Rapper Milan Credle was hard at work on what he hoped would be his first full-length album when he almost lost everything.
Credle’s apartment, which he shared with his then-pregnant wife and their two daughters, last March became engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.
He and his family managed to make it safely out of their home at Willow Street Apartments in Pequea Township but lost the majority of their belongings.
They later learned the fire was started by a neighbor who left a cigarette on a balcony in their apartment complex.
Recovering from the fire was an arduous journey, and Credle had to put his album on hold. The rapper, however, is now itching to unleash what he considers to be his best work.
Credle, 26, is raising money on IndieGoGo to pay for the recording and distribution costs for the album. Supporters can contribute until midnight on Dec. 31. As of Thursday afternoon, Credle had raised $1,469 of his $5,000.
He and his wife, Olayinka Credle, and their three children have now moved back into Willow Street Apartments.
Olayinka Credle is the cofounder of Melanin Essentials, which sells chemical-free beauty products for women of color. The company won Lancaster’s Great Social Enterprise Pitch in 2016.
A quiet kid
Milan Credle, originally from the Washington, D.C., area, is a self-described introvert who was quiet as a kid. He finally let his inner fire out once someone starting tapping a beat on a table and asked him to sing and rap. He was 9 at the time.
“This beast came out of me,” says Credle.
He still considers himself an introvert but feels something shift in him when he’s performing.
“It’s still like that now,” Credle says. “I’m very reserved … but put me on stage, and I’m a whole different person.”
Music was a constant in Credle’s home while he was growing up, from Bob Marley to Luther Vandross to Tupac. Credle says his biggest musical influences are Marley and Bob Dylan.
He started performing for others around the age of 14 in D.C.’s go-go music scene. He sang and played drums, keyboards and bass guitar, all of which he taught himself. He started writing original music around the same time.
“I was scared of rejection,” Credle says.
When he was about 16, Credle says, he started hanging with the wrong crowd. He found himself getting into trouble but decided to leave that life behind in pursuit of a football scholarship at Millersville University. He was redshirted as a freshman due to ankle surgery.
Then he met John Caputo, of Gospel Furthering Families ministries. Caputo was the football team’s chaplain. Credle, who was not religious growing up, initially had no interest.
Caputo and his wife were persistent and got Credle to attend Bible study with the promise of food. Credle kept going back and eventually started going to church.
“That was the first time I heard about Jesus, the whole story, what He did,” Credle says.
It led to a spiritual awakening.
“(Caputo and I) had a talk, and I just broke down crying,” Credle says. “I was like, ‘I’ve been through so much, man. How do I do this?’ ”
Return to music
Around the same time that religious faith became a part of Credle’s life, he found himself returning to music. He performed at a Millersville University event in April 2011, which recharged his energy to create.
“It definitely was intertwined some type of way,” Credle says of his spiritual awakening and return to music.
He released a few self-recorded mixtapes in the following years, and briefly moved back to Washington before returning to Lancaster to raise his family. He worked in J.P. McCaskey High School’s emotional support program before taking a leave of absence.
The Lancaster Community Foundation approached Credle to rap in its “This Lanc is Your Lanc” video. The audio was recorded at the Sugar Tank recording studio, where he met engineers willing to work with him on his debut album.
“I went home and cried,” Credle says. “I was like, it’s happening. It’s happening, baby.”
Credle began collaborating with Sugar Tank engineer Lucas Gienow.
“He’s one of those people who makes you feel good,” Gienow says of Credle. “He makes you want to laugh. He makes you want to joke around with him. But he also, and it kind of comes across in his music, I think he feels a lot and he thinks a lot.”
Gienow was upfront with Credle and told him it was his first time engineering a hip-hop artist.
“He believed in me, which made me believe in him,” Gienow says.
Credle says he’s proud of the finished product, and is looking forward to a record release show that has yet to be scheduled. The album chronicles Credle’s life, including all of its hardships.
“I tried to commit suicide twice,” Credle says. “I talk about the thoughts behind that, the product of being sexually abused as a child, and how that followed me growing up and all that stuff. Trying to be something I wasn’t in the streets. And then I got songs just talking about having this huge dream … but it’s so far-fetched, because when you look at the story around you, the narrative around you, where you’re coming from, nobody gets you.”
It’s an intimate and brave undertaking for any artist, let alone on a debut full-length album. But Credle is confident every trial he has endured has a purpose.
“This stuff is going to fuel me into becoming what I know I’m destined to be,” Credle says.