“This is my first time in America and I’m touring with my brothers Rema and Victony. It is an amazing and eye opening experience. It is a dream come true seeing my music take me this far”
This was Crayon’s first statement during this conversation with MoreBranches. A worthy credit to MAVIN known for their undeniable tenacity when it comes to bringing forth an artist to the limelight, equipping them with essential information and training needed to succeed in the music sphere. All these are done using their A-game in scouting for talents and artist development academy.
Crayon signed to MAVIN record label, as he says, has different underlying talents and in music just like a pack of crayons with various colors, he possesses different shades of musical prowess. The effervescent artist understands the significance of early beginnings as it has a significant role in shaping our lives.
The hood of Ojo, in Lagos, is undoubtedly an environment that offers tough choices to choose from and it becomes evident when it’s time to align yourself for a promising future. Despite the barriers, Charles Chibueze Chukwu (Crayon) has found a unique pattern to break free from challenges that associated him with the hood he grew up in.
Trench to Triumph being his debut album celebrates this win and accommodates the themes of love, humility and hyper-fun club bangers. It is a reflective album that projects his life at the moment- Triumph. From “Calvary Kid” being the first track on the album, the solemn rather gospel-like song is a story of early strifes. A proper conversation about his journey so far is rather a step further to grasp the mindset behind the album.
Walk us through your journey so far and how it has led you to this point. Did you start in a church band like some artists did?
Crayon: I was a member of the church band but not fully into it. I got introduced to music when my dad back in the day sold music CDs from 50 cents, Bob Marley, Olamide, Wizkid, Mo’Hits crew, Burna Boy, P-square, Tuface Idibia, Michael Jackson. My mum also played a lot of Christian songs especially in the morning like Akanchawa. All these made me have so much access to music and I feel music picked me.
When I was growing up back in the trenches, I would wash plates outside while singing and my neighbours would wonder why I couldn’t just wash plates without singing and this made me realize that I could sing. I joined the choir when I was young and at the time, I had a crush on a girl who was the choir mistress so she made me join but I was too shy then I decided to stop.
In secondary school, I was well known for entertainment, playing football,I would attend birthday parties and win a lot of gifts. I have always had that “Star Boy factor” in me due to my success in all these things which has laid a great platform for me.
I took the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams several times but it was not a success. I had to talk to my parents about my interests in making music even though I ought to have been enrolled at a football academy after my primary school but we could not afford it. I assured my parents that I would go back to school but for now, I want to try music.
I started making music without a manager or a team just Ozedikus popularly known as Ozedikus Nwanne and some of my guys. I don’t know how my songs got to MAVIN; I never posted on Instagram or Twitter because I didn’t have a smartphone at the time but I was discovered. All my songs were played on City Radio during this segment called “Push and Play” . It was meant for upcoming artists and it was the first time such a thing happened in my environment.
When I came back from church one Sunday, I got a message from a friend saying Baby Fresh reached out to me and wanted me to come to the studio on the Island and I was in shock and even doubted it until I saw the message and it was from a verified account on Instagram. I went with Ozedikus and we met Baby Fresh then proceeded to the studio. Immediately we opened the door, I saw Don Jazzy, Dr. Sid, Tega, DJ Big N and I prostrated to greet them. That experience changed my life because I started to gain recognition in the hood; I became an instant celebrity at home.
When I was finally leaving the hood, no one knew about it except my parents who instructed me not to inform anyone. All I did was pack a few things into my school bag and leave.
I see myself like a pack of crayons; different colors which can be blended to get new shades and that is why my sound is ever evolving.
After your single, “Gock am” which is a solid hit, how would you say your sound has evolved over time?
Crayon: My sound is ever changing. My sound during my first EP, “Cray Cray” is definitely different from how it is now. Most people wouldn’t have expected me to sing a song like “Calvary Kid” but I did and this shows how I make efforts to leave my comfort zone to try something new. I’m mostly known for making party or romantic songs but I made a solemn one this time around. I see myself like a pack of crayons; different colors which can be blended to get new shades and that is why my sound is ever evolving.
You’re signed to one of the most successful record labels in Nigeria, how has it been like working with the MAVIN Crew?
Crayon: MAVIN is a family who constantly has my back. I like to describe MAVIN as a football team where everyone works in different departments with the end goal being to create an exceptional project and experience. I’m grateful to be a part of them and play my part.
Officially being signed in 2019, this is your debut album, is there a specific reason why you took your time?
Crayon: For me, I believe it is important to take my fans along with me on every step of my journey so I wanted to prepare them by dropping singles, EPs before an album. I see it from the perspective of a child taking slow but steady steps before running. I see my decision to release an album now as growth and that’s why the album is named “Trench to Triumph” which signifies where I started and where I am.
“Trench to Triumph” let’s talk about the story behind the album especially the cover art
The album cover signifies me as a child in the trenches. Looking at it, there is a boy wearing a jersey (this is my love and passion for football), the cross on top of the building represents hope and I’m standing directly underneath which means I have hope.
The girl holding the rosary represents my spirituality and love for God. The woman selling fish represents my mother who sold items back in Iyana Oba. The cover art shows my life in the trenches and how I have triumphed.
Do you have a favorite single off the album? If yes, why is it your favorite?
It changes every time and it depends on my mood. I think that is the beautiful thing about the album, it caters to different people and their mood. Are you in a good or loving mood ? “Ngozi” is for you, are you in a solemn mood getting ready for church, “Calvary Kid” is for you or you want to dance, “Ijo la ba” would be top on your list.
“Na who live for Ojo go understand the story” This was a comment on your official Instagram page, which you liked and pinned. Can you tell us how significant Ojo is to your story?
I grew up in Ojo and I must tell you, Ojo is a tough environment! I was born in Orile though I lived in Ojo, my experiences were not the prettiest. The environment opened my eyes a lot especially in aspects of what type of life do I want to live? Most people on the good side are either playing football or are into music and those on the bad side, could be into drugs,gambling etc. It is best described as “Survival of the fittest” so making it out of the hood and becoming a superstar, is my way of letting people know that you can actually achieve your dreams and live a good life. Most of my slangs are inspired by my days in Ojo. Most times, it takes only one who grew up in Ojo to understand.
Back to cover art, “Belleful” which is a single of your album which features Victony, had a Nollywood retro vibe, why that unique style for a single cover?
Firstly a big shout out to my A&R team! Rima came up with the idea, I initially wanted a simple cover but she came up with the twist which I love because once again, it resonates with my early beginnings. My father sold records as well as movies at his shop at Alaba market.
Asides music, what will you say are some of your non-negotiable moral values?
My peace. I won’t trade my peace for anything. I’m insatiable and a high achiever. I always want to reach my highest potential though I’m content with what I have achieved but I always look out for more.
My family is also a great priority. I take care of everyone dear to me and we necessarily don’t need to be family by blood, just the fact that you care and watch out for me, you are part of my family.
I’m also strong willed. I do not let anyone pressure me into anything I do not want to do. My spirituality is also non-negotiable, I love God but I do not discriminate against other religions.
Trust your guts! Take it one step at a time, aim for growth not perfection and when it is your time, it is your time.
For artists who want to leave Ojo considering how you have inspired them, what advice would you give to them?
Invest in yourself. Start from where you are with what you have available and grow from there. Make use of your social media, post your freestyles and be consistent.
Follow recent updates in the industry. In today’s world, CDs no longer cut the chase so you need to move with the industry and align yourself properly. Trust your guts! Take it one step at a time, aim for growth not perfection and when it is your time, it is your time.
You are on tour, dropped singles, an album, what next is Crayon working on?
I have music videos in the works till then I just want to keep connecting with my fans nationally and internationally. A lot of good things are ahead so everyone should be on the lookout.