In today’s ever-changing music scene, one thing is for certain: There’s no escaping Afrobeats.
Since last year, the explosive genre has been dominating and thriving in mainstream music as listeners and musicians alike have been going deeper into the influx of what it has to offer. However, it’s far from the first instance of Afrobeats crossing over globally.
Though it emerged in the 2000s, Afrobeats began to come into another golden era around 2016 to 2017 as smash hits were reaching a broader audience, traveling from Nigeria and Ghana to the U.K. and U.S. Songs such as Wizkid’s “Come Closer” featuring Drake, Davido’s “If” and “Fall,” and Tekno’s “Pana” raked in hundreds of millions of plays on YouTube alone.
Among the stars who were behind the momentous time in music was Mr Eazi. The Nigerian musician, born Oluwatosin Ajibade, first rose to stardom with his single “Skin Tight,” featuring Efya. Followed by tracks like “Leg Over” and “Dance for Me” (with Eugy), the hit records set the trajectory for him to become a household name in the industry.
“I think it just happened really quickly, so I never truly grasped it,” Mr Eazi shared with AFROTECH when reflecting on that pivotal time in his career.
“It just started and next thing I know I was doing Coachella and next thing I was touring with J Balvin before I even got time to really see what was going on,” he continued.
As Mr Eazi found success early on, he also wasted no time in supporting fellow artists. In 2018, he founded emPawa Africa to invest in independent artists within the continent by providing distribution, publishing administration, mentorship, and marketing. As previously reported by AFROTECH, the incubator supported Joeboy in becoming one of today’s biggest Afropop stars. While emPawa provides guidance and funding, there’s still a level of economic and creative freedom for its artists.
“I didn’t build emPawa to be a label,” Mr Eazi said. “I built emPawa to be like an Uber… You have your car, you have your driver, you plug into the system, and the system opens you up to customers. So in the first deals we did, we didn’t even own anything.”
He added, “I think we’ve been able to find that balance with a couple of artists so they still feel free. So that’s what has been at the background of emPawa. If we were running a traditional label, we would have made a whole lot more money. I joke and say, ‘Uber just takes 20%, then we should just take 20%.'”
Nearly three years after starting emPawa Africa, Mr Eazi stepped into the investment world by launching Zagadat Capital. The fund mainly invests in African-founded companies that look to solve fundamental problems. Mr Eazi shared that the company with the highest valuation from his investment portfolio is pawaPay. He invested in the company through its $9 million seed round in 2021, per TechCrunch, and believes that the Africa-focused payments company could potentially reach a $1 billion valuation in the next two years.
As Mr Eazi continues to dive into investing, the biggest problem that he wants to solve is the incubation and development of African talent in entertainment and sports. What’s more, he’s been on an active mission to educate leaders and public figures across Africa on how music is a business.
“Now it’s a good time again [to push the conversation], especially for African entertainment because decision-makers, they’re traveling across the world and they’re seeing Afrobeats artists — not one, not two, not three — everywhere selling out stadiums and not just from Nigeria.”
He continued, “But now, I think the missing piece is the education of the back end of behind the fame, behind the stadium, what are the numbers behind it? What’s the money behind it? What’s the business behind it? And I think now is a good time to restart those conversations.”
While the visionary has many ideas constantly running in his mind, one, in particular, is building the Disney of Africa. After earning his certification for completing a course at Harvard Business School, it gave him “a new drive” for innovation and seeing into the future, which led him to create ChopLife — a company that he hopes to have a similar impact as Disney.
“I was already in a place where I was like, okay, let me go make money from all different places and bring it back to African entertainment,” he recalled. “But then going for that course, I realized that [the time is] now. So when I mean Disney [of Africa], what I just mean is to have a brand that sort of encompasses African entertainment. And so that’s what ChopLife is.”
The starting point of the brand is ChopLife SoundSystem, a live-touring rave hosted by Mr Eazi and DJ Edu.
Mr Eazi shared with AFROTECH that he is planning for ChopLife’s expansion into music, movies, games, and even its own festival and residency. What’s more, he says that they will start filming movies and reality TV in 2024 under ChopLife Studios.
Although he’s cognizant that it’ll be a “lifetime” journey, he’s more than down for the ride.
As for Mr Eazi’s solo career, his long-awaited debut album, “The Evil Genius,” drops on Oct. 27.