What do you get when you combine an African Music veteran with a global Superstar? Choplife SoundSystem. Made of up Mr Eazi, who is a force to be reckoned with, and DJ Edu, who is a powerhouse, the pair provide the perfect ingredients to shake up your summer. With their brand new project ‘Chop Life Vol 1: Mzansi Chronicles’ the dynamic duo create feel good music without airs and graces. Taking a departure from the pomp and pagentry of being Afrobeats royalty, by creating a care-free space where the focus is solely enjoyment and living life to the fullest. Join Gracey Mae, F Word Music Columnist, and the Choplife Soundsystem, as they unpack the formation, creation and indentation of their latest venture.
Mr. Eazi, DJ Edu. Welcome to F Word magazine. How are you feeling today?
ME: We’re good. Chilling. It’s a little bit chilly out there. I thought it would be summertime but I don’t know what’s going on out here – it’s cold.
GM: Let's get on to something that’s super hot - your brand new album. The first album as Choplife Soundsystem. This is ‘Chop Life Vol 1: Mzansi Chronicles’. Congrats! It’s got 14 tracks with everybody on there from Focalistic to Joey B. The list is very long! Recorded between Cape Town and Joburg. Tell us about the inception. Tell us about how two longtime friends became this amazing music act. Tell us everything!
ME: Two things: first, DJ Edu invited me to come play at his residency in Coventry. Right after I leave, there’s trouble and Edu starts accusing me of starting the trouble because all the times he’s been there, without me, all the nights happened beautifully. Anyway, fast forward, he then threatens that he's gonna leak my songs. I'm like, “Okay, what do I do? I have to bribe him because he has over 300 Mr Eazi songs from 2016 to date. So I said “Oh, don't worry. We'll just start a sound system and we'll be putting out those songs. Together, we'll make more songs!” That’s how he forgot. So now records are not being leaked again. That's it.
GM: I love that. Edu, you’ve been a champion of African Music for decades. You’ve been on BBC for 20 something years now. Rumour has it that ‘Chop Life Vol 1: Mzansi Chronicles’ is the first of many. Why was it important to start with Southern African music?
DE: Choplife Soundsystem is very flexible and it's easy. It’s simply about chopping life. It’s where Eazi found himself; he was going on for New Year’s party in South Africa and he ended up listening to Amapiano in the clubs. He was Shazaming all these artists saying “This is amazing” and then he’s speaking to people like Focalistic, who was like “Yo, Eazi man, you know you can jump on Amapiano!” [He said] “But I don’t want to do Amapiano” cos his album was already in the works, it was coming out so we got together and made it happen. The whole synergy of Choplife is embracing your environment, sucking it in, finding those artists that are on that vibe with you, make music and then share it with the world. It’s that simple. There's no barriers to entry or to enjoyment.
GM: As a Naija babe, I know what chop life means but what does it mean to you?
ME: Choplife means enjoy life. It literally means eat life. Like eat it up because none of us are gonna get out of this alive so squeeze it! Squeeze all the juice out of life in a positive way; make the most out of it. So the Sound System is all about enjoyment in every form: getting good sleep, getting workouts done, getting a lot of alcohol down your system - not to the point where it knocks you out - even if it knocks you out – YOLO! We're going to unvail a mask that represents Choplife Soundsystem so that when you come into the Choplife ecosystem, you just feel free. Sometimes we need to put on that mask. That's why people go on holidays to go and do stuff, then say “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. We want to bring that energy when you listen to the music or when you come to our events.
GM: I love that you touched on the events. The Choplife Soundsystem tour touches Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, San Fran, LA, Chicago, DC, Houston and New York. What can we expect from the shows?
ME: We were supposed to only do one show in Spain so the tour is saying that we're doing just Barcelona but I can tell you today there's been two added. There's Marbella and another in Barcelona. That the whole spirit of Choplife! We were really talking the other day and he was like “Okay, so how should we arrange…?” and I was just like, “Yo bro - from now till the end of time just tell everybody you're booked and busy! If you're booking Edu, he's got his rider with this and that. If you're booking me, I'm a diva. You have to do this and that. I’ll ask “Who is funding it? Am I the only one on stage? Is my name in big capital letters? Am I the headliner?” But with Choplife, we don’t actually care. We’re just like “Is there music? Is there a microphone?” Even if there's two people there, we’ll just come and enjoy ourselves. We don't even care if it’s the music they like, we’re playing music we like! We’re chopping life.
GM: DJ Edu, you've been in the game twice as long as Mr. Eazi, is music still as exciting as it was in the '90s?
DE: It is because there's different ways in which people are consuming music; things are happening much faster now. Sometimes you're shocked - something that took a Burna or a Wiz, 10 to 12 years, is taking Rema 2 years, is taking Asake 8 months. There’s so much excitement with all these new songs coming up with new artists. It’s always exciting.
GM: On the topic of the '90s, let’s throw it back to your come up. Mr Eazi your dad was in the military, your mum was a businesswoman. You were born in Port Harcourt. Talk us through your life as a military kid, your experience with reggae and dad, and how it ended up with you taking a missed slot at concert.
ME: Growing up was just travelling since dad was in the military; just watching my dad always travel, my favourite uncle always travelled. I just felt like a successful life meant you always travelled. For me, the goal was I wanted to do was travel like my dad and my uncle. If I could travel more than them, then I'll be a success. I happened to find that with the music, I never knew it was going to be with music. As an entrepreneur, I quickly saw that there was a gap in my university. Ghanaians would party separately; Nigerians would party separately. Why? We're in the same class so why are we partying separately? At Ghanaian events, they'll play Ghanaian music, book Ghanaian artists. At the Nigerian event, the same thing. So I decided to start doing parties that had both Ghanaian and Nigerian DJs with Ghanaian artists and Nigerian artists. I quickly I found that I was good at that. I was good at promoting it. I was good at picking the artists. I ended up having like the biggest college event in Ghana. That's what led me to music - just doing those events, hanging around artists.
Music has ended up making me travel the way I always wanted to. It becomes a monotonous to the point where it's like your work because that's what you're always doing. I guess the whole spirit of Choplife is breaking out of that mould and saying, “Why do I have to put out an album like this? Why can't I just go on stage and just party and enjoy myself? Why must I sing my own song? Why can't I just be posting other people's music? Why can’t I just go on somebody else's sets and be a backup dancer? Why?” I should be able to do anything I want. So I still have the Mr. Eazi career. I’m still putting out an album as Mr. Eazi at the end of the year but with Choplife, we could make two albums a year, we could make five albums a year, we could just travel to Japan with three or four producers and work with Japanese artists and create Choplife. It’s not like we've not been doing that.
Edu plays music from all over Africa and he has all these mashups where he puts Pop songs or Dancehall songs on Afrobeats. The other day, they were listing a billion streams of Afrobeats or something, and I was little bit upset because I made the first Afrobeats song to hit that. I didn't see ‘Como Un Bebe’. It is the first Latin Afrobeats. My question is “What makes it Afrobeats?” If the producers were the Afrobetas producers, the songwriters are Afrobeats songwriters, the melody was Afrobeats… like I wrote 90% of the melodies of that song. Legendury Beatz produced the record. If you hear that song in a club, it's Afrobeat so why is that not an Afrobeats song? Is it because it's in Spanish? I've been doing. I've been curating but then you'll be shy that “Oh, my Nigerian people people won't care about this because it’s in Spanish so maybe I don't want to attach myself with it too much”. But now it’s like, “Do we care about it?” If we care about it, that should be the whole point. There will be other people like us who care about too.
GM:You’re right. A lot of times, we feel like if we don't blow at home, we haven't blown but we have so many examples where people blow abroad, and the music is amazing. Why was it important to drop this project with each other now?
DE: I think our way of working was all about synergy and friendship. Most people will have contracts, they will have all these things but me and Eazi just click. We've just been working - apart from the threats to leak songs from time to time. So because I leaked Leg Over (he was right there when I leaked it as well) so it wasn’t so bad…
ME: I was there, live and direct…
DE: Working with Eazi was natural because we tried to work in many different ways but life was happening and this was the most easy way for us to work together. You know we came together and we tried it before. We weren't even trying to do Choplife but we ended up just chopping life together in the club, and then we're like, “Oh, this thing works”. It gave him the freedom that he wants to express himself as an artist, and for me, I can I do what I do. I mean, I do this in my sleep. Coming together now I think just about timing. Sometimes things are just about timing. Loads of artists I’ve gone on tour with and worked with but this will probably never have happened with them. Just because of how Mr Eazi thinks and how we connect.
GM: I’d like to dig a little deeper. What’s your why and why are you passionate about East African Music?
DE: When I first came to the UK, I wanted to be a Hip-Hop, Dancehall and R&B DJ like everyone else. I quickly found that there were people who already established like Trevor Nelson, DJ Semtex... I was around people who are specialised in doing specific genres. In Africa, you don't get that - most DJs are multi-genre, they play anything. So when I came here, I quickly learnt that I had to go to the back of the queue. What made me unique is I understood African Music much more. What ended up happening is I started doing community radio playing African music and a lot of people wanted East African music because at that time, it was just Ghanaian and Nigerian music, with a bit of Congolese.
So I ended up doing community radio doing East African music. Then I started doing African clubs; bringing artists to the UK and doing loads of after parties. That's when I really fell in love with African Music again. From then it's like missing food from Africa. You come away from Africa, you come hereand you crave burgers, chips and chicken. Then when you arrive, you find a Nigerian, Kenya or an African restaurant, and it just gives you those nostalgic feelings. Those flavours are hitting your tongue. That's what happened with me with music. I just fell in love. I was born and bred in the Motherland so I had to share it with the world.
GM: Could you have predicted that African music and Afrobeats would be doing what it's doing now?
DE: Yes, I could. Because remember, it's a billion people on that continent and numbers don't lie. If a billion people are resonating to a song… because back in the day, we had ‘Premier Gaou’ where you could play right across the continent… how are a billion people not reflected on the musical landscape? I knew it was just a matter of time. I think it's just because Africa is so vast, and on the maps, they show it so small. If somebody found a way to package it to make money from it, then it would make sense, I think that's why it's being celebrated more now. You can see there's ways in which you can generate income and influence and bring back business; connecting the West with Africa. Using music artists I think it's even much easier than using politicians, because you get to the people using the “it crowd”.
GM: Do you feel like the entertainment and art sectors is what is needed to export our culture and bring the world to us?
DE: It's done that already. I always say that music has done more than politics in uniting Africa as a continent. It lifted all those barriers. The ease of DMing each other and making songs that are big in two countries is easier than ever. So when Mr Eazi comes to your country, he's already a well known name and when you go to Nigeria, you're well known name as well. So imagine when it’s my president or his president, the youth might be like “Who's this guy?” So already you have to relearn and learn who are, what they they do. With music even if somebody isn’t speaking your language, they’re in your age group, they know what you're going through so they're able to represent to the world what is actually going on the ground. I think music surpasses any other form to express our ideas, what we're feeling and what we're going through.
GM: I love that more power to the continent. For anyone that hasn't heard the Choplife Soundsystem project. What can they expect?
DE: It's a journey. It's a buffet of Amapiano with an array of flavours.
GM: I see what you did there. Buffet. Chop. It's all about food! Obviously Eazi and Edu both start with E. If you both were gonna have a combined moniker, what would it be?
ME: Choplife Soundsystem!
GM: Thank you so much for being on F word. What's your favourite F word?
ME: Fried fish. I just wanted to say that.
DE: I will say food because you know you can chop anything, you can chop life, you can chop food.
ME: Actually, you’re right. I love food. Food is my favourite F word.