Mr Eazi Singer’s criticism of Nigerian artists shows how hurt he is that ‘Pon pon’ exists

To shame your counterparts from your birth country for utilising influences from their neighbour is extremely low, and shows your small-mindedness.

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Mr Eazi play

Mr Eazi

(Highsnobiety)
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When Mr Eazi flew into Nigeria and began to plug his single ‘Skin tight’, he had no idea that he was pushing for something bigger than himself, and his music.

‘Skin tight’ featuring Efya, climbed into the hearts of Nigeria and mainstream media to become a hit record, automatically catapulting Mr Eazi into a breakout artist. All credits to him, he quickly moved to consolidate his hold, with numerous collaborations and singles propelling him to dominance in 2016. At the end of the year, he had picked up the prestigious Headies Next Rated award, and flew high at the Soundcity MVP Awards, picking up the trophy for the Best New Artist.

What has made Mr Eazi so appealing to Nigeria? His sound. Grabbing inspiration from the 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. The thematic direction of the songs is all romance and love-based.

Mr Eazi and James Corden, right before the singer performed at The Late Late Show with James Corden. play

Mr Eazi and James Corden, right before the singer performed at The Late Late Show with James Corden.

(Apple Music)

 

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 co-sign 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.

And almost every time he grabs a mic, or an opportunity presents itself for him to dispense words on marble, he finds ways to criticise and limit the achievements of Nigerian artists. The only time Nigeria becomes a great place for him is when he is either dating Temi Otedola, finding his way around lucrative private concerts, or organising personal concerts. This year alone, we have seen him try to do the ‘quasi-Fela’ thing during his performance at "The Late Late Show with James Corden" and failed at it.

Mr Eazi performing at The Late Late Show with James Corden play

Mr Eazi performing at The Late Late Show with James Corden

(Apple Music)

 

But when he isn’t directly profiting from the country, he usually finds new ways to ‘bad mouth’ the nation which accelerated his career.

Eazi’s latest interview on Capital Xtra‘s Reggae Recipe is just another example of his veiled disgust for Nigeria. He roundly criticizes Nigerian artists for utilizing Ghanaian elements in his music, a move which he claims to have started.

 

“The speed at which I’ve moved is scary to me…cause it took my contemporaries 5, 6 years,” Eazi said.

“And that is what has been this year, if you want to count like 5 afrobeat, it’s like everybody just realized that ‘yo what formula is Mr Eazi using?’ Ok we’re gonna end up doing it. December last year almost 60% of Nigerian artiste were in Ghana playing shows”

Eazi further discredited their use of Ghanaian elements saying: “Now everybody is using words like Banku, Shitor, Maami, Odoo, Sika. My guy, how come? How do you know Odoo? How do you know Sika? How do you know Maami? From where, what’s the connection?

“It's just like an American artist just rapping about something in the UK, and you know he has no knowledge of it.”

Mr Eazi ought to sit down and be humble. The relationship between Ghana and Nigeria music predates his existence. Even before his parents made efforts to conceive him, Nigeria and Ghana have enjoyed a great working relationship.

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.

Fela Kuti showing his mastery skills on the piano play

Fela Kuti showing his mastery skills on the piano

(Getty Images)

 

Even Fela Kuti was influenced in Ghana. In 1963, the Nigerian music legend moved back to Nigeria, re-formed his band 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.)

Wande Coal'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.’

Reggie Rockstone in the ADLDAS hoodie at 2016 VGMAs play

Reggie Rockstone in the ADLDAS hoodie at 2016 VGMAs

(Vodafone Ghana)

 

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’.

At some point, it’s the ‘Alkayida’ which was being enjoyed. Patoranking’sMy woman. My everything’, down to Mr Eazi’s emergence, which influenced the tempo and production of many hit songs in 2016 and 2017. Runtown even had a ball, with ‘Mad Over You’ popping from Yenagoa to London. His first words in the song were “Ghana girl say, she wan marry me oh…”

Sure Mr Eazi has to get some credit for starting a new wave at this moment, but the Nigeria-Ghana relationship is older and bigger than him. He is simply just a footnote in the greatness that has passed between nations.

But I understand him. He is angry. Angry at the fact that his sound is no longer special. In pidgin English: “The sound don cast.”

And since everyone can do it now, Mr Eazi has lost his edge. What made Mr Eazi special was his precursor for ‘Pon pon’ music which he called Banku Music. Mr Eazi is the pioneer of Banku Music – a fusion sound he describes as the mixture of “Ghanaian bounces, Ghanaian highlife, Nigerian chord progressions, and Nigerian patterns”

Simply put, he believes that his birth country (Nigeria) and his country of schooling (Ghana) can be best represented in his music, hence no other person should do it. His dominance with that sound was his unique selling point. But in 2017, everyone has cracked it, turned it into ‘Pon pon’ music and saturated the market with it.

Davido play

Davido

(Native MAG)

 

This means that Mr Eazi has no exclusive sound. What he claims to have started has become bigger than him, even to the point that he can no longer exclusively benefit from it. It’s like creating a formula for something, but not being able to benefit from it for long because bigger companies have latched on to it and created superior products.

And let’s be honest, take away the ‘Pon pon’ sound from Eazi, and you will discover that he loses his uniqueness. He begins to sound a lot like any run-off-the-mill guy who simply has enough funding to create and market the music.

That’s why he is angry. That’s why he holds a deep grudge against Nigerian artists. Sorry Mr Eazi, but we now own ‘Odoo’, ‘Maami’, ‘Sika’, ‘Shitor’, ‘Waakye’, and just about everything else. We will still allow you use your ‘chale’ because it hasn’t properly blended with our music. But heck, trust Yemi Alade. Her next single might be named ‘Looking for my chale’.

Music travels. It’s always in flux, with influences travelling across borders and inspiring the creation of more music. On his project, “Life is Eazi Vol 1: Accra to Lagos,” the title track features Olamide and Phyno. It also utilises a distinct Eastern Highlife bounce and percussion. You can find the same production in Olamide and Phyno’s joint project, “2 Kings.” It was directly borrowed from the song ‘Carry me go’, which features Eastern singer Stormrex.

The Eazi and Wizkid bromance play

The Eazi and Wizkid bromance

(Fab Magazine )

 

To shame your counterparts from your birth country for utilising influences from their neighbour is extremely low, and shows your small-mindedness.

But we understand. ‘Pon Pon’ music has ruined the flavour of his ‘Banku Music’. He simply has to understand, and seek to chase a new direction.

Good luck with that Mr Eazi. 

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