DeKALB — It can be a struggle to find yourself as an artist while attending college, but one Huskie graduate was able to successfully handle the pressures of both.
In December, Stevon Odueze graduated from NIU with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. During the journey to obtain his degree, he said he realized music was his passion. Odueze goes by the stage name OG Stevo.
“I don’t call myself a rapper,” Odueze said. “[I'd] rather just say I am an artist because I sing and rap.”
Odueze said he prides himself on being a multi-talented artist, having spent much of his time as a kid singing. In elementary school, Odueze was a member of his school choir, where he developed a love for singing.
That love for singing stayed with Odueze during his first year of high school. He sang in his high school talent show and said many students were shocked by his performance of “Let Me Love You” by Mario.
“[The girls] were going crazy because they didn’t know I [could] sing,” Odueze said.
In December 2016, Odueze suffered from a breakup during his second year of college and, as a way to cope with his feelings, Odueze turned to music.
“I needed an outlet to express myself,” Odueze said. “I didn’t want to go on social media and bash her.”
As a result, Odueze released an EP on Soundcloud to help get him out of his heartbreak. Odueze said the songs received positive feedback from his friends and associates.
“I [was] getting praise,” Odueze said. “After that, I [knew] what I wanted to do; I want to be a musician. If I can make people feel some kind of way from my music, why wouldn’t I do it?”
Daniel Beach, Odueze’s manager and friend, was excited once he heard his friend’s music.
“Since the start I knew he had talent,” Beach said. “When I heard the EP, I knew he could do this.”
From that point on, Odueze said he was no longer just a student, as he began his transition to becoming an artist. While pressuring himself to hone his skills as an artist, Odueze understood the importance of higher education, balancing school and music.
“I have to get my homework done, get some sleep, get my papers done [and] find time to get in the studio,” Odueze said, “[There were] times [when] I had a show at night and had an 8 [a.m.] lab, so I would do the show, then come back. It’s like playing a sport while you’re in school. When [you‘ve] got a will, you can make it happen.”
Over the weekends, Odueze said he would often have to make trips to Chicago to record in different music studios, hoping to improve the quality of his music.
“His work ethic is amazing,” Beach said, “He would leave DeKalb, go record four [or] five songs in two days, then come right back to school.”
In 2017, Odueze began officially releasing songs on YouTube and SoundCloud to help create a buzz for himself on campus.
In 2018, Odueze released one of his biggest songs to date, “Chicago Baby.” The song has over 100,000 plays on multiple streaming platforms, painting a picture of Odueze and his hometown influence.
“When you listen to that song, it makes you miss Chicago; I talk about everything Chicago,” Odueze said.
Since the release of “Chicago Baby,” Odueze said his popularity has risen. He has released more songs on Spotify and iTunes in 2019, such as “Fishbowl” and “Salsa.“ Both have seen some success, and Odueze said “Salsa” is his favorite song to perform.
Odueze said he has now reached a point where he receives offers to perform at different venues such as an opening for fellow Chicago artist CDot Huncho in Atlanta and Illanoize, an event for upcoming artists on Chicago’s west side. Odueze also performed in other college towns such as Urbana and Macomb.
He said his performance at NIU’s homecoming was his favorite, mentioning how over 1,000 people were in attendance.
“That was the most people I ever performed in front of,” Odueze said. “I didn’t know that many people rocked with me.”
Quintin Phillips, vice president of programming for the Campus Activity Board, said he booked Odueze for the concert because he felt Odueze deserved the opportunity.
“NIU loves his music,” Phillips said. “He once performed in Carl Sandburg for me, and the crowd loved him.”
With his graduation out the way, Odueze said he can now focus on his music and increase his brand under the name OG Stevo, knowing he has his degree to fall back on.
“I’m finished with school, [so] now I can put my all into my music,” Odueze. “All I have to do is focus on my music.”
In honor of his graduation, OG Stevo released a video on Youtube titled “ OG Graduation” on Dec. 22 with the song’s official release across Apple music and Spotify two weeks later. The video was shot on campus, paying homage to where he started his career.
“I had to come here if I didn’t come to [NIU] I wouldn’t be OG Stevo,” Odueze said. “I wouldn’t have the fanbase I have now. I took a small little city and starting branched out to other places.”
Odueze plans on releasing music throughout the upcoming year, hoping to drop some new music as early as February.
“[Graduating] is a huge first step,” Beach said. “We talk every milestone. [Odueze] don’t plan on stopping now.”