‘’Lockdown period helped my music. I was able to focus more. I was able to be creative, to think outside the box. And being outside now too has influenced my sound. My music is all about cruise. I won’t sing about what I don’t want to. I’m authentic”.
I didn’t see it at first when this five-foot something, bespectacled, dressed to the nines yet unassuming young man walked into our office. We were both wary I guess, me of regular artistes and him, I’m not sure. Probably of interviews and the media, generally. He seemed very at ease with himself and soon I began to understand the artist and the man, Ambakederemo Evans Oghenekaro alias Evih. Turned out, the glasses were fashion glasses, and his stylist G-Brand had put together his casual fit. G-Brand he later said, was a clothing extension of Tycoon Entertainment. This gave an insight into how deliberate he is- how his efforts into music as an enterprise made a difference to him.
One could typify Evih in the freshman Afropop category, the new-on-the-block guys that seem to come out of a brand we’ve never heard of before and who turn out, unexpectedly, to be interesting. That type is common these days in the Nigerian music industry where the millennials, like in every other part of the world, are breaking in every industry with outstanding reviews. It’s a brand new age for musicians who have seen the powers of gatekeepers diminished and have the ability to connect with their audience directly. All that matters is competence. And Evih is competent. His variety of tunes and husky drawl helps set him apart. His self-named style “Cruise” stems from his self conceptualization as representing a particular minority; the ones who lack the connections, the access, the money, and the mentors. The ones armed only with passion, consistency, and who lack the fear of failure. Evih started with the nitty-gritty in his usual straightforward manner, of the tune he has always carried since he was a young singer with big dreams with his guys of School Boy G in Hopebay College. With a music career as his end goal, Evih went through to the University of Benin to study Business Administration and went through the motions of a 9-5 and 50k salary which went towards subsidizing his musical interests in the shape of studio time.
“That was me believing in myself, pushing myself, I had friends, family but, I had to work. There’s this local joint we used to do to try to raise money for studio fees. Sometimes we played this competition in Festac. It’s called form”. Form is apparently a competition where several teams pit a certain amount of money to contest against one another in football matches and the winning team carries the loot after several face-offs. His off-hand but earnest manner of speaking of his home neighborhood of Festac Extension, his ‘brothers” as he called them, belied a deep fondness and love, one that he grew a lot of confidence and pride from.
Street-savvy Evih does not mince words about the determination and hard work that every success story demands. Evih’s current profile from his debut in 2015, in his days of hustle, sweat, and “12k mixing and mastering”, to his current level as an artist on the rise shows consistency and grit. He says
“The growth process is not easy you check the quality of songs there, I didn’t delete it, everybody has seen it, I go back and check the videos. A lot of people can say its wack but I see the growth”.
Evih got signed in 2017 to Tycoon Entertainment- a music label owned by his brother. He describes Tycoon Entertainment with an assertiveness that made an impression. Pointing out some quotes from the past in which he’d posited that in more cases than not, artists were the ones to blame in many artist/ record label disputes, he takes the caution not to cite any examples but stresses on the importance of putting in the research and gaining background expertise, as a young indie artist. He learned to mix his songs with “Cubase” and constantly passed his songs around for feedback. Seeing the likes of 2Face, Faze, Solidstar and a lot of other big music acts out of Festac, his “hood”, helped inspire him of the merits of a lifelong commitment to finetuning his craft.
As is typical with every Nigerian story, the hustle and passion is still half the work to get into the Nigerian music industry. Evih, with his 75k+, “organically” grown followers on his social, the recent release of Wonder ft Davido has a lot more activities lined up for the year. He feels like he’s barely scratched the surface in breaking into the industry. When asked how he copes with the pressure as is typical of Nigerian artistes signed to a record label, he says “I already do that to myself… if an album is needed tomorrow, it’s already ready”. Having paid the price from being a studio rat to random jobs to push his career Evih has evidently proven that music is his choice. His nervousness in his steady climb is obvious though when he speaks of his experience at the Dubai One Music Fest. He says the “big boys” were only allowed to perform at the Dubai music concert due to logistical issues. That said, it still resulted in a win. During a brief performance at a boat party, Davido took a liking to his sound which led to the his jumping on the Wonder remix.
“You just have to keep believing in yourself. If you’re good, people will talk about you. They will show other guys and say ‘see wetin this guy drop for me’.. They will sell you. Keep working on yourself.”
Happiness is Evih’s central message with his latest six-tracked E.P titled “Cruise”. Cruise serves as an epitome of his unique style and a commendable entry onto the Nigerian music stage. Cruise is gaining more and more popularity online with the #ArtificialCruisechallenge on Instagram. From his parent company Tycoon Entertainment where he serves as the main act, he says to expect so much more. Videos have been slated in a promising calendar as well as a few big surprise acts. Evih’s journey since 2009 is everything he exemplifies when he says ” a lot of people have passed me. People that we started together, but I want to keep going at my own pace”. With his squad of faithful friends and loyalists, from the “hood” Evih has the quiet assurance of one who wants to take over. Carefully, steadily and surely. He says to look out for him, and for Tycoon Entertainment and it is intriguing to say the least, what their next move will be.
Photographer: Chuchu Ojekwe
Stylist: I.N Official