DDW Chats to Mr. Eazi, African musical royalty right after the release of his latest album; The Evil Genius.
16. That’s both the number of tracks and physical art works that the iconic Mr. Eazi, Banku music royalty, has released in his highly anticipated debut album The Evil Genius. Blending “afrobeats, afropop, gospel, hiplife, highlife and folklore into a glorious pan-African fusion sound”, the album is the artist’s most personal release yet. Tackling topics such as love, betrayal, loneliness, and family, the album becomes a cathartic soundscape which surprises in variety, rhythm and sound layering.
With very few artists of such calibre having delved so deep into their careers without an album release, The Evil Genius marks a pivotal moment in the artist’s ambitious musical journey – and it shows. Birthed over two years of travelling in Africa, the album’s 16 art pieces were commissioned from varying artists Mr. Eazi encountered through his journey. Closing the current divide between music and art in the continent, the move was a successful one – the pieces have been exhibited in prestigious venues in both London and Ghana.
But it isn’t just the music and artistic mastery that keeps Mr. Eazi in the limelight. With a strong philanthropic approach to notoriety, the artist launched emPawa Africa in 2018, a program aimed at fast-tracking the careers of African artists which was positively received by the likes of CNN, Rolling Stone, Billboard and Forbes.
DDW had a chance to chat to the multi-hyphened musician, discussing all things inspiration, lyrics and collaboration.
Congratulations on your new album ‘The Evil Genius’! Before we delve into it, can you share a bit about your musical journey? What inspired you to pursue a career in music, and how did your journey as an artist begin?
I was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I attended school in Lagos and later went to university in Ghana. My time in Ghana greatly influenced my music and approach to life. Initially, I casually recorded music while spending time with artist friends whom I booked for shows at my university, where I also worked as a party promoter. When I started taking music more seriously, I felt liberated from judgment. Growing up in a new environment filled with diverse experiences had a profound impact on me. These experiences shaped my music and contributed to the creation of Banku music, a unique sound that blends the rich cultures of Ghana and Nigeria.
Every artist has a unique musical identity. How would you describe your signature sound, and what elements or genres have influenced your style?
I lived in Ghana for seven years and in Nigeria before that, and both places had a significant impact on shaping who I am. It was during my time in Ghana that I developed a love for highlife and hiplife music, particularly Ghanaian church music that I listened to on bus trips to school.
Walk us through your creative process for this new album, ‘The Evil Genius’. How do you typically approach writing and composing new music? Are there any specific rituals or habits that fuel your creativity?
I won’t say there was a process. We would have multiple meetings throughout the day and evening, recording music. Recording the album was like letting my hair down and having a relaxed time. We would go through beat selections and just sing what I was feeling in the moment, you know.
Music is a dynamic art form. How have you evolved as an artist from your early days to this new project ‘The Evil Genius’, and what pivotal moments or experiences have contributed to your growth?
This album symbolizes my liberation from the constant pursuit of a flawless image in the eyes of others. It signifies my emancipation from the need for validation from others. I had become consumed by the negative opinions I heard about myself, causing me to constantly seek approval in every interaction. The album represents my breakthrough from all those mind games.
Collaboration often leads to exciting new musical directions like your work with Angélique Kidjo and Soweto Gospel Choir on ‘The Evil Genius’. Are there any other artists, producers, or songwriters you dream of working with? How do you think these particular dream collaborations might impact your music?
Collaborating with talented artists, producers, and songwriters is an essential part of my creative process. I’m someone who lives in the moment, so I’m always happy to work with talented people, regardless of their level of fame. My dream collaboration is always the next one.
Your lyrics on this album delve into unique themes around love, betrayal, loneliness, spirituality and family. Can you discuss the concepts or emotions you are exploring in these songs? What messages do you hope your audience takes away from this new album?
Through this album, I aim to convey that life is a journey with ups and downs. It’s important to embrace all emotions and find strength in vulnerabilities. I hope listeners can relate to the songs and feel solace, inspiration, and connection. The message is self-acceptance, resilience, and embracing our true selves. It empowers navigating life authentically and validates challenging emotions.
Live shows have been a significant aspect of your career, how do you approach translating the new music on ‘The Evil Genius’ to the stage? What do you enjoy most about performing for a live audience?
I actually just performed two of the songs for the first time on stage at the Trace Awards. The album is truly meant for live performances, and being on stage and connecting with the audience is an exhilarating experience for me as Mr Eazi. The energy and connection I feel with the crowd is electrifying. Witnessing the immediate reaction to my music, hearing the cheers and applause, and seeing the joy and excitement on people’s faces is incredibly rewarding.
Looking ahead after the release of ‘The Evil Genius’, what are your next goals and aspirations as an artist? Are there any new directions you’re excited to explore in your future music, or any milestones you’re aiming to achieve after this album?
I often ask myself, “Where to next?” My ultimate goal is to keep creating and pursuing whatever my heart desires. This year, my main focus will be on organizing Detty Rave, my annual rave event held in Accra every December, and promoting my album – ‘The Evil Genius.’