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Mr. Eazi Accra to Lagos Mixtape Review

Mr. Eazi’s come-up story sounds methodical and purely accidental at the same time – the Ghanaian-Nigerian, who stumbled upon music superstardom after working as a show promoter and entrepreneur, hasn’t gotten carried away and has a 3 year exit strategy already planned out.

Such has been his unconventional rise that no one knows what tomorrow holds for Mr. Eazi. But as of right now, he has become a prolific artist who’s released a feverish number of singles and guest features in a short amount of time. He’s also a strategist who had the awareness to ensure that even if those songs didn’t all come out great or become hits, his performances on them almost always sounded the same. This consistency means that there’s a musical identity that is unmistakably Mr. Eazi’s. His sound could get slightly monotonous at times but for a new artist, establishing a distinctive sound so early is not an achievement to be taken lightly.

One of the architects of the Eazi sound Juls-on-It is conspicuously absent from the Life is Eazi (Vol. 1) – Accra to Lagos mixtape. In his place, the tape was produced by some of the finest ‘Afrobeats’ merchants that Accra, Lagos and London have to offer. Those producers don’t replicate the very specific Juls-Eazi magic but at least they maintain Eazi’s trademark vibe, that languid mid-tempo pace and gentle sway. The one exception is the R&B-ish “Feelings”, produced by Young Jonn, where Eazi unwittingly exposes his limitations as a vocalist. The singer longs desperately for love but masks his emotions from his lover, to his own detriment. From a stylistic standpoint, “Feelings” is the farthest departure from the singer’s flavor, a style he calls Banku music.

Eazi has a short history of making music using local Ghanaian dishes as his reference point. Banku, for instance, is a local dish made out of fermented corn. His song “Bankulize” verbalized banku and repurposed it to mean something naughtier, while“Shitor” perpetuates the myth that Ghanaian women’s famous behinds can be bought in a jar from Chicken Republic. Keeping to his promise to place only brand new songs on this project, records such as “Bankulize” and “Shitor” didn’t make Accra to Lagos but recent release “Tilapia” did. Banku usually goes hand-in-hand with tilapia and veggies, “Tilapia”, the song, uses the famous dish to symbolize that Eazi’s woman would do anything to satisfy him.

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It becomes very clear, very early that women are the centrepiece around which most of the furniture of the mixtape is arranged. Eazi is that rare kind of ego-free, male popstar that wears his heart on his sleeves. He doesn’t mind looking weak and vulnerable on “Right Now” or “Leg Over”, as he agonizes over a wantaway girlfriend.

He also doesn’t mind being lovestruck and totally blown away by her on love records like the sax-tinged “In the Morning”. “Morning” features upcoming Toronto-based rapper Big Lean. On a project that mixes upcoming artists with established stars, Lean and Eazi’s musical mentor Mugeez (on “Business”) both gave ATL its most memorable features. In contrast, Tekno’s appearance on the Maleek Berry-produced “Short Skirt” was rather underwhelming, especially when you consider that he and Eazi were number 1 and number 2 next rated artists of 2016, you pick the order. Surely the result should have been one of the biggest songs of 2017, potentially, rather than a mixtape filler.

On the catchy dance tune “Detty Yasef”, Eazi created another potential hit. The singer’s admiration for women takes a more lustful tone on this one, while Falz makes a guest appearance and takes a dig at women who engage in the pleasures of the world. The song playfully chastises them but being a citizen of the world himself, ATL would have been incomplete without Mr. Eazi talking about how he took the long meandering road to get to where he is. The song “Accra to Lagos” is one part of that story, the singer opens up –

Nobody knows the struggle way we face

As you dey see me dey smile today, I swear na by Him Grace

He goes into details of how his family has been supportive of his life choices as he has gone from being a mechanical engineering graduate, from one of the most prestigious engineering schools in Africa, to one of the continent’s most promising pop stars.

He keeps the story going on the Masterkraft-produced “Life is Eazi”, a song that was intentionally built around Nkem Owoh’s humorous “I Go Chop Your Dollar” template. The singer talks about how women didn’t want him before but now that he has made it, they are all over him. In keeping with his bi-nationality, he uses both Nkechi and ‘Ohema’ (a young lady) to symbolize two women that switched up on him but let’s be honest, Mr. Eazi has a dual but unequal music identity. The singer has made no secret of the fact that even though he’s an ambassador for African music as a whole, he leans further west of the equator than many Nigerians want him too.

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Little wonder then that the mixtape feels more like a contemporary hiplife project than anything his Nigerian contemporaries are doing at the moment. But who knows, Mr. Eazi might yet inspire that seismic shift in the Nigerian sound that he exaggerated recently. That said, with a potent mix of Ghanaian and Nigerian pidgin and sprinklings of local languages, street lingo and cultural inspirations from both countries, ATL is a project that only an artist who has walked the 500 or so kilometers between Accra and Lagos, in Mr. Eazi’s own shoes, would be able to make.