CHOPLIFE SOUNDSYSTEM, the phenomenal dance project brought to life by global music superstar MR EAZI and UK-based afrobeats tastemaker DJ EDU, is transforming the music scene with their brand-new album, ‘CHOP LIFE, VOL. 1: MZANSI CHRONICLES’. The album, a tribute to South African dance music, is an amalgamation of the dynamic dance tunes that have been emanating from the lively club scene of South Africa.
Led by massive hit singles including ‘Patek’, ‘Werser’, and ‘Wena’, this pioneering album was recorded between Cape Town and Johannesburg over the past year, and includes collaborations with notable artists such as Focalistic, Moonchild Sanelly, Major League DJz, Ami Faku, and Nkosazana Daughter. The aim of the project is to invite listeners to experience the diverse and energetic dance scene that South Africa has to offer.
We caught up with Mr Eazi and DJ Edu to discuss the ethos behind Choplife Soundsystem, South African dance music, their new album ‘Chop Life, Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles’, and their upcoming ‘Choplife Parties’ European and American tour.
WWD: Mr Eazi and DJ Edu let’s start with a bird’s eye view of Choplife Soundsystem. How did the idea for this project come about, and what made you decide to join forces?
Eazi: The idea must have really started from a long time ago with me hosting parties and curating DJs in university, fast forward touring with Major Lazer, I started to lean into the idea, but it was scary because as a performing artist, I did not think people would understand or it would just be weird with me as an MC, until I started my annual Detty Rave festivals, to sort of test the idea. Edu has always been a friend, A&R and partner in crime and when we played in Madrid together, he was meant to play just my songs for a 15-minute appearance, but we ended up playing together as the SoundSystem for 2 hours plus, without planning to (lol).
WWD: The album is titled ‘Chop Life Vol. 1: MZANSI CHRONICLES’ and pays homage to South African dance music. What was the inspiration behind focusing on South African sounds, and how did you approach incorporating them into the album?
Edu: Each album we make will pay homage to any sound we are heavily consuming or inspired by per time, and for this one we both had been consuming and appreciating South African dance, I play all the types on my show and Eazi was just in his party boy era just back to back in the clubs and so we just leaned into it! Beautiful coincidence that he happened to be in South Africa for New Years and after a 4-hour night out, we just knew Mzansi chronicles was born!
WWD: Collaborations play a significant role in this album. Can you share some insights into how you selected the featured artists and what they brought to the project?
Eazi: I kid you not, we would go to the club or out in the streets or a house party, hear a song we like, Shazam it and contact the artists, it was like so exciting. Asides for one or two of the collaborators, it was all meetings for the first time. We were honestly new fans and it’s so lovely we were able to connect.
WWD: ‘Chop Life Vol. 1’ covers various genres of South African dance music, from deep house to amapiano. How did you ensure a cohesive sound while exploring these different styles?
Edu: as a DJ, one thing I’ve always done with my show is shed light on music from all over Africa with the Afroboss show, so not just afrobeats or afropop from Nigeria! I play everything from every corner of the continent including the subgenres so with this album and with every time I play, I always like it to be holistic! If we’re gonna do ‘Mzansi Chronicles’, it’s gotta be diverse! If we’re gonna tomorrow do a ‘ChopLife Vol. 2 Accra Nights’, it’s gotta showcase the length and variety of sounds.
WWD: DJ Tárico played a key role in bringing the project to life sonically. How did the collaboration with DJ Tárico come about, and what did he bring to the creative process?
Eazi: Tarico is the soundsmith he got me 1st on my first Amapiano record, his manager is a friend and collaborator and we just connect musically, also he is such a real producer and draws influences from different genres of music kind of we have similar views on how we take in and make music so it just happened naturally
WWD: The album also features production from other talented beatsmiths from South Africa and Nigeria. Can you discuss the importance of collaborating with local producers and how they contributed to the overall sound of the album?
Edu: Mistakes artists and A&Rs make sometimes is getting influenced by a sound and just make their own version without even acknowledging its source, but that’s the opposite of what we wanna achieve with these albums. For every album experience, we wanna educate ourselves and immerse ourselves in the influences and the source. It is as much educational as musical to us and that’s what you’re gonna see in all our music and mixes, it’s like a showcase.
WWD: Each song on the album offers a unique experience. Can you highlight a few tracks that are particularly special to you and explain why they stand out?
Eazi: ‘Die For You’ I’d say because I really did not want to sing on this album, I was enjoying just rapping and Nkosozana Daughter really pushed me to sing and just hearing how our voices merge, it’s so beautiful! So the fact that I got to do something different makes it really special
WWD: The lead single, ‘Wena,’ showcases a deep house soundscape and features Ami Faku. Can you delve into the story and emotions behind this song and why you chose it as the lead single?
Edu: First off, Ami is a superstar and has one of the most unique voices in the world! That being said, we had put out ‘Patek’ and ‘Werser’ and we wanted to make sure people got to know that the album wasn’t just gonna be the hard stuff, we wanted to showcase the length and different elements of the album.
WWD: As you take Choplife Soundsystem on tour, what can fans expect from your ‘Chop Life’ parties? How do you plan to bring the energy of the album to the stage?
Eazi: We’re gonna be focusing a lot on the music direction and the production, the entire ambience of the venues and the little things that leave a memory – I’m excited.
WWD: The concept of ‘Chop Life’ is rooted in enjoying life and promoting positive carefree vibes. How do you hope the music on this album and the Choplife summer parties contribute to creating a sense of happiness and wellness?
Edu: The power of music is that its vibrations can lift you up, calm you down, charge you up, make you cry etc! We’re just gonna be focusing on the vibrations that lift you up, make you happy or calm you down haha. As you can feel from the album, you hear it and you just wanna dance, hit the gym, etc.
WWD: Mr Eazi, you founded emPawa Africa as a talent incubator program. How has this initiative impacted the careers of African artists, and how does it tie into the mission of Choplife Soundsystem?
Eazi: It’s been great to see that for over 120 artists, the emPawa100 and emPawa 30 were ignitions to their careers that I think has been the most important achievement – that kickstart! And many have gone on to have good careers locally and regionally with a few having global reach! On the Soundsystem, we take the spirit of showcasing African talent on every album, in every party, not just the biggest names as you can see from the project but also the names, DJs, producers, and artists that have so much sauce but might not yet be as popular.
WWD: DJ Edu, as a leading promoter of African music, how do you see the growth and global impact of genres like afrobeats and afropop? What excites you the most about the current state of African music?
Edu: To see that our music does not need to be diluted to be consumed globally is the most exciting thing! And it shows how powerful this is! It’s only up and up from here
WWD: The album showcases a fusion of African and international sounds. Can you discuss the importance of bridging cultures through music and how it influences your creative process?
Eazi: we are all global animals, we live in a world that gets smaller and smaller with the internet, so a kid in Kigali might be consuming Baila Funk or K-pop and vice versa, so there is no real intention to bridge, it happens naturally and the music is an expression of who we are what you hear is what’s from inside as global animals that we are! Products of our environment.
WWD: With over 4 billion streams and groundbreaking collaborations, MR Eazi, you have achieved tremendous success as an artist. How has your journey shaped your musical vision, and what drives you to keep pushing boundaries?
Eazi: I think boredom is the biggest driver followed by freedom! Boredom in the sense that I hate to be at the same spot and do the same thing and it weaves into the freedom to move, to not be bound by genre or career norms theses are the drivers and these are what inspire me to keep moving and it shapes my vision I always wanna do a new thing, try a new mix, etc.
WWD: DJ Edu, being a key figure in breaking the careers of many African artists, what criteria do you look for when selecting music to feature on your radio show? How do you discover new talent?
Edu: I’m a music nerd so I keep searching literally almost all day, researching work but also now I have a reputation for consuming music for what it is! Music! And so people send me not just the big stuff but all the beautiful stuff and I’m always happy to sift through like a kid in a candy store!
WWD: The album includes tracks that highlight different aspects of club music and dancefloor experiences. Can you share a memorable moment or story from the recording process or a live performance that captures the essence of Choplife Soundsystem?
Eazi: I remember whilst we were recording until late with Mellow and Sleazy, they had a show and just went straight from recording the song, exporting it, and boom, playing in the club on the same night and watching people dance to a song they just heard for the first time and make moves that seemed like they had rehearsed a choreography lol! This was for the song ‘Collect’, that’s the freedom and unusualness of the ChopLife Soundsystem, it’s no rules – we could put out another album today even!
WWD: What do you believe sets Choplife Soundsystem apart from other dance music projects, and what do you hope listeners will take away from the album?
Eazi: first off this is an African music Soundsystem that seeks to give everyone authentic motherland vibes! It’s first of its kind so on just that alone I think it’s fresh! The live experiences we are looking to build and build, and take elements of global dance and EDM presentation in lighting and production and mix it with the dancers and drummers from African it’s almost like this new cocktail.
WWD: As artists who have achieved global recognition, what advice do you have for aspiring musicians who want to make an impact with their music and reach a wide audience?
Edu: if you have an idea, a melody, just do it! There are no limits!!
WWD: Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of Choplife Soundsystem? Are there any specific goals or collaborations you would like to pursue?
Eazi: We wanna go to more countries, spend 30 days, make music with the local talent and then start to take it to other parts of the world and connect the dots musically the base of everything will be African music!! We wanna take the live experiences to places where there have not been these events. I guess the more random the destination is, the more likely we will live to go there! Eventually, we wanna do festival stages as ‘Choplife Soundsystem’, just like ‘Major Lazer SoundSystem’, I don’t think there are any limits.
WWD: Finally, can you give us a glimpse into the creative process behind your music? How do you collaborate and bring your individual styles together to create the unique sound of Choplife Soundsystem?
Eazi: I Like to experiment and make so much music but Edu has the ears and the discipline, if it were left to me, the album would have 100 songs lmao, but Edu as a DJ selecta, is able to listen like a DJ and select elements or songs that go together like bread and butter. I think the randomness of me and the discipline of Edu is what makes this entire thing possible! And not boring.