up a girl from the point of view of a traffic cop stopping a car was inescapable this December. “Pull Over”features Wizkid on the hook and DelB on the beat again.

2. WIZKID [Caro] – Afrobeats international superstar Wizkid always picks the best beats to flex his melodic prowess on. The last two years has belonged to Wizkid and this song is just the icing on the cake. Props to the Legendury Beats brothers for providing this lush soundscape. One can only hope that they release the “Caro” instrumental at some point.

1. DAVIDO [Skelewu] – Produced by Shizzy, this is the biggest song in Nigeria bar none! Blasting out of every club, taxi and market stall. Nothing else need to be said just listen to it!  By the way it seems there’s a few thousand “Skewelu” dance videos out there. In case you are into that sort of thing, the best ones are by Lipstick Bandits and LA N6.

BONUS GBEDU:

WIZKID [On Top of Your Matter] – It was hard to keep this one out of the top 10. Wizkid still with his uncanny ear for richly layered production.  The best way to describe the DelB produced beat for “On Top of Your Matter”  is “Digital Highlife”.  (This sounds like an idea for a future compilation or new West African genre)

OREZZI [Rihana] – Addictive dancehall-tinged ode to the main Bajan badgyal or the girls that look like her.

WANDE COAL [Rotate] – Crazy catchy song by a top artist whose star seems to be slowly fading. Sounds like its the superproducer Don Jazzy (“Oliver Twist”) on the bouncy beat.

Tuned in to the Sounds of…Burna Boy

An artist that’s been getting alot of spins at the SUPAFRIK HQ is Burna Boy from Port Harcourt, Nigeria. With his effortless fusion of Jamaican patois with Nigerian pidgin and dancehall and house with hip-hop and highlife, it’s no surprise why’s been pegged by many tastemakers as the next artist to make a big splash on the African music scene.
Unlike most artists of his generation, Burna is not afraid to sometimes incorporate live musicians play a big part in his performances (No big surprise there. His grandfather was Fela Kuti’s longtime manager) Even if your New Year’s Eve was a low key affair, you can live vicariously through Burna Boy’s video for his feel good smash single “Like to Party” (produced by the talented Leriq) above and his latest  house-tinged release for 2013, “Tonight” below: