“So the beauty of the genre is in its fluidity and that it can take different forms. A lot of genres are stuck to specific kinda rules but for Afropop, it could be anything.” These are the words of Mr Eazi, a pioneer of the ever-evolving Afropop scene, who imbues his work with a transformative spirit that transcends traditional musical boundaries.
In his latest offering, “Chop Time, No Friend,” Mr Eazi makes a return to his Banku Music roots. The track is an irresistible, rhythmic dance tune that carries the unmistakable essence of summer. Paired with the vibrant visuals of the music video, shot in the creatively bustling city of Dakar, it is truly a celebration of African artistry and creativity. “The phrase ‘Chop Time, No Friend’ is a very common Ghanaian saying, something you will see written on the front or side of buses, just like the popular saying, ‘God is Great’. It means when you are eating, you don’t think about anybody, you are just focused on your enjoyment – this song is touching on how people chit-chat on me, but I am still focused on my enjoyment. It is a declaration, a celebration of self.”
Mr Eazi finds a balance between introspection and external expression. As he says, “I think this new project is made for me, it’s very personal, it’s a letter to myself, it’s me embracing everything.” His approach isn’t just about making music; it’s about crafting an experience and sharing his journey with his fans.
In our interview, we delve into his views on blending his roles as a musician, business leader, and philanthropist, his thoughts on the Afrobeats scene, the inspiration behind his upcoming solo album, and his approach to handling the pressures of success.
photography by Michael Oliver Love
Your new track “Chop Time, No Friend” marks a return to your Banku Music roots. What led you back to this sound and what does it mean to you?
I think it was because it was produced by Killbeatz. The reference of the production was ‘Killbeatz in Accra’, so I guess the original instrumentation took me back to that kind of roots and then of course, I needed it to evolve, while still keeping the “ka ka ka ka” there, but still evolving it a little bit to where I am now mentally.
You collaborated with award-winning filmmaker Allison Swank Owen for the music video of “Chop Time, No Friend”. What was it like working with her and how did the concept of the video come about?
I mean, Allison has produced two videos on my new album. I just love her way of making music videos. It’s very relaxing for me and I just love the artistic nature of her music videos; they seem like films and they feel effortless. I had always wanted to do something in Dakar so it was the perfect opportunity, and I think it’s a perfect video.
The video was shot in Dakar and showcases the thriving creative scene there. Why was it important to you to highlight this aspect of Senegal’s capital?
For me, I’ve just always had an inquisitive kind of mind about Senegal. Every time I see pictures of Senegal, they always interest me, and Allison had shot a video in Senegal before, which was one of the things that piqued my interest to go to Senegal. I think Dakar, like a lot of African cities, is bubbling with creativity so it’s just a pleasure to be able to experience that with the guys on the ground, and I had so much fun.
“I think this new project is made for me, it’s very personal, it’s a letter to myself, it’s me embracing everything and it’s my most personal project so far.”
Sinalo Ngcaba, a South African artist, was commissioned for the cover art of “Chop Life, No Friend”. How did you connect with her and what drew you to her work?
I saw Sanilo’s work on the internet and just loved her style of painting and I’ve been working with her ever since, not just for “Chop Time, No Friend” but for other projects as well. I’m in this phase where I’m merging contemporary African art with African music and I think it’s beautiful.
You’ve had such a profound impact on the Afrobeats scene. What’s your approach to innovating and evolving the genre?
I think one thing about African creativity is that it keeps evolving. It’s not stagnant. So the beauty of the genre is in its fluidity and that it can take different forms. A lot of genres are stuck to specific kind of rules but for afropop, it could be anything. It’s a nice melting pot. So my approach is just to continue to evolve and continue to be fluid.
What is the inspiration behind your upcoming debut solo album? What can fans expect from this new project?
I think this new project is made for me, it’s very personal, it’s a letter to myself, it’s me embracing everything and it’s my most personal project so far and I think fans will hear that when they listen to it. It’s an album to myself and I’m bringing my fans along.
“I’m in this phase where I’m merging contemporary African art with African music and I think it’s beautiful.”
You have been massively successful in your music career, even reaching the milestone of over four billion streams. How do you handle the pressure and expectations that come with such accomplishments?
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with it but, and I think dealing with that, I talked about dealing with all of that on my album. And I deal with that daily and now I’m beginning to come to the point where I’m taking the approach of just having fun, just doing whatever I want to do and having fun with it, making sure I’m having fun with it because I think that’s the only way. You don’t feel so much pressure when you’re having fun because you forget that you’re working, so I’m taking the playful approach to making music, collaborating, and touring. Right now, I’m touring as ChopLife SoundSystem, and tomorrow, I’m releasing music as Mr Eazi, so just taking the fun approach to everything.
Apart from being a musician, you’re also a business leader and philanthropist. Can you talk about how these aspects of your life intersect and influence each other?
I think it’s all one, because a lot of my success has been due to the fact that I am a creative entrepreneur. I started from creating music in Kumasi, and the music getting heard all over the world, even though I wasn’t signed to a label. So I think it’s all one and the same, and I think that all business people are creative, and all creatives are entrepreneurs, in that they create something from nothing, so I just embrace it all.
“You don’t feel so much pressure when you’re having fun because you forget that you’re working, so I’m taking the playful approach to making music, collaborating, and touring.”
You started your music career in college, initially as a hobby. What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation, unsure about pursuing music professionally?
I think I always take the engineer’s approach, which is for you to always have a fail-safe – that’s like the safer approach. I feel if you can stay in school, you should, or unless you feel you’ve learnt enough. But if you could stay in school to learn, and push your dreams at the same time, to the point where you see some sort of sign or proof of concept, but once you see that proof of concept, you should just be ready to go all in. And if you see that proof of concept while you’re in school, then go all in. The proof of concept sometimes can be the people in your school singing your songs or it can be the people in your city singing your songs, or whatever art you’re pushing or whatever idea. So I think at that point where you are able to prove your concept, you don’t need so much to move forward.
With over 4 million followers on Instagram, you have quite a large online presence. How do you balance sharing your life on social media while also maintaining some privacy?
Right now I’m just having fun. To be honest, I think the most important thing is to have fun. I always try to remember that I’m still a human being and as a human being, it’s not everything I’d want to share, you know. We keep learning how to achieve that goal, and I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, but I’ll say I’m still learning.
And how do you handle negative comments or criticism on social media?
To take everything the same, whether it’s the negative or the positive, take everything as just opinions.
The most important thing in life is?
I think the most important thing is peace. Finding peace in everything you do and finding peace within yourself. Peace is the most important thing, and love. Peace and Love.
“Chop Time, No Friend” out now: empawaafrica.lnk.to/MrEaziChopTimeNoFriend