In May 2019, MAVIN announced the signing of its new artist. On the morning that he was announced, Pulse Nigeria got an exclusive. A few hours later, he featured on MAVIN compilation single, 'All In Order.'
Nonetheless, that didn't stop the interest, questions and Wizkid comparisons. Fast forward, he released his debut EP, Cray Cray barely two months later and it was magical. While his career is still in infancy, the promise is there for more. Already, he has released his first single of 2020 and it's titled, 'Kpano.'
The song is more famous its hilarious and coherently incoherent second verse. But behind the artist, there is a story. Before he was Crayon, he was Charles.
Charles discovers music
Born Charles Chibuezechukwu in Orile, Iganmu, Lagos to entrepreneur parents, Crayon is an indigene of Ebonyi State. From Orile, his family moved to Ojo, Iba, Lagos. Although he doesn't speak Yoruba fluently, he feels he's a core member of the Ojo community. After he heard talk that some people doubted his Ojo origins, he went back to his hood and got welcomed back like a King.
When Charles was young, his dad owned a CD shop. There, Charles fell in love with music and his life changed. He would play Usher, Zule Zoo, 50 Cent, Wizkid and so forth. He says, "We had all the albums you could think of in our house and I was always around music. I just dey there and music just dey around me."
Charles, his crush, the teen choir and early music days
When Charles was in primary school, he joined a teen choir. He was so talented that was the choir leader while his crush, Oluchi was the female choir leader. While he has not seen Oluchi in years, Charles shared a sit with her in school for about five years. Speaking about her, Crayon says, "If she comes back, you never know (I might date her)."
When asked about the prospects of making music about Oluchi, he says, "You never know - it's just about the vibes (laughs while blushing)." At the time, Charles only joined the choir because members of his family would acknowledge his voice when he would casually sing in the bathroom or while performing chores.
Soon after, Charles grew up and got shy at the age of 14 or 15. Nonetheless, as he consumed music from his favourites like P Square, Wande Coal he would still sing in private. Then later, he discovered Justin Bieber and Drake - those were the game-changers. His love for Justin Bieber pushed out his creative side - Charles waned to be like Justin Bieber.
Charles meets Ozedikus: Depression, becoming July and Radio Play
After Charles passed out of high school, he wanted to progress to University. However, after writing UTME for a fourth time, he got frustrated. One day, he came back home after his plea to a University to admit him for study Food and Nutrition proved abortive. There decided to pursue a career in music - this was 2016.
On that experience, he says, "All my friends were in school, but I was in the streets and it got boring. I'll tell you what; I was depressed from January to December 2015. When school wasn't working, I began to hug consider my passions; football (my nickname was Coutinho) and music. Then, I prayed to God to give me direction on what would benefit my future - music found me.
"Coincidentally, when I wanted to start making music, it was when my friend, Nos moved into our hood. Coincidentally, the day I decided to go to the studio, I met Ozedikus - he was just there, but we just clicked. It was just God's orchestration and his blessings."
Then, he took the name, 'July' (before he became Crayon) and together with Ozedikus and Nos. Together, they recorded seven songs. The team dropped it in the hood with no promotion or guidance.
He says, "I chose that name (July) because I was born in July. Then, we had to distribute to radio stations. People don't know that, but I waka o - I carry my song go different radio stations. It was Ozedikus and I that were taking the songs through all these platforms."
Ozedikus, Nos and July were running on pure passion and the power of WhatsApp and Facebook. It shocked them one day when someone gave them a shout-out from South Africa.One of those songs was July's first single, 'Orobo Love.' Then one day, while holding his Nokia 'torchlight' phone, July heard his song on the radio.
That feat made him the first artist in his hood with a song on the radio - he lost his mind. On that day, he says, "I remember that day, it was a Friday. It was funny because a day prior, my friends were joking that, 'We hear your song for radio o.' One day later, I heard my song on City 105.1 FM. It was played by Super Prince without payola or anything - he just liked the song."
When he took his song to City 105.1 FM, it was July's first time in Agidingbi, Lagos. He had never gotten out of his hood before. He says, "I asked my friend to follow me to Agidingbi, but he was scared. I was young then, but I went alone (laughs). I just remembered what my mom used to tell me, 'Never ask for directions from young people, ask from market women - they can't tell you nonsense.'
"That was how I found my way to City FM. At the gate, I met Melody Hassan who was still an intern at the time - I told her this story when I went for an interview on her show and she didn't even remember. But she was very nice to me - I took it to all the radio stations but only City FM played the song."
July becomes Crayon and meets Baby Fresh
In the final months of 2016, July changed his name to Crayon. During this run, Crayon found support from his hood. One of his peers; a friend called K.O.B was his biggest fan who used to hype and push him. Before K.O.B passed, he had a friend at MAVIN - his name was Seun MAVIN. K.O.B gave Crayon's song to Seun who would play the song at the MAVIN building till Baby Fresh took note.
One day in early 2017, Crayon had just got back from Church when he got a DM that read, "Hi, I'm Baby Fresh. Please come to this address with your producers and everything." Crayon ignored the message at first - he thought he was being scammed. But then, Crayon checked again to confirm the origin of the message. When he confirmed, he called Ozedikus and they left from Mile 2 to Lekki on a bike.
On the issue of bikes, Crayon says, "Now I feel worse about the bike ban because it's part of my story (laughs). I know why bikes were banned, but the worse the government could have done was create an alternative before the ban."
Back to MAVIN, Crayon and Ozedikus were at the reception waiting for Baby Fresh for three hours, Crayon was bored and he took a photo of the MAVIN logo and posted on his Facebook page. From just that post, his hood went crazy.
On how that day went , Crayon says, "When BabyFresh came to the lobby to take Ozedikus and I, I didn't expect to even see Don Jazzy. The moment I saw Don Jazzy, I prostrated and he was like, 'Sit down (mimics Don Jazzy's voice) (laughs).' Ozedikus also lost his mind. Baby Fresh heard some of my songs and expressed his interest in working with me.
"He particularly liked one of my songs, 'Long Throat' and since then, it's been blessing all the way."
Crayon at MAVIN and meeting Rema, Tiwa Savage and Davido
From when he went to MAVIN to see Baby Fresh in early 2017, Crayon would alternate between Ojo, Lagos and MAVIN - spending two days in each location. This happened for the rest of 2017. In early 2018, Crayon moved into the MAVIN house fully. Shortly after, another kid moved in and his name was Rema.
Together, they would grow and learn at studio sessions and attend live shows by Tiwa Savage, Reekado Banks Korede Bello and more. During this process, both young artistes also became friends and even brothers. They went from playing video games together to getting really close.
On that issue, Crayon says, "This relationship is why I just laugh and say, 'Una nor know wetin dey happen...' when the media compares me to Rema, (laughs). We are family, man."
Through 2018, one memory that stays with Crayon was meeting Tiwa Savage. He narrates, "I think it was Baby Fresh's birthday and I was upstairs. Then, Baby Fresh came to call me and he introduced me to Tiwa Savage. I lost my mind and couldn't talk because I had a crush on her. She was nice to me and told me to sit close to her.
"There, I started texting my friends that I was sitting with Tiwa Savage. I took a picture and posted it."
Throughout this experience though, Crayon was not recording - as is standard MAVIN onboarding practice. He was learning and attending studio sessions. One of those days in the studio, he saw Davido breeze in to come record a song with Reekado Banks. For Crayon, it was a curve to, "Build my confidence at the time."
In first-quarter 2019, Crayon signed a deal with MAVIN. Shortly before then, he had started recording, but didn't know if he would get signed. All he wanted to do was just make music. To him, being at the MAVIN headquarters was success enough - he never thought he'd get there. Thus, instead of worrying about deals, he simply enjoyed the process and recorded without stress.
Before he signed the deal with MAVIN, Crayon studied record deals to know what he was getting - even though he had a Lawyer. He says, "Look, I don't joke with my craft. Google is your(my) friend - use it (laughs)."
When asked to describe MAVIN in one word, Crayon simple said, "Family."
Unveiling, All Is In Order and Cray Cray
On May 31, 2019, MAVIN unveiled Crayon as the new signee. This came just two months after Rema was unveiled. Just weeks before then, Rema was unveiled and he released the first of his three EPs, Rema EP.
A day later, Crayon was part of the ensemble for MAVIN's collaborative single, 'All In Order.' On July 12, 2019, he released his debut project, a 6-track EP, Cray Cray. The oldest single on that EP was 'Bamiloke.' Crayon recorded that song at a studio in Ojodu, Berger, Lagos. The song was inspired by the positivity he felt at the time.
Interestingly, 'Bamiloke' wasn't meant to be on the EP and the EP was meant to have five tracks. But on the insistence of Baby Fresh and Tega, 'Bamiloke' made the EP and the EP had six tracks.
When queried on his favourite song from the EP, he says, "It's between 'So Fine' and 'Gock Am' (laughs)."
In December 2019, Crayon had just returned from a show and he was angry. While he was downstairs, Ozedikus was downstairs in the MAVIN house, Ozedikus was making the beat that became, 'Kpano.'
Despite his anger, Crayon saw potential and asked Ozedikus for the beat and he was obliged. Due to that anger, he could not record that day. The next morning, he says, "I started vibing to the beat and Solo (my manager) told me to go record it immediately. Ozedikus was not around, so I called London (another music producer) and he went with me to he studio.
"So, I went to the studio channeled my anger into the song and it reflects into the song."
Crayon and Family
While Crayon was honing his craft at MAVIN, he had to leave home. On that experience he says, "My parents have always been supportive of my dreams. When I was younger, my mom used to give me money for studio sessions. At the time, she used to sell fruits at Iyana Oba - everyone knew her as 'Iya Carrot.' But that was before - now, thanks to the music she's no longer there.
"My Dad never had a problem with me pursuing a career in music. For him, he'd always say that regardless of the money I make, I should still go back to school. He'd always say, "Just do whatever you want as long as you're happy.""
On whether he would ever go back to school, Crayon says, "You never know, I just might go back to school. I would like to know more about the business side of music."
On the hilarious second verse on 'Kpano,' Crayon says, "The story behind that is simple. I was simply making references to the names my team and I call ourselves in the studio. For example, my manager is called 'Solo,' but we call him, 'Sologodo.' They call me, 'Crayon Omo.' That verse was just my way of bringing my reality into the music (laughs)."
Relationship with Reekado Banks
When Reekado Banks visited Pulse Nigeria in 2019, he was asked about the young acts he was feeling. While responding, he mentioned that he had a personal relationship with Crayon.
Crayon speaks on it that, "Reekado is my guy. He's like my big brother. Ever since the first day Baby Fresh introduced me to him at Davido's 2017 show, he's been nice to me. We were all at the Green Room in Eko Hotel when I was introduced to him and he's been really good to me. I would go to his house and do anything I wanted.
"I could call him now and tell him I'm coming - he'd accommodate me. There are even times I'd go to his house without calling him and he'd accommodate me - he also used to give me clothes, shoes, money and so forth. He's my brother. He thought me to be more confident and to be myself."
Crayon's teenage looks and Wizkid
The moment this writer saw Crayon's photo in a press release, he thought, 'This guy looks young.' When asked on the perception, Crayon says, "I don't feel underrated. If you wan underrate me, e mean say you go underrated Cristiano Ronaldo be that o because e nor get beard (laughs)."
Crayon's looks and style have attracted comparison to Wizkid, but Crayon feels such is disrespectful to Wizkid. He says, "Wiz has been in this game for a long time. I used to watch Wiz while I was in primary and secondary school. Wizkid is a living legend and I just dey start my career - my lane is different. Wizkid is a role model and a mentor"
Since his started 'popping,' Crayon has met Wizkid twice and on one of those occasions at Silverfox, Wizkid told Crayon that, "Hey brother, I am a fan (of your music)." Crayon says, "Wizkid is a very chill and nice person; a nice guy."
Inspiring the hood
After Crayon started featuring on TV, he has inspired numerous kids in his hood to start making music. To him, that's a bigger win than anything. - I feel good and I feel blessed. Crayon wouldn't force those kids to stay in school though. He would like them to simply seek guidance to carve out their paths.
He says, "I was in a school once where I was writing my post-UTME and suddenly, I got up and walked out. Some people judged me and thought I had no future. Even though I've not really made it like that, I'm better than they thought I would. So, you never know. For that reason, I wouldn't force anybody to do anything."
The rest of 2020
Crayon says he hates talking too much and instead prefers affirmative action. Thus, he refuses to put anything specific out there. Instead, he hopes his fans keep supporting him till he achieves his goals.