By the time Mr Eazi and Temi Otedola arrived at their destination, neither of them had grasped that they had taken off. “We cannot say Este is the day we started dating,” Mr Eazi tells ESSENCE. “We just realized that ‘oh we’re in this.’”
The newly engaged couple’s introduction is easily the most traditional part of their relationship. Five years ago, they met in person through a family connection. At the time, Mr Eazi was working on the sound for his third mixtape by him, Lakes to Londona follow-up to his genre-breaking sophomore mixtape Accra to Lagos. Born Oluwatosin Ajibade, the buzzing artist had begun splitting his time between Lagos, a city where he’d spent formative years, and London, the latest city he’d set his sights on conquering musically. On a rare night out for the newcomer, one of Temi’s older sisters, who happens to be global DJ sensation Cuppy, invited him out to a gig she was playing. “Temi was there as well and she was being nice to me,” he says over Zoom as his fiancée smirks coyly across the screen. “By the end of the night, I took her number from her.”
After a streak of unresponsive texting on her part, the already famous “Skintight” singer grew frustrated. “What is she doing that she cannot respond to my message?” he remembers asking. “Lots!” she replies. Eventually, she decided to go out on a date with her new friend of hers. “It was a crazy night. It was like a 12-hour date!” she shares. The twosome went from seeing a Fela show at The Jazz Cafe in Camden to Temi reluctantly tagging along as Eazi was summoned for a radio interview. Following dinner and drinks, they bumped into friends and finished off the night at the club. “I ended up having to drop him home because he got a little too lit,” she giggles. “I felt like I had known him all my life after that night. That should’ve been a sign.”
Somewhere between transatlantic flights and conversations that spilled over from night into day, Eazi and Temi slowly began to accept that they were more than just friends. “I was literally at the airport about to board a flight to LA and I saw the British Airways going to London,” he exclaims, recalling a rash decision to break away from his tour to spend less than 24 hours across the pond with Temi for her birthday from her. “Imagine! For someone who you claim is your ‘friend,’” he says with air quotes. She bashfully admits to mentally making the leap from friends to potential lovers first. “For me, that birthday was like wow! That was the switch,” she says. “I thought ‘this guy is really special.’”
From a surprise trip on the historic Orient Express to Andrea Bocelli concert dates, grand gestures between the couple became more grand and intentional over their five years together. They would culminate in a magical proposal on the video set of Mr Eazi’s latest single “Legalize.” Departing from his penchant for spontaneity, I have spent two years plotting the moment alongside Temi’s assistant de ella. As explained in detail on their joint podcast “how far?” (Nigerian pidgin slang for “what’s up?”), he set aside money monthly to purchase a stone that he then painstakingly designed into a custom ring. The proposal itself turned out to be a lot less methodical. In fact, for a few months, I have transported an uninsured engagement ring across borders, waiting for the right moment.
The idea to propose while filming the music video came to Eazi after discovering that he’d subconsciously freestyled an entire song about Temi. In his signature drowsy tone, “Legalize” features the artist stating his intentions to take the next step. Having served as the song’s muse, she was unsuspecting when two weeks prior to the video shoot, he asked that she star as her leading lady. The video was shot entirely in Venice and is every bit a creative partnership as it is a tangible manifestation of their love. “We do a lot behind the scenes for each other’s careers but it has never been something so forward-facing,” Temi notes. She sprang into action, immediately developing an aesthetic for the shoot. “I made like 400 mood boards,” she exaggerates. The publicly private couple still managed to reserve a piece of the day for themselves, with the current proposal remaining absent from the video (possibly because Eazi nervously dropped the ring box while on one knee). “I want that memory in my head for all my life,” he says. “That trip was so perfect.”
Despite the fanfare generated by the video, the duo is clear that taking the next step will be much deeper than beautiful gowns and following tradition. In Yoruba culture, the ethnic group to which both Eazi and Temi belong, weddings are beyond a rite of passage, they’re a communal event. As Nigerian wedding culture continues to grow increasingly extravagant, the couple are putting to test years of practicing how to insulate themselves from external pressure. “We’re never gonna be that cookie-cutter, follow the rules couple. We’re not living for anybody else,” she remarks matter-of-factly. “We can get married next weekend if we feel like it and we’re going to make a marriage that works for us.”
While Eazi and Temi speak in sync, starting and completing each other’s quips with the effortlessness of a routine act, maintaining individuality is paramount to their relationship and will continue to be in their marriage. “We believe that the more you work on yourself, the better the relationship will be,” she says, explaining Mr Eazi’s decision to relocate to the Republic of Benin while recording his official debut album. The actress is booked and busy too, planning to shoot at least four movies this year. “We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” she says, “but we’re really not trying to change each other.”
With that in mind, the couple is still undecided about where their home base will be. True to their Pan-African ethos, maintaining a home on the continent isn’t up for debate. “Yes, we love to say we’re from Nigeria but at the same time, why should we know more about London than we know about Cotonou?” says Eazi. He waxes poetic about the importance of travel within Africa while dialing in from Rwanda where the emPawa Africa founder is attending the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. As we speak, the couple is trying to schedule their next meet-up.
For Mr Eazi, as he read his next project, he contemplated what city this era of his life would take him to. “It was always going from one place to another,” he says. “I thought the next journey would be to a destination but I think now it’s being in a very committed relationship with Temi and going on that journey as a unit.”
As for Temi, two months ago, at the screening for her latest movie The Man for the Job, Temi posted a photo crouched in a blinding white Andrea Iyamah dress, a bejeweled choker, and sporting pristine Bantu knots with the caption, “in my blessed era.” As her future husband is embracing the fullness of his role as a multidimensional creative/entrepreneur, she is setting her sights on Nigeria’s new Nollywood. They’ve hit their stride, winning professionally and personally, and can’t wait to see what comes next — together.
“It is just a feeling of peace,” Temi says through a smile that swallows her eyes. “I just feel so relaxed now. I have my person.” A blessed was indeed.
Article continues after video.