Talent doesn’t come rawer than the Trinidad-born, Romford-raised rapper, singer-songwriter and producer Berwyn du Bois. His debut mixtape ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’ was recorded in the space of two weeks on a diet of toast, weed and insomnia, resulting in a poignant collection of songs about life on the margins that left listeners spell-bound and inspired English teachers to analyse his lyrics in schools.
In the past year, BERWYN has at least had more time to flesh out his latest offering, ‘TAPE 2/FOMALHAUT’. Like his debut, ‘Fomalhaut’ delves deep into the artist’s tumultuous journey into music; inner-city life, homelessness and longing for his relatives in Trinidad permeate the mixtape’s eleven tracks. The sombre hip-hop beats and muted siren of ‘I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported’ capture Berwyn’s past struggle with the Home Office (“I didn’t exist in the eyes of the law”), which prevented him from applying to uni. Bittersweet lullaby ‘100,000,000’ is a snapshot of the aftermath – BERWYN struggling to make a tenner, seeking shelter in the back of his car: “100 million miles and I miss home…all I wanna do is go to sleep”.
A concept record about loneliness, BERWYN says ‘Fomalhaut’ represents “a single star that appears in a part of the sky that’s largely empty of bright stars…called the Lonely One or the Solitary One”. Throughout, BERWYN is still troubled by past trials and tribulations, a lone figure lacking support. The mixtape opens with a disheartening message (“why do we love the wrong ones / trust the wrong ones / and fuck the wrong ones?”), as he dwells on ruined relationships. On tracks like the Ed Sheeran-influenced ‘Answers’, it feels like BERWYN is still finding his feet as an MC, but the enraged acceleration of ‘Full Moon Freestyle’ (“I don’t eat / I don’t sleep / I’m addicted to weed”), fully exposes the mental toll of isolation.
There’s a beautiful twilight quality to the Trinidadian’s music; at its purest on ‘To Be Loved’, BERWYN’s soulful piano ballads have the ability to stop you in your tracks, while ‘Rubber Bands’ is on a par with other dancehall heartbreak classics like Drake’s ‘Passionfruit’. Counter-balancing the overwhelming pain of ‘Fomalhaut’, ‘Vinyl’ is like a warm sonic hug and the mixtape’s most optimistic moment. “I was sleeping on a mattress talking big dreams / now the world is in my palms”, BERWYN says, emerging from the darkness and shining very bright.
- Release date: June 18
- Record label: Sony Music