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Mr Eazi, Nigeria’s Hypocrisy And Why Our Musicians Need A Break

20 million streams! That’s the figure on the Spotify screenshot that Mr Eazi shared of his latest EP, “Life is Eazi Vol.2: Lagos To London.” As the praise poured in, and he lapped it up, running victory laps from Twitter to Instagram, we are sucked into the moment. This is genuine, measurable success, and no matter what previous grudge you hold against the singer, he is killing it!

Remember when Nigerians whipped up their anger, and went after the singer twice, for asking questions and stating truths that were specific to his art? Remember when he was dragged across these social media platforms that grudgingly celebrate him now? Do you recall when he was unanimously declared persona non grata, and banished from our hearts, speakers, and playlists? Remember when we killed him and made him dead to us?

Well, look what’s in your face now! 20 million streams! Your favourites and MCMs could never!

When Nigeria pushed Mr Eazi away for maintaining his strong bond with Ghana, the singer did not complain. He sought to make things right by apologizing, raising his hands in the air and granting interviews where he called for a truce. But his white flags were ignored. We had already passed swift judgment, with righteous indignation. We all cast the first stone. We, whose collective hands are soiled with not only our blood but the blood of generations to come. We pious hypocrites.

But where we pushed him away, he consolidated a new base in Europe. Made up of mostly Africans in the diaspora, our brothers and sisters who now chase life and happiness in distant shores. London did the initial embrace. That melting pot of cultures found Mr Eazi to be a real one; a legit endless supply of hits. They got on his wave, welcomed him with open arms, and from there, propelled him to a height that he could only dream of from here.

Here’s why it doesn’t really hurt an artist who loses the Nigerian market, but gains another: The Nigerian market is not a music selling market. You can’t really sell your records here and sustain yourself off of it. Artists generally depend on private performance fees and lump sum payments from endorsement deals. We have a limiting culture of consuming ‘free music’ via downloads from music hosting websites, and peer to peer file sharing. Apple Music subscribers are comparatively negligible, and local streaming platform, Music Plus, is on its last legs. Boomplay, who recently struck a landmark partnership with Universal Music Group remains the market leader. But in many cases, it still isn’t enough to sustain a career.

The UK though is different. You can generate more value from the African communities in the UK, than you would from the entire Nigerian population with its 190 million people. There’s population, and there’s valuable population. We are not a valuable music market, and to fix that would take a lot. Of course, those 20 million streams have some Nigerian effort in it. I am curious to see a breakdown of the percentage though. From data I have about the streaming business, we (Nigeria) would a small number.

Canceling Mr Eazi, has not stopped Nigerians from consuming his art. He still feeds it into all the right channels. Our DJs blast it from party speakers, and the nightclub circuit across city and village centers in the country have him as an integral part of their playlists. The media still gives him a good time. His works are represented fairly.

The only indicator of the dying grudge against him is that while Nigerians still consume it, they aren’t doing it with their full chest. They are not too proud of it. They have existing guilt, and it weighs down their expression of happiness and championing of the music. The art is so good and winning so much, that it can’t be avoided. But yes, even if we have to support, let’s not talk about it too much because we canceled him, remember?

Eazi’s success isn’t just a testament to his tenacity and explosive strategy. It’s bigger than him. He’s done something that has eluded a number of musicians, and which would be the standard for the coming generations. He deserves to write a manual – something to guide and inspire musicians looking to make the jump from Lagos to London.

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