BERWYN’s musical career seemed to fall in his lap just when he wanted a break from the world. After releasing his debut mixtape ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’ last September, the rising star gained support for the introspective honesty that seemed to relate to the masses and a spot on The NME 100 followed at the start of this year. But it was never planned, he tells NME; even the release of his music was a miracle: “It did it on its own. It’s difficult to explain without sounding too unordinary. I did nothing and everything happened. The closest English we can use to describe it is chance. I can’t find the proper word.”
Berwyn Du Bois moved to the UK from Trinidad when he was nine and found his love for instruments whilst in his primary school music lessons. But following his GCSEs, he was threatened with the reality of deportation, which disrupted his ability to go to university. The uncertainty resulted in a period of homelessness where he slept on hospital floors, cars while doing anything required to survive just another day. At the time of ‘VEGA’s release he was gearing up to move back to his Trinidadian motherland, but the tape proved just how magical the music could be if he kept going.
His newly released follow-up ‘TAPE 2 / FOMALHAUT’ is a sadder, more emotional experience; music is the sole escape for the 25-year-old. “The tape’s theme revolves around isolation; loneliness. It’s an exploration of what solitude can add up to,” he says. “In ‘I’D RATHER DIE THAN BE DEPORTED’, I think about it in more of a circumstantial way. People always say you can be lonely in a room full of a million people.”
On his new release, BERWYN delivers gritty realities over tranquil beats, presenting relatable emotional nuances even if you’ve never “been so hungry, you had to thief” to quote the heart-tugging ‘I’D RATHER DIE THAN BE DEPORTED’. This narrative of plight seems to be what he can lean on: “It’s so intertwined in my narrative that there’s bits of it for everybody, and music is the best way I can get my points across.”
He believes that his experience of social class mobility is why through his pain, there’s something we all can relate to and has helped the Trini rapper learn how to communicate to a wider spectrum since. He’s not gone “all the way to the top”, but seeing “people with no wires for their light bulbs” has pushed him to expose himself.
“The minute you’re so honest then every other line is relatable to someone because that’s how life plays out. When you start to lie, you move further away from people and you’d think it’d be different. I’m thankful that at 25 years old, I’ve seen the whole spectrum of wealth.”
This honesty is “a double-edged sword”, however. There’s a zoo-like nature to releasing music; an artist’s vulnerability is preyed upon once their fanbase gets on board with the deep hurt they’re trying to heal. “The sick part about it all is that for my day job I stand up on a wooden stage and people are like ‘Your life is hard? Tell me more. Give me more’. I love it, but I hate it because it’s definitely sadistic. We love sadistic stuff sometimes.”
BERWYN also recognises that he’s able to touch the hearts of fans who truly care about his music; the fact that he can change people’s lives and heal their hurt “is crazy” to him. BERWYN hasn’t been able to keep up with all the love from his fans, but one such encounter he remembers is with Kara, a fan-turned confidant who turned to BERWYN’s music in a dark time in her life.
“She shouted at me to thank me for my music and it got her through some things and she had cancer. She hadn’t even told most of her friends by the time she told me. I kind of went through the whole thing with her and now I’m going to dinner with her and her mum for her mum’s birthday. All from me releasing a song I was never meant to release.”
So now because of a fruitful fluke, fans get to fall in love with a musician who unapologetically lives life one day at a time. He makes music for those who love his sound and he doesn’t care what happens to his projects so far: “It’s probably because I was doing things I wasn’t meant to do because I didn’t want to”.
“I had a conversation with a big-boy producer the other day with bare One Direction plaques on the wall. We were talking about how he can’t smoke weed without getting bare paranoid, but I can smoke everywhere I go. It’s probably because I’ve had to wash myself in a pub sink and had the next man come out of the cubicle and watch me in my face, blud. After that you don’t give a fuck about what another man thinks because everyone’s calling you ‘n****a’ anyway. When you think about stuff like that, the easiest option is to not give a fuck.”
The thing he seems to give the most fucks about (aside from his musical process) is his want to give back to the country that birthed him. Moving over to London at the age of nine, BERWYN – who still has his mother-tongue intact – still wants to help his island out and become the Prime Minister of Trinidad. “Now that we’re financial contributors, it’d be nice to go back and give back in a way like pilgrimism, something that appeals to our humanity for once. Even if we go back home and paint a wall yellow, that can be your contribution.”
Witnessing some of the depths poverty gets to in Trinidad and Tobago (despite it being one of the richest country in the Western hemisphere), being a leader is key: “I always wanted to be the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and I have certain skills that could get me there. Everything is happening for that reason. I’ll take ten bullets for that shit. Music’s a responsibility but I’ve got lots of responsibilities.”
So in a way, you can understand why when asked what he wants music to do for him – other than hopefully leading him to politics – he says that “couldn’t give a fuck”. And with so much of his heart on his sleeve, you can’t not root for this underdog who simply makes music; BERWYN is an unapologetic man on a mission.
BERWYN’s ‘TAPE 2 / FOMALHAUT’ is out now
Radar Roundup: sign up and get our weekly new music newsletter