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“The Evil Genius” Review: Mr Eazi Gets Up Close and Personal On Debut LP

“The Evil Genius” Review: Mr Eazi Gets Up Close and Personal On Debut LP

The Evil Genius cover - Mr Eazi - Afrocritik

In an industry often saturated with music releases, The Evil Genius offers a breath of fresh air. But more than that, it is a raw and true expression of Mr Eazi’s ingenuity and sonic brilliance.

By Emmanuel Okoro

Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade, popularly known as Mr Eazi, has been one of the leading figures in the evolution of Afrobeats. Over the years, he has captured a growing global audience with his signature Banku sound (a hybrid of West Africa’s Afrobeats and Highlife) and has once again marked a glorious return to the music scene with his official debut album, The Evil Genius.

Mr Eazi first took a swipe at the music scene with his debut mixtape About to Blow in 2013, featuring singles “Pipi Dance” and “Bankulize”. It was evident that Mr Eazi was on the verge of something big. However, it was not until 2015 that Mr Eazi truly hit the mainstream with the release of the dancehall sensation “Skin Tight”, featuring Ghanaian singer, Efya. When “Sample You” and “Hollup” dropped later that year, it was undeniably clear that he was a star to watch out for. 

By the time Mr Eazi released his second mixtape, Life is Eazi Vol.1 – Accra to Lagos, in 2017, he had already become a household name in the music industry. Since then, he has released multiple projects, including the 2018 mixtape Life is Eazi Vol 2. – Lagos to London, the 2020 EP, One Day You Will Understand, the 2021 Something Else EP, and Chop Life Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles – a collaborative project with ChopLife SoundSystem released earlier this year. Mr Eazi’s artistic prowess opened doors for collaborations with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Beyoncé, J Balvin, Diplo, Nicki Minaj, and Bad Bunny. 

The Evil Genius, released under his own imprint, emPawa Africa, arrives on the scene in the wake of these resounding successes. Recorded in Accra, Cotonou, Lagos, London, Los Angeles, and New York, the album features a star-studded line-up of artistes and producers bringing their A-game to a mix of Highlife, Afrobeats, R&B, and Gospel sonic scapes.  

The “Leg Over” crooner adopted a creative approach in the album’s rollout. He commissioned artworks as companion pieces for each of the 16 tracks of the album, adding a layer of depth to its listening experience. This was first hinted with the album’s lead single, “Legalise”, released last year and other singles like “Fefe Ne Fefe”, “Exit”, and “Advice”. These pieces, created by visual artists scattered across Africa, were on display at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2023, hosted by Somerset House in London and the Gallery 1957, Accra.  This pioneering approach to fusing African music and arts is ground-breaking in many ways. It is particularly intentional, as each artwork reflects the mood and message of the corresponding track.

Mr Eazi with The Evil Genius artworks at exhibition in Gallery 1957, Accra - Afrocritik
Mr Eazi with The Evil Genius artworks at the exhibition in Gallery 1957, Accra

The Evil Genius is sonically split into a three-part act. The first act kicks off with “Olúwa Jọ̀”, a track that offers a raw and vulnerable side of Mr Eazi, as he grapples with the emotional toll of success. The track opens with a faint audio cut from his mother praying for him. As the music unfolds over mild shakers, he questions who in his life truly loves him. In the chorus, he turns to God, singing in his native Yoruba dialect, seeking divine guidance and protection. 

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A defiant Mr Eazi shows up on the M.O.G Beatz-produced “Advice”. In between mixing Nigerian and Ghanaian pidgin, he seems unapologetic and chooses not to kowtow to the whims of his detractors. He acknowledges the transient nature of people’s affections as he laments, “First they love you, then they stab you, omo na the story of my life.”

The Beninese luminary, Angélique Kidjo, joins Mr Eazi on “Òròkórò”, a track that celebrates their successes and assertively waggles the middle finger to side talks. The melodies smoothly interpolates Kidjo’s 1996 sensation, “Wombo Lombo”. On “Òròkórò”, they take turns delivering their verses mostly in Yoruba, highlighting the vanities of success and wealth. The groovy composition and electric guitar plucks are courtesy of the Grammy award-winning producer, Kel-P. Kidjo’s regal and powerful presence on the song makes it a standout moment on The Evil Genius.

The Evil Genius Tracklist - Afrocritik
The Evil Genius Tracklist

Seasoned producers; Andre Vibez and Killbeatz combine their expertise on the next track, “Chop Life, No Friend”. Mr Eazi opens the song with his signature “Zagadat” catchphrase. Here, the underlying lyricism embraces the fruits of his hard work with less need for external validation or influence. A laidback and nonchalant Mr Eazi appears on “Notorious”, a track that seamlessly blends Hip-Hop and Afro-Pop together. He draws parallels between himself and rap legend, The Notorious B.I.G. and flaunts the trappings that accompany his success. Lines like “I no be Jesus and I don’t forgive/ Vegetarian but I want the beef” indicate a self-assured attitude and brute approach to criticisms. 

On the Banku track “Panadol”, Mr Eazi shifts his lyrical focus and delivers an ode celebrating his sexual prowess. The lead guitar chords and mid-tempo drums create a captivating backdrop, making it an enjoyable listen. He confidently tells a lover, “One bundle for your waist/ After one round, you go craze”. 

The second act of the album ushers in pon-pon sonic vibes on “Jamboree”, a record that features Afrobeats singer, Tekno. Both of them deliver verses that are steeped in devotion and loyalty to a lover, pledging their unwavering commitment if she sticks with them.

Mr Eazi and Efya reunite on the highly-spirited Reggae number, “Good Lovin’”. Both artistes join forces to sing about a lover who values love and affection above all else, with no concern for monetary or material favours. Efya provides matching vocals that fuse with Mr Eazi’s verses and chorus. On “Lack of Communication”, he deals with the emotional struggles of a lover giving him the silent treatment. He acknowledges his own faults and pleads for forgiveness with these lines, “But I vex you, reconcile/ E be my fault, I recognise”.

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Kel-P gives a spin on Highlife with punchy bass guitar and sax grooves on “Fefe Ne Fefe”. Mr Eazi sings about the beauty of a lover’s body while simultaneously apologising for a past mistake that might have caused her anger. There’s a playful and charming quality in these lines, “Baby, I go change my character/ Something sweet, I go give you banana”. 

“Legalise” is a special dedication to Mr Eazi’s partner, Temi Otedola. Produced by Michaël Brun, E Kelly, and Nonso Amadi, Mr Eazi bares it all out with poignant lines filled with devotion and commitment. The depth of his feelings for Temi is evident in the lyrics, and it was no surprise that he chose the set of the music video in Venice, Italy, to propose to her. The accompanying artwork from Beninese painter, Patricorel showcases two skeletons sharing drinks and holding hands with blossoming flowers between them. Skeletons are our most vulnerable form as humans, and the painting symbolises vulnerability and the willingness to be open and genuine in love.

Legalize by Patricorel - Mr Eazi - The Evil Genius - Afrocritik
Legalise by Patricorel

Repetitive chants of ‘show dem’ come alive on the eponymous AfroPop track “Show Dem”, featuring Lagos-based artiste, Whoisakin. Here, they deliver a lewd rendition, commanding a love interest to showcase her dance moves.

The final act of The Evil Genius commences with “We Dey”, another standout track on the project. This Afrobeats track delves into the issue of police brutality and the End SARS protests that rocked Nigeria in 2020. Mr Eazi’s anger and frustration are palpable as he sings about the injustices, proclaiming, “Free all my people wey dem don lock up/ Stay woke brothers, omo, don’t fold up”. The production is exceptional, with a collaborative effort from Knucks, AoD, E Kelly, Wade Oghenejabor, and Venna, resulting in an impactful composition.

We Dey by Kufa - The Evil Genius - Mr Eazi - Afrocritik
We Dey by Kufa

“Zuzulakate” featuring record label signee, Joeboy, is derived from a popular catchphrase from the Instagram comedian, Femi Babs. This delightful track is characterised by mild shakers, drum rolls, and live guitar strums, which create an infectious and danceable rhythm. The underlying lyricism calls for celebration over their mainstream success and all the favours that come with it. The track feels like a proud father-and-son moment, as they recognise the fruits of their hard work and dedication.

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The Evil Genius slowly winds down with “Mandela”, a track that showcases Mr Eazi engaging in an inner dialogue. He reflects on his journey and recognises the challenges that lie ahead. While he wants to be immortalised like freedom fighter and former South African President, Nelson Mandela, he recognises that there’s more work ahead of him. 

It is fitting that the album ends with “Exit” where he taps the assistance of the famous Soweto Gospel Choir. The bouncy Reggae vibes set the stage for a joyous yet reflective atmosphere. Mr Eazi is in a state of gratitude, offering praises to the divine for the journey he has undertaken and the success that came with it. The Soweto Gospel Choir adds a layer of grandeur to the track, creating an uplifting experience.

The Evil Genius is, undeniably, a wonderful debut effort from an artiste who has not only mastered the ropes of the music industry, but has also captured the world with his unique sound. Mr Eazi explores fame, betrayal, love, emotional attachments, and sombre reflections, with masterful production and well-chosen features that understood the assignment and delivered performances that enriched the project. While there is an undercurrent of Pan-Africanism that flows through each track, the album provides a glimpse into the mind and soul of an artiste with a complete global takeover in his blueprint. 

In an industry often saturated with music releases, The Evil Genius offers a breath of fresh air. But more than that, it is a raw and true expression of Mr Eazi’s ingenuity and sonic brilliance.

Lyricism – 1.4

Tracklisting – 1.5

Sound Engineering – 1.6

Vocalisation – 1.3

Listening Experience – 2

Rating – 7.8/10

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde

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