Powfu – ‘poems of the past’ review: Gloomy lo-fi anthems from TikTok’s breakout star

The Canadian rapper gets deep in nostalgia in this melancholic collection of tracks

There’s maybe no better time for reflective, melancholic music than right now. Producing an EP during lockdown may result in stripping back production and going a simpler route. But this is where Canadian artist Powfu thrives. It’s likely why social media platform TikTok dragged his Beabadoobee-sampling 2019 track ‘death bed (coffee for your head)’ from the ashes and given it a new lease of life. It’s stayed put in the UK Singles Chart’s Top 10 for 13 weeks now and morphed into a streaming behemoth.

His area of expertise is purposely imperfect production, deadpan delivery and youthful storytelling about the trials and tribulations of love and growing up feeling like the world is against him. On his new EP, ‘poems from the past’, the Vancouver artist aims to prove that the breakout hit is just one example of his artistry, with mixed results.

‘im used to it’ – one of four tracks sandwiching ‘death bed’ and its blink-182 remix – boasts the same infectious feel, minus the repetitive sample. Over choral backing and simple percussion, his vocals provide pop-punk emotion reminiscent of the late 00s. His lyrics match that mood, pouring out feelings of being lonely at school: “I’m used to this, the same old shit / Left alone wherever I sit” and being unlucky in love: “Your boyfriend’s a douche that thinks he’s cool / And doesn’t deserve a girl like you”.

That becomes a theme throughout the EP. It’s not pop-party-happiness here. ‘poems of the past’ is about managing the emotions of his childhood witnessing his parents fighting, while juggling moving around and, of course, young love. The songs are vulnerable and downbeat, the message relatable to the youth of today who are going through the same things.

So Powfu has found a groove that works for him. It’s minimalist production: a simple twanging ukulele, a serene xylophone or long dreamy chords that give his deadpan delivery space to breathe and elevate it to new levels of emotion. Adolescence is always fruitful for channelling emotion, but the challenge will come deciding what inspires him from now on (though we don’t seem short of things to feel melancholic and sad about right now).

The final track, however – a blink-182 remix – is a nice kicker for the record, adding a touch of optimism to an otherwise personal and emotive collection of songs. As Mark Hoppus sings: “It won’t be like this for too long / it won’t break me down” you’re left feeling purged of pensive gloominess and optimism once again.


  • Release date: May 29
  • Record label: Columbia Records [Robots and Humans]