For Mr Eazi, who Nigerians consider one of their own after snatching him from the ‘obscurity’ of Ghana, into our embrace, to acknowledge that fact, feels like a betrayal.
Mr Eazi is currently receiving the most heat he has ever felt in his career.
The star is being dragged all across Twitter by Nigerians who feel betrayed by the singer after he made comments crediting Ghana with plenty of influence on Nigerian music.
The singer on January 12, 2017, released a tweet that has earned him nothing but overwhelming derision and trolling from Nigerians on the platform. Here’s the tweet.
“Ghana's influence on present day "Naija Sound" cannot be over emphasized!!!”.
And all hell was let loose. But is Mr Eazi truly wrong? Has he betrayed Nigeria with such a comment? No.
Let’s look at context and facts.
Mr Eazi, the singer who first had to conquer Ghana before returning to Nigeria his country of origin had a phenomenal 2016. He is Nigeria’s only breakout star for the year, with a handful of singles that have generated quite a storm and introduced a new sonic system to the Nigerian space.
If you knew the music scene in Ghana in 2015 and late 2014, then the name Mr. Eazi was everywhere. Mr. Eazi who is a Nigerian by the name of Tosin Ajibade has been heating up the country with his hit tracks 'Bankulize', ‘Shitor’, ‘Skin tight’, ‘Anointing’ and more.
A graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah' University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, he also holds an MSc degree in Engr/Management from Coventry University.
Eazi started recording as a hobby in 2010 with a group called Code Red. The reception of their songs especially towards him made him dedicate more time recording and learning his craft while still in university.
From singles to features, he became a major force in the underground/upcoming game getting co-signs from EL, Fuse ODG and featuring on Sarkodie's song - 'Thank God', X.O Senavoe's 'Fever' and Stay Jay's 'Baby Lace'; adding the Naija flavour they needed to each song.
In 2013, he released his mixtape 'About to Blow' which had the songs 'Pipi Dance', 'Orobo' and 'Bankulize' as breakout singles. 'Pipi Dance' went on to be played on radio massively in Ghana.
In 2014 November, a new version of 'Bankulize' produced by DJ Juls (who produced the hit single 'Feel Alright' by Show Dem Camp) feat Pappy Kojo was released. By February, it was the number one song in Ghana according to iTunes. All of these had made the Nigerian, who had schooled and lived in Ghana, and made music for Ghanaians, using their influence and culture a star.
But he wasn’t accepted by some section of the Ghanaians, who called him a Nigerian, and kept him away from VGMA in 2015, the biggest music honor in the land. The PRO for Charterhouse, the organizers of the annual prestigious Vodafone Ghana Music Awards disclosed that VGMAs board thought it wise not to include Mr. Eazi for the event because he is not a Ghanaian by heritage, and disregarded that he has been staying in Ghana, and creating content for Ghana.
“I’ve heard lots of talk about VGMAs not nominating Mr. Eazi in the various categories. But they should know that the reason why we deem it fit not to make him part and parcel of the award scheme is that he’s not a Ghanaian.” He said.
“Mr. Eazi is a Nigerian, and the only category he can compete for is the African Artiste of the Year category and with that one he didn’t qualify because his influence on the African map is nothing to talk home about as compared to the other artistes in that category.” He continued.
Mr Eazi has since seen his song ‘Skin tight’ penetrate the Nigerian market, where he has enjoyed tremendous acceptance. Interviews and press rounds have been carried out, as his profile has continued to grow. A UK tour has been held, and many more are lined up, planned and ready to execute. His latest song ‘Anointing’, which features rapper, Sarkodie, is gradually penetrating radio, racking up over 1.5 million on Youtube.
What has made Mr Eazi so appealing to Nigeria? His sound. Grabbing inspiration from 80s and 90s Ghanaian Highlife melodies, he has created a modern fusion of these sounds with help from producers who hand it to Mr Eazi, who layers his pop verses over it. Thematic direction of the songs are all romance and love-based.
Just like the 70s and the 80’s when Ghanaian Highlife was appropriated by our Nigerian fathers, the sounds from Ghana have been mixed with a Naija delivery, and it caught on. Mr Eazi’s reliance on a certain system of delivery and production has also been the driving force of his nascent career. There’s a uniqueness to his madness that has seen him produce his songs such as ‘Skintight’, ‘Hollup’, ‘Anointing’, and ‘Dance for me’.
2016 saw Mr Eazi penetrate Nigeria with his sound, and the rewards have been endless. He has made more money, headlined more shows, and climbed the highest stages in the country. A cosign from Wizkid has also helped his career and placed him on a pedestal that has further aided his career.
Nigerians embraced Mr Eazi but there’s a nagging feeling that he hasn’t embraced back with both hands. First, he still loves to reside in Ghana.
A 2015 interview with Pulse had the singer say: “I prefer staying in Ghana – actually Kumasi because, I love the Ghanaian culture and things happen to be easy for me here in Ghana,” He says. “I love the people and the ‘Banku’
His Instagram account still reads Accra, Ghana as his location, and now his comments which bear a lot of truth is being attacked because of that gesture. When you isolate Mr Eazi’s comments, and analyse them for fact, the singer is correct.
Ghana actually does have a lot of influence on our music. Right from the 50s and 60s Ghana has always been Nigeria’s big brother when it comes to music. Ghanaian Highlife stars dominated Nigerian social scene and nightclubs due to the authenticity of their sound and immersive melodies. Ghanaian stars were the toast of Lagos, and played Night clubs, raking exclusive money. For many Nigerian bands, they had to travel to Ghana to gain music knowledge before returning to Nigeria to replicate that new direction.
Even Fela, was influenced in Ghana. In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria, re-formed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. He played for some time with Victor Olaiya and his All Stars. In 1967, he went to Ghana to soak up their sounds, and think up a new musical direction. That was when Kuti first called his music Afrobeat. Fela was later banned from Ghana by the government in 1978, after riots broke out in Accra during his concert, when he was performing the song ‘Zombie’.
Ghana music has continued to penetrate Nigeria, although, it is stripped of its lingua, with only the residual melodies passed through the Nigerian filter and served as a new product. While Nigeria chased R&B and Hip-hop in the 90s, Ghana had already perfected their art by fusing up-tempo Highlife with rap. Artistes such as Reggie Rockstone, Obour, Obrafour, Praye, 4X4, K.K Fosu (who Olamide mentioned in ‘First of all’ freestyle.)
's ‘Bumper-to-Bumper’ was influenced by Ghanaian Highlife style of music. Same for songs like Omawumi's Bottom Belle. Ghanaians played that music, long before some of our musicians started to embrace and filter, beginning from Tony Tetuila’s collaboration with Tic-Tac on ‘Fefe na fe’. Bands like VIP opened up collaboration routes due to the size of our market and finances. One of the biggest hits in Nigeria, until date is R2Bees and Wande Coal’s ‘Kiss your hand.’
In 2014, Ghanaian star Fuse ODG had his Azonto, stripped by the stars from Nigeria for profit, and with very little credit. Wizkid created the hit ‘Azonto’ single, and Psquare, trust the Igbo brothers to pick through it to recreate ‘Alingo’.
Right now, it’s the ‘Alkayida’ which is being enjoyed. Patoranking’s ‘My woman. My everything’, down to Mr Eazi’s emergence, which influenced the tempo and production of many hit songs in 2016. Runtown is even having a ball, with ‘Mad Over You’ popping from Yenagoa to London. His first words on the song were “Ghana girl say, she wan marry me oh…”
That’s it. Mr Eazi’s tweet is factual. It has been so for decades now.
But why Mr Eazi is getting roasted is his insensitivity to the enduring rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana. The citizens of the two sister nations have always been engaged in a long, often-good natured, feud over the superiority of their cultural elements. The ‘Jollof Wars’ which is fought all through the year, is a clear example of this.
For Mr Eazi, who Nigerians consider one of their own after snatching him from the ‘obscurity’ of Ghana, into our embrace, to acknowledge that fact, feels like a betrayal. To identify with Ghana in any way is taboo, but we let him get away with it. Now he has literally thrown shades at our music and many people can’t take it.
It’s that cultural insensitivity that has thrown him under the bus. He betrayed Nigeria in that long-running feud with Ghana, and the internet is reacting ‘appropriately’.
Like a local saying goes: ‘He who brings ant-infested firewood into his house, will have to deal with the attack of lizards’.