A few months ago, I had a conversation without my friend about deliberate artists who become multi-million dollar successes. We concluded that a combination of quality music, strategy, business acumen, willingness to learn and take risks and an understanding of image and branding is how you get there.
This was after legendary American rapper, Jay Z was declared a billionaire by Forbes. We then highlighted the potential of Nipsey Hussle to attain that level. In Nigeria, we concluded that of all our famous acts, only Mr. Eazi had the billionaire potential.
With all these guys, we found that they checked all the criteria highlighted in the second paragraph. We also discovered one other key factor; a powerful woman for partner. Mr. Eazi is deliberate, everything is well thought-out. If Drake is strategic and calculative with everything, Eazi mirrors that with his business moves.
To him, music is only a part of how he conquers the world and achieve his goals. He’s not the most talented singer-songwriter. Neither is he of prodigious business acumen. What he has is an uncanny ability to find opportunity in everything – opportunity that most people might miss.
A successful window is a bridge to another. This is best highlighted by how he spend 10,000 pounds earlier in his career to book two 2016 shows in the UK. At this time, all he knew was that he wanted to be successful. Music was just an incidence of time.
The money was sought from an investor who laughed in his face, yet gave him the money. As he told Sway Calloway, host of Sirius XM‘s Shade 45 radio show, Sway In The Morning, he made 32,000 pounds from the show, called his worried mother to tell her what he had achieved before then investing it all back into the music.
He said, “I left London with 20 pounds in my pocket.”
Similarly, when he was on ‘Dance For Me,’ a huge song in the UK, he took his advance and turned it into capital for the next phase of his career.
Failures could inform success
You must have met successful people. They tell you something you think is an exaggerated byline; failure might be necessary.
For Eazi to get here, he failed. Remember I said, to him, music is an incidence of time. Before Mr Eazi made music, he was just a kid schooling in Ghana. Being amongst wealthy kids inspired him to star a venture.
“All my friends were super-rich kids… My year’s pocket money, they could spend in like a week. I wanted to ball like them, so I started doing parties (organizing shows,” he tells Sway.
From there, he started booking Burna Boy, Wande Coal and other stars for shows in Ghana. This led him to star recording. One day, his performer didn’t show up, so he performed some songs – the journey started.
After he was done with school, his parents tried to help him find his path. Refusing his Dad’s option of following in his footsteps to become a pilot, Eazi’s Dad that him go for his M.Sc.
During that M.Sc, he tried businesses and according to him, it was, “Fail, fail, fail, fail, have some success, fail, fail, fail, fail… and music was like my getaway, the only time I wasn’t thinking about the business… At time time, I didn’t want to be an artist, I wanted to be a Billionaire.”
But Eazi always had a support system; his friends. One of them helped him record his first mixtape, ‘About To Blow.‘ This led to a guy based in New York paying Eazi $ 1,000 for a verse. From there, he hugged the music which became his canvas on which to write his story, one drawing at a time.
Born Tosin Ajibade in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, his father was a pilot in the Nigerian military and his mother, a business person. Growing up with parents who wanted something for him, and he wanted something different for himself, he had to be calculative.
For his first US tour, Eazi and his manager accessed the back end of YouTube to see where the biggest traffic was coming from across America. This helped him strategically select suitable colleges to form at across continental US. It worked.
Eazi with the detail
Now, Eazi is the star with huge streaming numbers. What he does is bring his vision that represent truth and who he is in his art. For that, his music videos portray his view of the world. His models are not just of one race, he selects to represent the multi-racial trait of the world.
In truth, this aids perception and acceptance – a subconscious thing. He says, “I don’t just sing to the darker skin girls or the lighter girls or the Asian girls… I try to represent everybody because that’s my reality. When my fans see me, they can see themselves in my video.”
He made sense. From the start, he had ambition. That means his music has a global view.
With his success so far and his goal in his heart, Eazi found a calling. He merged altruism with business by trying to solve the complex label problem in Nigeria by creating true independent artists.
When his friend, Cheyenne gave him a Jay Z biography, it became his ‘bible.’ But yet, Nigeria has a dysfunctional industry. Labels have to make money and aspiring acts needa platform.
The only way labels make their money back is to sign 360 deals that these acts knowingly or otherwise sign out of desperation. Eazi wants to coach this desperation out of these acts by education and funding. So he started emPawa – a two platform project; emPawa foundation and emPawa distribution.
With the foundation, he plans to fund 100 artists every year. What happened next, Eazi made an announcement via his Instagram account and got 22,000 entries in one month.
“We picked 100 and we funded them… we gave them 3,000 dollars each to shoot their first professional music videos becauce people helped me shoot my first music videos. It’s like me giving back,” Eazi says on Sway In The Morning.
So now, Eazi has kids from 13 countries who own their content, while Eazi makes a cut of everything they make 5-20% on any of the artists depending on the level of emPawa’s investment. The project feels like a “feeder program.” The he took the top 10 to South Africa for multi-faceted intense mentorship.
From the 10, two got selected and were given $ 50,000 each in licensing deals from which 10,000 is for their personal use.