How Mr Eazi, J Balvin, and Bad Bunny Made One of the Best Songs of the Summer

The Nigerian star's unexpected appearance on the duo's surprise album united afrobeats and urbano. It came together, of course, because of the internet.
July 18, 2019, 4:32pm
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Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Mr Eazi is sorry for his unexpectedly muted greeting. Propped up in bed in a boutique hotel in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, the Nigerian star behind massive regional hits like "Leg Over" and "Skintight" explains he’s dealing with some foot pain, something he quickly plays down at the tail end of a long week in New York City. When you're promoting your sound to an international audience, there's no time to complain about minor knocks. Instead, he starts gregariously explaining how he ended up teaming with two of the world's biggest stars.

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"The Internet is making the world smaller," he says, succinctly summarizing the circumstances that led to his appearance on one of the summer’s biggest releases yet.

As if being one of the biggest names in Afrobeats wasn't enough, he's also effectively the latest member of Latino Gang, as the bio for his 2.5 million follower Instagram account now proudly proclaims. That affiliation became official and public with the release this month of "Como Un Bebé," the final track on Bad Bunny and J Balvin’s collaborative mini-album Oasis, on which Eazi prominently features. Few could have anticipated this historic meeting of the minds between one of contemporary African music's most important names and two of Latin America’s highest-profile hitmakers. "When I listened, it felt like the perfect way to end the record," Eazi says, having been unaware that it would even appear on the project.

While some will recall his role as opening act on the North American of Balvin’s 2018 Vibras tour, their connection goes back a bit further. Earlier that year, Eazi performed at a concert in Haiti, around which he met wunderkind Michael Brun during a promoter-organized dinner. That encounter led swiftly to an offer to record together during his stay on the island. "He came with his mobile studio and was sampling beats for me," he says of the roughly half-hour session that led to three or four demos by his count. Not long thereafter, Balvin and Brun met up in New York for a session of their own, during which the Colombian reggaetonero apparently heard some of those results and soon became a Mr. Eazi fan.

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"I see Balvin post up on his Instagram and he's in his jet playing a song from my mixtape called 'In The Morning,'" he says. A few DMs later, a camaraderie began. Their then-mostly digital friendship turned reality when, based off a casual joking compliment about a Vibras tour flyer shared online, their managers were soon linked to sort out details of adding Eazi to the dates—alongside none other than Michael Brun.

Though Eazi’s management expressed reservations that the tour wasn't the artist's typical audience, Eazi dismissed the concern in favor of the unique opportunity to play for this new and different pool of potential listeners. "My goal is to let my music go as far as possible," he says, describing the American arena dates in retrospect as a humbling experience. "The kind of shows I do back in Africa and around the world, everybody’s singing my songs. [The Vibras tour] messed with my mind, but it also made me really ambitious."

At Coachella 2019, both Balvin and Eazi played separate sets during the sold-out festival. In between the two weekends, Eazi traveled to Miami and met Sky Rompiendo, the producer responsible for numerous Balvin hits including "Ginza" and "No Es Justo." Together, they worked on "something different" which has yet to see a release. Yet during the time, Eazi exposed them to more self-described "Afro vibes." That immersive introduction birthed "Como Un Bebé" which, unlike the other songs on the surprise-dropped Oasis that showcase Sky and Tainy's respectively broad reggaetón and trap styles, comes courtesy of Nigerian duo Legendury Beatz.

"It would've been easy for them to produce it here and make their own interpretation of it," Eazi says of that decisive choice by the urbano team. "They wanted authentic; they wanted to go to the source." With a pulsating bassline and bright dubby synth stabs over a distinctive rhythm, the resulting cut found the urbano superstars trading verses and navigating hooks with the Banku music progenitor, who sings and raps here in three different languages—English, Spanish, and Yoruba.

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Eazi initially recorded his parts in Miami, but at the time he had no idea what would become of "Como Un Bebé" or that, before long, El Conejo Malo would join in. "We were going back and forth and the next thing I knew, within the space of one week, Sky sends me the stems," he says. "And Bad Bunny is on it."

Sure enough, the merging of these artists' individual styles worked exceptionally well, and a week after release led to "Como Un Bebé" appearing on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs. Considering that Afrobeats and urbano share some ancestral reggae DNA, and that both continue to make bold sonic connections with modern-day dancehall styles, the effectiveness of this fresh international fusion isn't entirely surprising. Still, the unprecedented presence of an African song on an American chart populated by Latin music singles is a cross-cultural and commercial moment not lost on Eazi, who sits up excitedly and crosses his legs as he speaks.

"It's crazy that the first time it’s coming together, it's coming at the top," he says of this undisputedly high-profile collaboration before adding, "I want to do more stuff like that."

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