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A review of ‘Trench to Triumph’ album by Nigerian artist Crayon

Having been at the fringes since making his debut in 2019, Crayon has had to sit and watch his label mates achieve success while keenly waiting for his turn and wondering if it would ever happen for him.

For Crayon, talent, ability, or even effort wasn’t the issue. So his case is similar to that of several artists who needed the universe to align in their favour and grant them the luck needed to connect with mass listeners and rocket their career to a commercial level.

Crayon had to wait 4 years, but luck did come in the form of his 2022 Sarz-produced smash hit single ‘(Ijo) Laba Laba’ which placed him one foot into the mainstream. He followed up with a defining chorus on Mavin‘s mega-hit ‘Overloading’ that further established him as a talent whose time has come.

After gaining mainstream success Crayon and his label quickly went in search of the brand identity needed in sustaining the success through an underlining compelling story. He called himself “Captain Hook” and tried to get listeners to co-sign the idea of him being the industry’s chorus master. However, the identity he sought wasn’t tied to his newfound success rather, it lay in his humble beginnings, and like several artists, it’s this rush of nostalgia and the gratitude and sobriety it inspires that shapes Crayon’s identity as the kid who made it out of the hood.

His debut album ‘Trench to Triumph’ is a representation of this identity as he shares his grass-to-grace journey in a bid to sell a plausible story through a beautiful body of work that doesn’t lose its appeal despite its obvious strategic layout.

Interestingly, Crayon’s story as a kid from the Trenches started after he found success with ‘Ijo (Laba Laba)’ the lamba-infused Amapiano cut that finally got him to connect with a large listener base. There was footage of him visiting his alma mata and in interviews, he captured the experience of growing up in a poor neighbourhood.

Having created a narrative, he had to back it with befitting music and a track like ‘Modupe’ which is gospel inspired record allowed him to employ relatability in a way many acts have done after making it out of the hood.

It’s this mindset that leads up to the album and while he makes an impressive effort to balance it out with easily enjoyable romantic singles and party-starters, the general idea was to inspire the attention of everyday listeners whose reality he shares.

Crayon’s desire to sustain his place in the mainstream is notable in his flow, writing, and cadences which employs quintessential Afrobeats element which although have always been present in his music but now packs a balance of street-relatable elements through lamba, gospel, and grass to grace theme.

“I fought so many wars, I have been through many struggles,” he says in the church-inspired opener ‘Calvary Kid’ where he offered insights into the days of the bleak midwinter while expressing gratitude to those who helped him through the trying time.

In ‘Trench Kid’, he revisits the past struggles with Oxlade (an artist who also has a similar career trajectory) and reveals that a desire to make it out of poverty was indeed what kept him going.

On one hand, is the story of his struggles in the Trenches, and on the other, is the story of his Triumph. Crayon celebrates overcoming his struggles and he doesn’t shy away from flaunting his success albeit doing so in humility and gratitude.

In the party-starter ‘The One’ featuring Amapiano hitmakers Yaba Buluku Boyz, Crayon talks himself up and flexes his success and he repeats this in ‘Good Day’ where he talks about popping bottles, holidaying in Santa Monica, and wearing designers.

Even when he sings about love in the impressive Pop record ‘Ngozi’ with label mate and fast-rising international superstar Ayra Starr, Crayon still talks about his success while promising a love that comes with a good time.

Born and raised in Lagos States, Crayon pays homage to the lessons and experiences he picked up on the streets in ‘L’Eko’ in a record that packs street-relatable writing and sonics. The street-relatable style is highlighted in ‘Wetin Go Be’ and ‘Belle Full’ where he finds impressive pockets while employing ragga flows.

Although crafted to tell a story of Trenches to Triumph even from the cover art, the album smoothly balances different sounds to convey a comprehensive listening experience. The tracks flow steadily into each other with packing a sonic harmony that’s complemented by befitting collaborations that highlight the records.

Between the reflective tracks, love numbers, feel-good records, and party-starters, different tracks serve different purposes and cater to different tastes. The productions stay elevated across all tracks as there is limited experimentation with the compositions kept mostly in familiar sonic territories through a decided effort to give listeners something easily relatable, tangible, and retentive.

‘Trench to Triumph’ highlights Crayon’s talent and most importantly, his desire to maintain an upward momentum. And although on the face of it, the album attempts to tell a story that some listeners might be reluctant to buy into, especially since the Grass to Grace narrative seems to be a branding creation, there’s an impressive effort to tie it to quality music.

Crayon has waited for his time in the limelight. He has been through the bleak mid-winter. And now he’s an artist whose time has come.

Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.6/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.7/2

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