Vibe. What does it mean? The word seemed to have slipped out of popular use, then Mr Eazi came on at the Jidenna Lagos concert and asked the crowd to join in. "Lets just vibe," he said, his skinny torso and raffia hat conjoined in the Hard Rock Lagos arena. So maybe vibing refers to something communal; hardly something to be done alone.
The mixtape Life is Eazi Vol 1: Accra to Lagos takes off from the idea of vibing Mr Eazi passed on that night. It is one vibey package, with emphasis on sound above all else. Like the word itself, vibe as promoted by Mr Eazi is laidback but with enough oomph to command dancing, an activity that may require a community—of family, friends, fans—to be fully appreciated.
Mr Eazi's entry to the scene showed Nigerian radio that following the Wizkid and Wande Coal fast, fast, fuji! sound isn't the only route to hit music. Little wonder Wizkid signed the man to his StarBoy label: It takes one hitmaker to identify another. The audience, too, were clued in. First in Ghana, where folks protested his exclusion from that country's top music award event. Then Nigeria, always keen to accept he or she who has been praised overseas, held onto him. The hits flowed on both sides of the man's heritage.
With Life is Eazi, and its canny "Accra to Lagos" subtitle, Mr Eazi seeks to satisfy both sides. (Or satisfy one side and pacify the other.) So that where it was the Ghanaian sound that got him famous, sounds from the country represent half the project. The other half is based on whatever one would call the Nigerian sound. Only the former succeeds fully. 'Business' is good enough, 'Leg Over' is still a jam, and 'Tilapia' is a delightful tune comparing a lady to a Ghanaian dish. None of these yield any real memorable lines: rapper Medikal flows well on 'Tilapia', but produces a clunky, hopeless punchline: "Something dey smell fishy—aquarium!"
But does anyone listen to Mr Eazi for the brilliance of a well-turned line? I'll be surprised if any one does. Like a slew of current Nigerian stars, from the whimsical lyricist Wizkid to party-man Maleek Berry, Mr Eazi depends almost exclusively on adequate production and a mind for melody, which in the absence of a larger ambition constitutes a lucrative but unfinished gift. The aim of vibing which Mr Eazi has built a career around is for feeling not thought. You recall the vibe, the sound a long way before any particular line of his.
Within those lyrics, Mr Eazi has quite usefully captured the relations between the sexes and the way the young live now. The way a man perceives the sexual vanity and insouciance of a young desirable girl is the subject of 'Hollup'; 'Skintight' is the clingy declarations of a person in love; the connection between youth and fame is what makes 'Bankulize'; there is a consideration of fidelity, deception and the allure of money on 'Leg Over'. (Only the last makes the Life is Eazi project.)
These are some the songs the man built his appeal on. But when you think of those songs, what Mr Eazi says matters less and less, except for the more amusing choruses. It is why the Great Ghanaian Gift of Sound was so easily adapted on 'Mad Over You'. Infused with a Nigerian swagger, the sound yielded its hitmaking secrets to Runtown, who previously could never be blamed for making a hit song all by himself. (You can't appropriate some songs by, say, Kiss Daniel as easily. Think about what would be required to pull off a copy of 'Sin City'.)
As said, the Nigerian part of the mixtape is only partly successful. Olamide and Phyno can't save title track 'Life is Eazi'; the DJ Cuppy feature 'Fight' is a mismatched mistake. Falz and Tekno do better on their features, the latter delivers the mixtape's funniest line on 'Short Skirt': "You liking this Versace—it is fake but the real one I can buy it."
There is a chance Mr Eazi never would have found it easy dealing solely in the Nigerian industry. If only because Ghana doesn't have as much a cut-throat space as Nigeria does. A few years ago some Ghanaians told me Nigerians are responsible for crime in Accra. Ignoring the politics of that claim, the crime of borrowing is legitimate in pop music. The Nigerian contingent takes what sounds appealing with more cunning than Ghanaians can muster, an activity that has been replicated from the heydays of highlife through the azonto, and now hiplife. Mr Eazi is only the new face of what is old hat.
Despite successfully continuing this long tradition of Nigeria taking sounds from Ghana, Mr Eazi might have produced a slimmer, greater project if he had done a truly unpatriotic thing: Cut out the Nigerian half off this mixtape. As he should know, it is the sound that matters—not the nationality.
Buy the Life is Eazi mixtape on iTunes