Lovin' the crew
Childhood bond, talent propel R&B group Nuzzcrew to campus success
Nnabu Eric Enyia (left) and Uwaoma Silachi are two-thirds of Nuzzcrew, an R&B/soul group that grabbed the attention of many UB students over the course of just one semester. Satsuki Aoi /// The Spectrum
It's a brisk weekday afternoon and junior biological sciences major Uwaoma Silachi is relaxing in his apartment at the Villas at Chestnut Ridge. As he opens his MacBook and plugs in his keyboard, he explains he's not really in a music-making mindset, but creating songs isn't necessarily something he can get away from.
It's an art form that has been built into him since he was a young talent in his Bronx church choir. Creating pleasant instrumentals, singing those ethereal vocals and his poetic lyrics isn't his job - it's his stress reliever.
So it wasn't a surprise when Silachi composed an entire instrumental in about 20 minutes. He started by quickly making a melody on his keyboard, even though he said he never had formal training with the instrument. Then the percussion kicks in with the effects following right after, and soon, Silachi has a well-crafted beat on his hands. But the ambitious artist said this beat is only a start - a foundation - much like the current hype for the music group he's a part of, Nuzzcrew.
Nuzzcrew, an R&B/soul group from the Bronx, is composed of Silachi; his lifelong friend and cousin, Nnabu Eric Enyia, a junior pharmacy major; and Justin Johnson, a Sanford-Brown College graduate. Together, they've accomplished what many other college artists haven't.
Many in the UB community have praised Nuzzcrew's amiability and raw musical talent, which is apparent through the 1,015 likes its Facebook page has gained.
In addition, Nuzzcrew can claim something few college musicians can: they have hits. "Don't Die On Me" is the trio's most well known song and it has earned well over 35,000 views on YouTube. "Mysterious Girl" - a song that borrows the instrumental from Rick Ross' popular "Diced Pineapples" - is receiving coverage from Cleveland radio station Z107.9 and is also a hit with local fans.
But Silachi and Enyiaare still hungry. To them, their current accomplishments are only a start.
"Who we want to be and where we are now are nowhere close," Silachi said. "If I don't see the buzz, if it's not in my face, there is no buzz."
Enyia and Silachi aren't the type to flaunt their talent. Both carry a humble and quiet personality, which juxtaposes their larger-than-life vocal performances.They don't crave to be the center of attention, either; Enyia's only performance at UB was at an open mic night at the Perks coffee shop in Ellicott Complex.
They've had this calm demeanor since they were boys in the First Igbo Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the Bronx. Silachi and Enyia were the first youths to join the small church's choir.
They were soft-spoken, but Akunna Chika-Akogu, the church's youth director, remembers their performances had the power to inspire.
"They're all right. They're quiet, but when they perform, it's different," Chika-Akogu said. "If you see them in church or the events we go to, they look really quiet and really soft-spoken - like they can't hurt a fly. But when you see them perform - when those kids perform - oh my God. It's something else."
It was as if their voices were nothing short of angelic. Silachi and Enyia were tenors in the choir (the highest-pitched male voice), which was a very important position because of the small size of the church. However, the cousins filled the job well and encouraged other youths to join the choir with their performances, according to Chika-Akogu.
Silachi and Enyia grew along with the church's size. After spending years singing as a proclamation of their faith - and their love of music - the duo was able to take part in a landmark event for the First Igbo Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
In 2010, the church was chosen to be a representative in General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists - an event held every four years that features performances and lectures from churches worldwide. The cousins were the only youths in the choir to perform.
"It was the very first time the church got invited, and it was the very first time any youth from our church was part of something that big," Chika-Akogu said.
The church's appearance at the conference marked the high point in the relationship between the lifelong friends and the church. But like right after a fire's peak, Chika-Akogu said, the bond started to decline as the duo went off to college.
The Nuzzcrew members didn't completely sever their ties with the church in the years since they've moved on.They still sing at choir recitals when they get the chance and even performed at the church over Thanksgiving break this year.
The church, like music itself, is an important part of the cousins' way of life. In fact, they said they've been able to remain humble in the face of hype because of prayer.
High school and Blessed
Enyia and Silachi were recognized as incredibly talented vocalists in the church. In high school, they were regular students - or "chillin'," as Enyia calls it.
Enyia became more known for his athletic abilities at Saunders Trades and Technical High School in Yonkers, N.Y. He specialized in the 400m and 800m races in track and field. Silachi was somewhat known for his singing ability, but it was average compared to the other talents at New Rochelle High School.
"I wouldn't lie. I wasn't the best singer in the school. There was people who can really, really sing in the school," Silachi said. "I was up there, though, but because of the fact there were people that can really, really sing, they looked at me like, 'He could sing, but he's [OK]."
But Silachi continued in his musical endeavors. He took advantage of a Mac laboratory in his high school to teach himself how to produce instrumentals. At first, he started experimenting with GarageBand (a popular music application found on Mac computers) and started recreating popular songs, like "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)" by T-Pain.
Curiosity led him to create original beats.
"As time passed, I focused more on originals because I felt that it was more fun to toy around with the beat and produce something new than to rearrange something that has already been mastered," Silachi said.
Enyia and Silachi's stock picked up again in 2009 when they joined two other singers (who they chose to keep anonymous out of respect) for a quartet named Blessed. The group specialized in religious songs and it wasn't too long before they became a hit within the church community.
Blessed performed in many churches in New York City and earned praise because of the almost natural harmony of their voices as well as their individual talent. The fact the group made its own music instead of just covers drew attention as well.
"What I really admire about them ... is their ingenuity; they write a lot of their songs," Chika-Akogu said. "Blessed wrote a song called 'No Temptation.' It was amazing. They write their songs and they take time ... it's not something where you sleep, you wake up and you give it. They take their time to perform. They'll probably perform one song for a while ... but when they come out with their new song, it's worth it."
They only lasted a little over a year, however. After gaining a following, egos started to split Blessed apart. Some of the members wanted to do more solos to showcase their vocal ability. Enyia felt members started doing it for the attention rather than the love of singing.
Blessed's career ended in ugly fashion.
"In one performance - our last performance - one [of]our members got drunk before he sung on stage," Silachi said. "You know when you don't realize something when a guy messes up? It didn't hit me until we got off stage. I couldn't believe it."
Silachi enrolled in SUNY Morrisville while Enyia started going to Westchester Community College in 2010. The distance confirmed Blessed's breakup.
College and forming Nuzzcrew
The very thought of his first two years of college bored Silachi as he spoke about it. These years he was just a civilian, going to classes and hanging out like a regular college student.
Enyia, on the other hand, took the time to flex his artistic muscle.
"That's when I started writing poetry and songs," Enyia said.
Nuzzcrew started forming during this down time. Enyia held a summer job at Playland, a popular amusement park in Rye, N.Y. It was there that he met Johnson, a Harry S. Truman High School graduate.
Johnson previously produced for young rappers at his old high school and didn't have much experience producing R&B-flavored beats. However, when he heard Enyia randomly singing around him, he immediately became interested in teaming up.
"It took us a while to get to the studio and we finally got to the studio. I told my cousin about him - he was away at school at the time - and I told him I got a guy at the studio," Enyia said. "They met and ever since then we was like we got to make a group."
Johnson isn't a singer and doesn't have the childhood bond Enyia and Silachi share, but he said the dynamic was still smooth. He adapted his production skills to the R&B/soul aesthetic to meld with the cousins' background.
And with this, Nuzzcrew - a blend of R&B, soul and nearly everything in between - was born in 2011.
"You know how the Bloods say, 'What up, my buzzin'?' and the Crips say, 'What up, my cuzzin'?" Silachi said. "Nah, we're neutral: What up, my Nuzzin'?"
Nuzzcrew's first song, "So & So," succinctly captures the group's main goal: making music that's timeless. The single encompasses the poetical lyricism of Frank Ocean mixed with the harmonies of The Temptations. A 50-year timespan encapsulated in a little over four minutes.
UB success and the future
Nuzzcrew's first performance was at UB when Silachi took the stage at the Black Student Union's Sickle Cell Auction in the Student Union Theater last September. The singer had just transferred and was looking to make a name for himself at his new school.
He started his performance with a cover of Jay-Z and Rihanna's hit, "Umbrella." It received a modest response from the crowd, but Silachi really caught the audience's attention with his next song: "Don't Die On Me."
The audience responded with massive applause and from that point, the song became a hit among the UB audience.
"It was a really soulful song," said Emmanuel Nortey, a junior human services and nursing major. "I was shocked that was a regular person singing that song. When I heard that I was like, 'Wow, this dude is talented.'"
Silachi hasn't just relied on UB performances, as he's performed at Buffalo State and Daemen College as well. He's also taking steps to establish Nuzzcrew's name outside of Buffalo.
On Nov. 9, Silachi performed at the University at Albany for the African Student Association's (ASA) fashion show. Ezinne Nwokocha, a member of the organization and Silachi and Enyia's cousin, convinced its executive board to invite him to perform by playing some of his music. After they heard it, Nwokocha said inviting him was a no-brainer for ASA.
The problem was convincing the rest of the attendees at the fashion show that Silachi was indeed a talented performer. Silachi had no problem doing so when he performed at the show.
"At first, not a lot of people were excited about it because they didn't know who he was," Nwokocha said. "But as his performance got going people were enjoying [it]. Even though they didn't know who he was, they still saw how great the music is. They were cheering him on."
A successful performance and solid following at UB are small victories in the eyes of Silachi and Nuzzcrew. The group will release its EP, Tuned Poetry, on Dec. 24. Nuzzcrew also wants to further the quality of its music and establish itself as the band to look out for.
But for the cousins, giving music their undivided attention isn't so easy. It's hard for artists to be able to make a name for themselves in a harsh music industry, while degrees at least offer some sort of security. While the cousins genuinely want to succeed artistically, there's still a feeling that maybe a medical or science profession may be the more promising route.
So the group is at a crossroads: does itgive music its undivided attention and live up to its full potential, or do the cousins follow the suggestions of their Nigerian parents and focus on education?
If Nuzzcrew does decide to go the musical route, can they actually make it?
"I'm not trying to be 30 years old still trying to make it in music and I know that's not going to be the case if I put my all into this music," Silachi said.
Regardless, fans are waiting to see what choice they make.
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