Quitting a high-paying job as an accountant with a top UK firm in June 2019 amid plans to jet back to Ireland alongside his sound engineer for the recording of his EP was a daunting decision he had to take. What he didn’t foresee was that a pandemic would later keep him within the confines of his room — away from the studio and the airport — enough to quash his long-time plans. To Crówn Adekiyesi, saying it was devastating is only an understatement. He’d seen tougher times.
As a business-savvy Accounting graduate, the Ibadan-born Afrobeat singer would create a thriving jewelry brand to keep the cold, hard cash surging in. Even he couldn’t believe what his own acumen had him do next. In no time, he’d rummaged through e-commerce sites for the gadgets with which to get a home studio up and running, so he gets to self-record — a thing he hadn’t done before — while his sound engineer does the mixing and mastering. After creating a full-blown EP in weeks of back-breaking work, Crówn mistakenly hit something that looked like a delete button.
Seeing a project he spent so much time working on vanish in seconds birthed red-hot rage, one he’d quickly poured into recreating the project in utter frustration with the unnerving beads of sweat trickling down his skull. It didn’t help that his sound engineer broke down sick with COVID amid the back and forth as though the devil’s pitchfork was poking. It was after these that Crówn’s ‘Humanity’ EP, the first track of which he’d put out recently, was born. In the five-track project, which marks his Afrobeat(s) debut, Crówn largely dwells on such a theme as nationhood.
“You can’t imagine what this EP put me through. I’d never self-recorded, so I had to learn online. In the process, I had mistakenly deleted the full EP. My laptop was basically saying I had no space; I needed to create one. Not being tech-savvy, I went on to delete all my data, documents, and basically, a full EP, which was an experience. I learned from that mistake. I had to re-record the EP again. So obviously that delayed my sound engineer who ended up contracting COVID. It was as though the devil was out to get me but it was a learning curve,” he tells TheCable Lifestyle.
Your ‘Humanity’ EP dwells on that socially conscious side of you. What’s the concept of the project?
Definitely, the EP touches on that side of me, the whole concept of which actually started sometime last year. You know the struggle of being an independent upcoming artiste in the industry. That’s where the initial concept came from. Plus, when you sit back and think of every single thing we’re going through generally as black people and what’s really going on across the world — there is the police brutality; the corruption. It’s something that someone has to talk about. To be honest, I just felt like it’s something that I had to do. A lot of people would ask me who I am to touch on those topics but it’s only my way of expressing myself as an artiste and a person through art and music.
The concept stems from what I’ve seen as an African growing up as an African boy. My view of the extended play is even beyond what I even wrote in all my song. When the whole EndSARS project started, I took a step back, not to say that what the youth were protesting wasn’t correct — they’re absolutely right — but there’s always a tendency that everyone points accusing fingers. We fail to shut the door and consider the parts we play in what’s going wrong.
As a musician, one struggles to reach radio stations and whomever, especially back home in Africa. The first thing everyone touches on is money. People go out; protest the vices of bribery and corruption in the police but the same thing goes on across radio and TV stations and the places that artistes who don’t have labels try to reach out to. The media personnel there demand something on the side, despite being paid wages. There’s so much to the concept of the EP. We all have to sit back, look within ourselves, and see how we can better Africa. Growing, I played Majek Fashek, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti. They’re unapologetic. That’s where the social concept and idea of the EP came from.
What informed your shift from the themes of love & relationship which are evidenced in your first singles to such things as nationhood, African unity, and social vices like institutional corruption?
(Sighs) You know, I’m glad you asked that question. The way I work as an artiste is that I write and create based on what is currently going on around me or what I’ve seen; what I have seen or what I’ve previously experienced in my last few releases. So any song I release has to have a story behind it. At the beginning of my first few songs, I used to say ‘Atutupoyoyo’, which means something ugly but suggests something beautiful—the art I’m creating—came out of it. Every single lyric; every single word I tend to write in my songs has a meaning. They often have a story behind them, so back then I was going through tough times in relationships that I started creating music from that stress.
That’s what got me into writing so during that period when I was doing the lovey-dovey kind of song, I was going through my own little dark space (laughs). Obviously, I came through it; music helped. I created; I released. People supported and now, you know, I just feel like, finally after experimenting with that, I found myself found my sound. I know what I’m about. I know who I want to be and why I’m creating what. I’m creating to stand up for my people, for my community, and for Africa. Not only standing up. In the long run, I want to be able to go back home.
I see myself as the Nigerian-African. I feel like, what other people weren’t able to finish, I can make an impact with my music and with what comes with the music. That’s why I shifted my ideology and my concept to you know, the unity of Africa and the institutional corruption around Africa and, you know, as you can see around the world.
So, at what point did you start recording? The experience making the EP; I want you to speak on it.
It was quite a stressful process. I had planned to travel abroad to go record it with my sound engineer. I’d already written the song around December 2019. So the EP was to be recorded by summer last year but COVID came. It was a tough time for recording and getting things together. I had to go online and buy my own equipment; gather my things into my room; record. I self-recorded it in my room. It wasn’t studio quality but I wanted to keep it; that originality of the rustiness of not being able to record in a studio due to the covid. I can’t keep fans waiting. So it was self-recorded, mixed, and mastered by my sound engineer program abroad in Ireland. It was lovely; stressful.
You can’t imagine what this EP put me through. I’d never self-recorded, so I had to learn online. In the process, I had mistakenly deleted the full EP. My laptop was basically saying I had no space; I needed to create one. Not being tech-savvy, I went on to delete all my data, documents, and basically, a full EP, which was an experience. I learned from that mistake. I had to re-record the EP again. So obviously that delayed my sound engineer who ended up getting COVID, which delayed the release. It was as though the devil was out to get me but it was a learning curve.
Even the writing process was really fun. One of the tracks in the EP actually came from a date night I went on with my partner. She was talking and we’re just playing about talking to each other in French. When the song is out you will see what I’m talking about. I was writing; I was recording. I grabbed the phone. That’s how one of the songs came about. You know, it’s a serious EP but, at the same time, there was a lot of fun during the recording process and there’s going to be a lot of fun to have while listening when the full EP is finally released next summer (June).
Before recording, I had spoken with one of my old-time favourites, Lagbaja. It was eye-opening. Fortunately, my parents knew someone who knew him. It’s a long story. He’s one of my idols and advised me. I even made reference to him in my one track. His creativity and live performances are dope. There is a lot of wordplay in ‘Africa Unite‘ where I made reference to him, which was to buttress how we point the fingers of blame. It’s a self-release so there’s nobody featured. I hoped to have Lady Donley on the EP but things didn’t fall through. I’ll still work with people.
Self-recording in your room must have been unthinkable. And mistakenly deleting the entire EP? Whew! How did you recreate the feeling enough to remake that musical standard you had initially?
(Giggles) Boy! Anytime I think back to then, it cracks me but it’s an experience I’m glad I had. It’s funny now but, at the time, it was really stressful. Recording in my room was definitely unthinkable. I was running around, trying to buy headphones; all the equipment including a laptop for a home studio. And then I record only to have everything deleted. It did save me the cost of going to a studio to record. It was a blessing in disguise. It taught me I could learn a lot of things. Potentially, I look to start self-producing. The tracks sounded like fire after recording them.
When I lost it all, the anger of ‘Guy, you deleted all those tracks!’, I took it out on the next take, which was better.
On the stories behind your tracks, ‘Africa Unite’ hits a topic many musicians have since dwelled on. What is your assessment of the African continent at this time compared to what obtains globally?
We’re more together and awoken as Africans. We’re more aware of what’s going on. We’re trying to find more ways to unite and grow. However, what has been imbued in us still comes to light. There’s a lot you just don’t want to touch on. Africa is great; it’s going to be even greater. But we need to wake up, leave the mentality of our ancestors behind—that mentality of saying we’ll unite for people to hear it, fight to unite, but end up badmouthing our own.
You’re based in the UK, not Nigeria. Many would assume that such a cultural context would water down the Africanness of your sound & music genre. But it doesn’t seem so in your EP. How come?
I be Naija boy to the core. Nothing can water it down. I’ve got my parents constantly nailing it down into me like, ‘Omo Naija ni wa o, mo ibi ti o ti wa!‘ They let me know who I’m and the kind of music I listen to keeps me awake. I was born in Nigeria, moved to the UK, and still listened to Fela and Majek Fashek. I can’t say I’m a London, UK or Irish boy. It’s one thing when you’re with your white peers and you’re trying to get a job or do interviews and you’re doing the “init“. Once I touch the mic to record or write, I’m back to “ngbati-ngbati“— a full-fledged Yoruba boy.
Imagine if I want to send a message tailored towards Africa and I’m saying, “wadya do, wadya do, yo-yo-yo“. How do they understand that? I need to send my message in a way they’ll understand. That’s why I keep my originality. If you listen to Fela and Bob Marley, their songs might have been recorded 2o years ago but it still resonates with me as the new-gen. I also want the older generation to be able to get my message as an Afrofusion/Afrobeat artiste.
You did your first singles, ‘Fe Olosho’ & ‘She Be Bae’, in 2019. At what point did the idea of making music hit you? When was that epiphany and what was the foundational influence you had gotten?
Yes. I was going through dark times as an African boy, you know the way it is. I never believed there was any such thing as depression until it hit. My partner dumped the date; went away. I just noticed myself in this dark space where I stay in my room and would neither talk to anyone nor do anything for days. I had ADHD as a child and the best way I’d long expressed myself was through music. I had taught myself to play drums and the piano a little bit. Those were the times when I was stressed out. Coming from an African home, there was no such thing as ADHD.
‘Omo yen kan stubborn ni,’ they would say about me. I just took it upon myself, especially as my dad had previously suggested that I do music while growing up. It was back in 2018 when the breakup happened between my ex and I. I just picked up a pen and paper and never looked back from music ever since. And I’ll never look back. Writing and art are ways through which I express myself. It was a blessing in disguise. The family has been supportive, although they would have loved their boy to end up a gospel singer (laughs). I’m not far off because my message is positive.
My music is not full of bang-bang and gunshots. I’m not far off Gospel. It’s just not the line I went with. Growing up, I was in the church choir and we had practice every Saturday. My mum was in the choir as well. She even taught me to sing. They were both happy that I took up music. I had a fun childhood as an only child. People think the only child is spoilt but we work for whatever we get. I chose my style of music. I played Fela, Lagbaja, Lauryn Hill, Wasiu Ayinde, and the older gen. If you mix the music I listened to, you’ll think I’d have become some rock and roll dude.
When did you move to the UK? What was the initial experience? How did it affect your music?
My first time ever in a studio was in December 2018 when I recorded ‘Fe Olosho’. I moved to the UK, I think, about seven years ago. That was, of course, after living in Dublin, Irland for about 12, 13 years. Its influence on my music has been positive because Afrobeats/Afrofusion is more known here than in Ireland inclined to trap music. Pushing Afrobeat here has been a lot easier. I got to meet a lot of good people who were supportive. London life was fun; I had all my mates with who we hung out and live the young life. It was different from the life we had in Ireland.
Education; what has been the story for you? You were born in Nigeria. When did you emigrate?
Education was a rough patch for me, owing to a lot of factors, one of which was ADHD. But when I’m creating the music, my concentration level kind of differs, perhaps because I enjoy it. I did study Accounting and Finance and went into the field for about six to five years. Last year, I just find it hard to write music. It was in 2019 that I quit my job as an accountant. I found the process of finishing the office and going home to find beats, producers, and recording difficult. I’d have to ask for a holiday before traveling to my sound engineer to go record in Ireland.
It wasn’t what I wanted. So dropped my resignation letter and never looked back the same way I never looked back when I started writing music. Growing up from an African home, they’d always pull your ears and say, ‘Ade Crown, what is your back-up plan?‘ So, obviously, I had to finish my education and give my parents their want, which was being an educated child. I was born in Nigeria, Ibadan. It was around when I was between the ages of six and ten. I’m 27 now. I studied at the Dundalk Institute of Technology and graduated in 2014. It was June 2019 I quit my job.
I wouldn’t say I experienced racism but there’s always the hidden agenda behind words, actions, and reactions. You get ignorant questions, which they might think isn’t noticeable without the N-word. But I know what they’re getting at, being a pan-African. Harsh words, I’ve not experienced it. But does that mean the UK is not racist? That’s a lie. I mean, I’ve been stopped by the police severally, being a young black guy driving a decent car. I just don’t let things like that bother me. Rather than get into an argument, just belittle them as long as you have done nothing wrong.
Quitting a job when the music wasn’t sustaining must have been tough. What then did you live on?
Upcoming and growing artistes like myself don’t make what the mainstream ones are making due to the streaming rate and whatnot. It’s a whole new topic. But I’ve been business-savvy. I owned a jewelry business while in uni. That was how I paid bills and bought cars while doing my own thing. After leaving the accounting firm, I started my own business where I was able to make ends meet. I wouldn’t say I was making loads but I paid my bills and focused on my music. Any other thing will come in the long run. I just needed time to be able to create my art and focus on it.
Aside from Lady Donli, do you look to work with mainstream Nigerian musicians anytime soon?
I’m a big fan of Burna Boy, another artiste I see myself working with. He cares for the people. Any artiste trying to get a message across. Tems, I love her voice. It’s amazing. Everyone wants to work with Wizkid, so he’s on the list.
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