Crayon Is Defying Genre Expectations
The Nigerian artist’s evolution is unveiled in Trench to Triumph.
In the world of Afropop, where infectious rhythms and melodious storytelling often reign supreme,Crayon is carving his unique path. His latest project and grandest endeavour yet, Trench to Triumph, serves as a testament to his growth as both an artist and an individual.
Crayon’s music echoes a common narrative in Nigeria and beyond, where artists grapple with challenging backgrounds and economic hardships. Traditionally, such stories find their voice in genres like hip-hop or Nigerian street pop, where gritty delivery and raw lyricism align to depict the realities of one's origins. Crayon, however, defies convention.
The Nigerian artist burst onto the music scene in 2019 with his six-track EP, Cray Cray. The EP showcased his knack for weaving sunny melodies into everyday narratives. It was a pivotal year in Nigerian pop, marked not only by its global expansion but also by the emergence of fresh talents. Amid notable contemporaries like Rema, Fireboy DML, and Amaarae, Crayon's unassuming presence seemed like a genuine, unorchestrated attempt at crafting a superstar.
Tracks like "So Fine" and "Gock Am" from Cray Cray resonated with a familiarity that drew listeners in, captivating them with an irresistible charm that lingered long after the music stopped. Crayon's music effortlessly immersed them in its cherry quality, hinting at an artist who defies expectations and possesses the potential to leave an indelible mark on the Afropop landscape.
In his latest project, Crayon masterfully weaves the allure of modern Afropop. Trench to Triumph is a finely crafted work of art, striking a balance between the sugary sweetness often associated with pop music and moments of raw humanity and vulnerability. Crayon's unique blend of influences and his commitment to his material make this album a standout.
On tracks like "Ijo (Laba Laba)" and "The One (Chop Life)," we find Crayon in a more delicate and vulnerable state, shedding the weight of the world and its materialism. Trench to Triumph unveils some of the most compelling love-themed songs in Nigerian pop this year with "Ngozi," feauting label mate Ayra Starr, delivering one of her most impressive guest verses to date.
We had the opportunity to talk to Crayon about his new project, going on global tour with Rema, and how he's embracing his newfound superstardom.
This interviewed has been edited for length and clarity.
Talk to us about making your debut album, Trench to Triumph.
We’ve been recording this album since 2020, although at that time I had a different vision for it. I visited several places in Lagos: ICM, Fela's Shrine, my secondary school in Ojo, met the director and spoke to the kids and then I went back to where I was born in Orile, just to talk the people there. I came back home and was having a conversation with Babyfresh and he just said to me "this is a real trench to triumph story."
We had a meeting with Don Jazzy and Tega talking about this year’s calendar and I just told them the name. They liked it, cause if you look at it where I’m coming from—from Ojo to Mavin to me going back—it really felt like a triumph story from the trenches. Recording the album, I channeled my mind so I could make the songs that really tell that story and I’m really happy that people are enjoying it. Word on the street is that it has zero skips, that makes me extremely happy and excited because my team and I worked tirelessly to make sure we released a beautiful project.
What songs on the record stand out for you? "Ngozi" featuring Ayra Starr has been really blowing up.
To be fair, every record stood out for me , they’re all my babies. Making all of them was memorable. "Calvary Kid' really helped me talk about my struggles. "Trench Kid" was the fastest song I recorded, it just felt like I was reading out of a novel because I was telling my personal story that I witnessed with my eyes and so did Oxlade. We also shot the music video in Surulere and that wasn’t planned. The day of the shoot we drove to the location and Oxlade came into the car laughing saying ‘this is my home.’ I was confused and he said the houses we planned to shoot at were where he grew up. That wasn’t a coincidence to me. On the final day of my selection I decided I wanted Ayra on a song, but I didn’t want her on a song that everybody is expecting, I wanted her on a song with a really good beat so I decided on "Ngozi." Her influence is crazy on girls. After she posted one of two videos, girls started going crazy and i’m so happy about that because Ayra is a really supportive and amazing person.
How has your first global tour been?
It’s been really beautiful. I think the best thing my team did was to put me on tour before my album dropped. I was literally on a flight when it dropped, I had to schedule the post. I'm touring with my brothers, Rema and Victony. I’ve learnt so much from Rema, how he organises his shows and how he makes sure everything he does is done well—from the band, to the rehearsal, stage presence, charisma, crowd control—it's just really good to watch. I'm also about to go on my own solo tour so it was really important for me to go and see how it’s done.
What is success to you?
For me, success is your mom calling you and telling you she needs something and you being able to provide that. Success is me being able to have a house of my own. Me being on tour in America and people are singing my song word-for-word. Success is looking at where I came from and seeing a huge difference in where I am now. Success is me being able to help my friends and family.
What would you say has changed and evolved about your artistry?
I've always said: I’m Crayon. The same way a pack of crayons have different colors in it is the same way I am. I can wake up and give the world red and I can wake up on a different day and chose to be blue. Nobody thought I’ll be able to make a song like "Calvary Kid," something so solemn and spiritual, because people viewed me as a lover boy. In that song, I talk about really deep things and that's what music is all about for me, experimenting, trying new things, modifying my sound and just being able to work with several people. I was able to do that on this album so i'm really proud of that.