The Man, Mr Eazi
Grass To Greatness Story: How I Sold Phones At Computer Village And Distributed Shawarma Till I Founded EmPawa And Became A Forbes Africa U-30 CEO - Mr Eazi
"It’s something I wish someone had created when I first started making music. Sometimes, all it takes is that one person to believe in you,” Mr Eazi talking about EmPawa Africa in a chat with Forbes Africa
Mr Eazi's journey to the pinnacle of his career as one of Africa's most influential music business men is a tale of many turns and twists. Barely six years ago, he was in Computer Village, a tech market hub in Lagos, selling phones and managing a small business. Today he has replaced those tech products with music which he now proudly sells worldwide, to an extent that Forbes Africa have rated him as one of the continent's 30 under 30 icons whose revolutionary thinking and revitalising ideas have opened new frontiers in the entertainment industry.
Early life, Family
Mr Eazi (also known as Don Eazi) by name Oluwatosin Ajibade was born on July 19 1991 in Port-Harcourt Rivers State Nigeria. His mother owned a small business and his father was a pilot. His first venture into music (non-professional) was a brief stint with the school choir during his primary school days. During his upbringing, he listened to records that his dad would play for the family during breakfast.
When he became 16, Mr Eazi relocated to Kumasi, Ghana for further education where he studied mechanical engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). The music business for Mr Eazi as a singer, songwriter, recording artist and entrepreneur began in University.
Starting his music career, Humble Beginnings
At KNUST, Mr Eazi contributed his vocals to a track 'My Life', a song which became a popular anthem on campus. Right away, he set up a party and promotions company which he called Swagger Entertainment. He used this avenue to promote parties and book shows on campus.
At 23, he returned back to Nigeria where he started an e-commerce platform side by side with running his master degree programme. "During my masters, I was involved in gold mining, importation of soft drinks, and also sold Shawarma. I later started to import sausage rolls into Ghana. I was importing a popular soft drink into Ghana and handling distribution", Eazi said while talking about his entrepreneurial drive in a chat with okayafrica.com.
He told Forbes Africa that he began his career with a small cash gift from friends which enabled him to pay for his first professional quality video. A determined Don Eazi will later go on to kick start Africa's biggest hybrid charity and investment programme for music artistes.
Eazi as a Professional Musician
Mr Eazi released his debut mixtape 'About To Blow', made up of 13 tracks in July 2013. After returning back to Nigeria in 2014, he went on to record songs that reflected his own original sound and concept.
From dance hall 'Skin Tight' in 2015, to his second mixtape 'Life is Eazi, Vol 1: Accra To Lagos' in 2017, Eazi swept through the city with some of the hit records from this projects. Introducing his style of 'Banku Music', a fusion sound which he describes as a mixture of Ghanian highlife and Nigerian chord progressions and patterns, Eazi shot up to become the poster boy for the dominant pop sound at that time 'Pon Pon'. Mr Eazi had a business stint with Wizkid's imprint Starboy Entertainment in 2016 following reports that he was signed to the label which he denied. His mixtape in 2017 featured some of Nigeria's finest artistes like Olamide, Phyno, DJ Cuppy and Falz.
Eazi exports the Music
Mr Eazi announced that his 'Life is Eazi' mixtape in 2017 sold over 200,000 copies on pre-order. Two of the most catchy hits off the mixtape 'Leg Over' and 'Pour Me Water' have recorded over 74 million YouTube views combined. His songs have made the UK top charts, a big accomplishment for a non-native without a major label backing. This success has also seen him perform on global stages in the US and UK including being one of only two African artists to play at the world's most prestigious music festival, Coachella in January 2019.
According to Forbes Africa, Mr Eazi’s ascent to global stardom has seen him clock over 280 million YouTube views and more than 4.1 million Spotify streams per month, making him one of the most streamed African artists worldwide. But now, Mr Eazi has established himself as an entrepreneur as well.
Eazi as a Music Business Mogul
Eazi's successes outside of Africa has been credited to some of his business moves. In August 2019, Eazi launched EmPawa Africa, a talent incubation initiative designed to nurture up-and-coming African artists and creatives. EmPawa Africa according to Eazi was borne out of the idea to bring together some of Africa's most talented artistes into an incubator-like series of programs where they learn about the music business, create their music and get start up funding for their careers. Eazi claims that he is taking EmPawa up to improve on what telecom companies do with their reality TV shows who spend a lot of money to organise such a show and only one person would emerge winner.
"I just wanted something that can cut across, because if you do a reality show, you're using $3 million to produce it and do everything. But if you spread that across more people, you've impacted more people", he said in an interview with Joey Akan on okayafrica.com
EmPawa Africa blossoms, gets International Recognition
EmPawa Africa is truly an African initiative for Africans. It has so far since inception received entries from Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Mali and Togo. It has also enjoyed the technical support of some established music artistes in Africa such as DJ Mamphorisa from South Africa, Adekunle Gold from Nigeria, Alikiba from Tanzania etc just to mention a few.
Resource personnel from Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube have identified with the initiative and have been on ground to school the artistes on how to use YouTube and other digital platforms as well, with a view to monetising their content. A most notable beneficiary of the EmPawa Africa is Nigeria's Joe Boy. Joe Boy has made an instant impact since his break out. Eazi announced some time ago that Joe Boy got $33,000 from EmPawa, to fund his music projects. Mr Eazi and Joe Boy both featured on a recent single 'Nobody' by DJ Neptune. They have also worked together on a number of songs.
Also, emPawa also had a notable hand in Beyonce’s Grammy-nominated The Lion King: The Gift album, helping the pop megastar’s US-based team assemble leading African talent for this landmark project.
Love life, Awards
Eazi's love life is a public spectacle. He has repeatedly shared photos of himself with Femi Otedola, daughter of Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola who is sister to DJ Cuppy. (DJ Cuppy has also been listed amongst the 30 influential Under 30 CEOs by Forbes Africa). The duo are now engaged and are on their way to a happy ever after in conjugal bliss.
In 2016, Mr Eazi picked up the Next Rated Award at the Headies in Lagos.