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The Come Up, Finding His Sound, and Sharing His Journey: A Conversation With Crayon

Hailing from Ebonyi State, Charles Chibueze Chukwu, professionally known as Crayon, has made a name for himself through his music.   His story is one of an underdog rising to the top despite the odds. Just as he alluded to it in his debut album title, “Trenches to Triumph,” Crayon has moved up the ladder from the hoods of Lagos to where he is now. He is signed to Mavin Records alongside recording artists such as Rema, Ayra Starr, Crayon, Johnny Drille, Ladipoe, Magixx, Boy Spyce, Bayanni, and Lifesize Teddy. In such a star-studded crew, he has carved his path and told his story through his music in a way only he can. Crayon is here to stay, and after sharing his story to the top with his fans, he is ready to share his present with them. In an interview with iMullar, we catch up on his interesting journey, his wins, and his plans for the future.

Can you take us back to your early encounters with music? 

I was five, I think. Back then, my dad used to sell records, so he would randomly play music from Shaggy to Michael Jackson to Westlife. My love for music started here. Growing up, we moved from Orile to Ojo, both in the trenches in Lagos.  I realised I could sing when I noticed I was hitting notes while washing dishes or cleaning. In school, when they had talent shows, I would always be at the forefront, be it singing or dancing. I had become very good at mimicking anything I saw on TV so I would mimic the cool kids in school and what they did. At some point, I realised I had two amazing talents, music and football, and I had to pick one because it would be impossible to do both as they both required dedication. Football was and still is my first love, though.

Who were the artists that first sparked your passion for creating music?

Artists that sparked my passion for creating music are Michael Jackson, like I said earlier, 2face, Wizkid, Davido, the entire ….(3:49) crew at the time, I like Drake as well, Justin Bieber; because my dad sold records, I had access to a lot of different genres, I would listen to artists from Jayz, Bob Marley, Beyonce, 50 Cent to Bracket, Timaya, and others; it was crazy. 

Growing up in Orile and Ojo, how did your experiences there influence your sound and artistry? What was the journey like from there to joining the Mavin Records family?

It influenced my music so that I could sing about my experiences growing up and how real-life situations influenced my thinking. I had to grow up quickly as the eldest child. I had a childhood, but I had to mature fast, telling myself my parents weren’t getting any younger. We were poor, but my mom always made sure we had the best clothes. There were times when we could barely afford to pay my fees and our house rent, even though at the time it wasn’t that expensive, like 15 or 20k. Things like that influence my music. 

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What was the journey like from there to joining the Mavin Records family?

The fact that I could come from that to Mavin to being the global superstar that I am now is a dream come true, it doesn’t happen often, and I don’t take that for granted, I feel like it has to do with grace, God, hard work, persistence, and stubbornness! You have to be stubborn about your goals to change your situation,  to be who I am right now, and that’s what inspired my debut album, Trench to Triumph; I moved from where I was to where I am right now, where people recognize me everywhere I go globally. It’s crazy. 

How would you describe the evolution of your sound since joining Mavin?

For me, even in the songs I put out back in the day before I joined Mavin, my music has always been ahead of its time; most of my hit songs are classics. I’m the kind of guy who always likes to evolve and try new things; you can’t put me in a box and say this is the only thing or genre Crayon can do.

What’s it like to be part of such a successful label alongside established artists like Rema, Ayra Starr, Ladipoe, and the rest of the team? How does being on the Mavin team influence your creative process?

It’s a big family; everyone is happy about everyone’s success; we always show up for each other; and we move as a team and as a unit where everyone has a role to play. I’m excited to be a part of Mavin, and I couldn’t ask for a better team. It’s a beautiful family and the best team in the world, and I’m grateful for that.

Mavin is known for pushing Afrobeats to a global audience. How does it feel to contribute to this mission?

It’s a dream come true. When I was in the ‘hood, I would say, “Just imagine if I got signed to Mavin.” I would always say that randomly to my friends, so when I got the call from Baby Fresh in 2017 and he said, “Yo, pull up with your producer and your material,” I went to the studio. I was so young back then, and the following year I moved in fully. To see what has been accomplished between then and now is insane. I’m so proud to be a part of the team, and I feel like the journey is only getting started, there’s always a next level; I’m never going to be like, Okay, I’ve “arrived,” I’ll always want more, and I feel like that’s a part of growing up in Lagos; you’re always on your toes, always going to want more regardless of how much success you have. 

Are there any genres outside of Afrobeats that inspire your music?

I always say my music is like a pack of crayons with different colors in it. When you discover my music, you always hear different kinds of sounds, but at the end of the day, the foundation is still Afrobeats. I’m an Afrobeats artist; Afrobeats is everything I do; I just bring different elements into it, and I bring colors into the music.

Your recent project, “Trench to Triumph,” has been a massive success. Can you walk us through the inspiration and creative direction behind it?

Trench to Triumph is the story of my come up, of where I came from to where I am in my career now, living my dream and carrying my city on my back, letting them know that I am still a Lagos boy, that guy that came from Ojo but the boy is global now, shutting down shows in Paris, shutting down O2 with my brother Rema. A big shout out to my A/R for working with me through the project, to the producers from Sarz, who produced Ngozi and Ijo (Laba Laba), Jazzy for producing L’Eko, the amazing songwriters like Dino and Embryo, my engineer, and everyone else who played a part. It was a beautiful process for me and did not come with any pressure because I was telling my story. You can hear it from Calvary Kid, a spiritual song inspired by a time when I was fighting some spiritual battles, to Trench Kid, where I tell the story of how I used to do certain things to help myself and hustle to afford the studio, to Ngozi to Ijo (Laba). Just bangers back to back. A big shout out to Victony, Ayra Starr, the Yaba Bukuku boys, Oxlade, and Magixx. It’s just a beautiful story that needs to be told. Now I’m in another phase, planning my next project, and I’m excited for the future.

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What are your aspirations for your music? Where do you see yourself taking Afrobeats and your sound in the future?

I’m in a space where I’m just living my dreams and making music. I’m currently in love, so I would like to give you guys a quick EP with love songs, me expressing how I feel right now. As an artist, you need to carry your fans along in your growth and evolution. A quick EP for my girlies and lover boys.

If you could collaborate with any artist in the world, who would it be and why?

Justin Beiber is one person I looked up to a lot coming up. From the moment I decided to become an artist, I looked up to Justin Bieber, Drake, and Bryson Tiller because of their songwriting prowess, as well as Chris Brown and Davido. The list for me is endless. Collaborations take the music further and Afrobeats is international but there’s still a lot more to be done and we’re never going to stop working. 

iMullar is a platform that celebrates African youth culture. What message do you have for aspiring young musicians across the continent?

I would say to believe in yourself. A lot of things will make you doubt yourself. I had the same doubts coming up, and I still have some doubts myself. Believe in yourself and put God first. Remember that it takes a village and you need a team that genuinely cares about your music and cares about you as a person, and God will take care of the rest.

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The iMullar is the voice of emerging African music and the lifestyle that surrounds it, showcasing exceptional talent from all around the globe focused on promoting the most distinctive new artists and original sounds, we are the authority on who is next.