Lagos, London, and the cunning Mr Eazi titles

The thought that Mr Eazi’s versatility is underrated might have occurred to some listeners around the time he released the single ‘Property’.

Here was a man whose partnership with Juls led to a decrease in the tempo of Nigerian music working a heavily percussive production, and doing so well enough to make delightful music.

His lyrics remain suspect — it still is unclear how “Me I no go do you wrong like Lazarus” is anything other than misplaced slander — but ‘Property’ demands your attention. Songs like ‘Leg Over’, from Accra to Lagos, might have gotten their success because of the novelty of their production; ‘Property’ holds the reason for its appeal tighter.

The new Mr Eazi project Lagos to London has no other song quite like ‘Property’, with its delicious horns and melodious percussion. It is, in fact, structured like Accra to Lagos in how the songs are grouped for each city mentioned in the title. The similarities go further: on both projects, the ‘Lagos group’ is the weakest.

This is not to say there are no highlights on that section of the album. The songs with Simi and 2Baba, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Suffer Head’, are decent pop songs but are inferior to the earlier released ‘Pour Me Water’, which, of course, recalls ‘Leg Over’ (E Kelley produced both songs).

Mr Eazi, who is frequently the online target of angry Nigerians over his refusal to claim a single nationality (Nigerian) for his music, has performed quite a neat trick by inserting only Lagos and London to his album title.

The London bit — featuring Burna Boy, Sneakbo and others — might be pure London in all of its immigrant glory but the Lagos group has clear influences from outside of Nigeria, notably from his spiritual home, Ghana. Not only does ‘Pour Me Water’ use a sound adapted from Ghanaian highlife, but the album also features rising Ghanaian heartthrob King Promise, on ‘Dabebi’. As ‘Property’ features South African instrumentalist Mo T, perhaps we should think of the ‘Lagos’ in the title as a synecdoche for Africa.

After the album’s eighth track, a conductor, voiced by Instagram comedian Broda Shaggi, tells passengers to get on a bus headed to London. Immediately after this comes ‘Miss You Bad’, which features Burna Boy, a Nigerian act that never quite shook off his British upbringing from his music. The song is good but not particularly memorable.

For that, listen to the last two songs on the album, ‘Chicken Curry’ and ‘London Town’. Both uptempo tracks are already singles, proof that even if Mr Eazi comes across as relaxed in the studio, he is quite a different animal in the marketplace. In other words: you might think of Mr Eazi’s songs as inspired by Ghana, but his commercial instincts are entirely Nigerian.

First published by Music In Africa

Nigeria’s most acclaimed writer-reviewer. Business: www.criticsandbylines.com.

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