Cheque: In the eye of growth [Pulse Interview]
In February 2019, Cheque signed to Phyno’s Penthauze Music.
In February 2019, Cheque signed to Phyno’s Penthauze Music. But before then, he was signed to another label alongside an artist named DML. The contract earned him and DML a house before it expired in the final months of 2017. DML and Cheque then moved in with a friend who owned recording equipment.
DML became Fireboy DML who became a YBNL artist in 2019 and Cheque found his confidence before joining Penthauze. A few weeks ago, he released Razor EP - his second body of work and his first under Penthauze.
Kyle B atObafemi Awolowo University
Between 2011 and 2016, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife produced some glowing talents for Nigerian music. Around the time, Cheque became friends with OAU alums like Blaqbonez, Fireboy, Chinko Ekun, Gbasky, Zamorra and more.
When they graduated in 2016, Cheque says everyone at the school felt something like that might never happen again. He says, “Even when you’re slacking off, you will see another one of your friends making great music and get inspired. It drove us and made us better.”
In his second year of studying Chemical Engineering, Cheque switched from his more familiar ‘bookworm persona’ after he found music.
Looking back he says, “In my first two years, I was a First Class student. Then, I saw Zamorra [who sang ‘Importanter’] making music as a rapper, so I got inspired and felt like I could do it too. Zamorra also gave me my first name, Kyle B.
“When music hit me in second semester 200-Level, I couldn’t hold it because that’s the kind of person I am. The problem was that I was very terrible when I started. Everybody was better than me and they used to mock me. Bro, one day in 2014, we were all in the dorm, laughing and joking about one of my lines.
“In that place, I laughed with them o [laughs], but when I got downstairs, I started crying - I felt helpless and didn’t know what to do. I asked God why I was that terrible. I think I cried because they had also done it in the presence of girls. In my mind, I told myself that the people jesting about me will want to feature me someday.
“I didn’t know how, but I wanted it to happen really bad. That’s why I like saying words with posterity in my music these days.”
As Kyle B, Cheque released the five track EP, S.O.O.N EP in 2015. It featured Fireboy [then DML], Chinko Ekun and Zamora. Nonetheless, Kyle B knew that he had to improve. Around this time, Kyle B was also battling severe confidence issues.
Even though he can now see that he was improving all along, he was harder on himself at the time. Before he released that EP, he also had a brief stint on the Hennessy Artistry. Cheque describes that experience as, “Arrrggh, terrible… It was bad for me and Blaqbonez. That’s why we had to go back for the event.”
Becoming Superboy Cheque
A little while later, Kyle B was “still really bad” but was “improving” and getting some plaudits. He changed his name to Superboy Cheque because he realized that he hated the name, Kyle B - which people also had a problem pronouncing.
“I think I also felt the name was too abstract for this terrain. Although, people used to jokingly call me ‘Check’ after I kept saying, ‘Mic Check’ at an event, I was brainstorming names for my new Snapchat account when I heard ‘Superboy Cheque’ out from nowhere - I stuck with it. The next thing I did was change my Snapchat and Instagram handles to SuperboyCheque,” he says.
Signing to and leaving Cruel Station
In 2017, Cheque and DML were signed to a label called Cruel Station. They got an apartment and some facilities with it. Cheque says he wasn’t even frustrated by the terrible time at Cruel Station.
He jokes, “Bro, frustration only comes when you have a target. At that time, I was just living my life on vibes [laughs]. Even my ‘S.O.O.N EP,’ I didn’t really care about it. I mean, I had dreams but I also lacked confidence and direction. Cruel Station brought us from school together and signed us together after we graduated in 2016, but...”
They didn’t release anything under the label. Before they knew it, the one year trial contract expired and they were left on the streets.
DML couldn’t go back to Abeokuta, Ogun State, where his family is based and Cheque couldn’t go back to Ondo State, where his Police Officer mother is based. They stuck it out at Flonerd's place - he was a friend.
There, they had recording equipment, a bed and food - all courtesy of Flonerd. Sometimes, hunger even inspired the music. But looking back, Cheque says, “That guy is one of the best things that ever happened to us because we had nowhere to go. If I wasn’t squatting with that guy, I would have gone back to Ondo.”
Over the next year, they recorded like never before because it was the only thing they had. It was also around this time that Cheque started freestyling on Instagram.
Cheque was bereft of confidence when he started recording Instagram rap videos in 2018. Having just left an ill-fated record deal behind, he needed to test his creative juices. Interestingly, it was during that phase that he found the confidence that still guides him today.
He says, “I thought to myself that if I could go hard for five years after that era, I could become one of the biggest acts in the world. I felt like I could create something that the whole world could like. Before, I used to struggle with lines and mumble words a lot.
“Freestyles allowed me to express myself with freedom. Around that time, I also started rapping without writing a word. Till this day, I still don’t write.”
One day in the middle of 2018, Cheque got a random DM from Phyno. His excitement waned after he didn’t hear from Phyno again for a couple of months. Phyno came back with more enthusiasm and vim, and Cheque signed to Penthauze in February 2019.
“I wasn’t making Afro-pop - I was rapping - so I didn’t think someone of that magnitude was going to reach out. Yes bro, I felt validated,” he says.
After years of doubt and pitfalls, Cheque found his confidence. These days, it feels like he was meant to be doing music all along because he put in his 1,000 hours to master his craft. He claims he doesn’t write music down these days, but the most important thing is that he records every other day.
He would record every other day but according to him, “You know I’m kinda new, bro. I have to use the beats that I have… (laughs).”
The Sung-rap, Cloud Rap/Emo style of ‘Zoom’ is where he feels the most comfortable. But he feels so confident these days that he did Afro-pop for the first time on ‘Loco,’ ‘Satisfied’ and ‘Odun,’ and feels like he’s been doing it for years.
‘Loco’ is the oldest song on Razor EP.
Yoruba man with Igbo looks
Cheque was born Akanbi Bamidele Brett in Okitipupa, Ondo State and he grew up in Ondo Town, Ondo State. These days, he thinks that he’s also partly Igbo because he’s affiliated with the very Igbo Penthauze, but he’s Yoruba.
He says, “I’ve been hearing it since I was attending OAU and I don’t really take it seriously - I never did. But I’m Yoruba.”
Convincing his parents that their bookworm boy was going into music was hard, but they’re more confident these Penthauze days. As much as Cheque has more things these days, it’s still about the music and not the money.
When I brought his brand up, he replied with humility that he is just being himself and will always look to iron out questionable things in his brand.
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