Most of us have been locked inside for the last six months and have peanuts to show for it.
And I mean that quite literally—just one gigantic mound of salted nuts we’ve been snacking on whilst watching the entire series of Lost for the sixth time. If only we were as talented and productive as BERWYN, we’d have created something culturally significant and deeply profound, like a ten-track mixtape chronicling the highs and lows of a tumultuous life story. Only BERWYN didn’t need six months to make his—it only took him two weeks.
BERWYN’s life story makes for one wild ride. It begins in Trinidad, where the rapper, producer, and multi-instrumentalist was born and raised until the age of nine. He then immigrated to Romford, in East London, where he endured bouts of homelessness after his mother found herself in and out of jail. He always found solace in music but could never afford lessons, so he taught himself how to play every instrument under the sun—violin, piano, guitar, drums… who knows, dude could probably play the Double Contrabass Flute if he tried. In lieu of YouTube tutorials, he’d borrow his friend’s music lesson notes and draw out piano keys on a piece of paper to practice. Feel lazy yet?
Despite all the adversity he faced, BERWYN made it through school and applied to study finance at university, only to be rejected because of his immigration status, which also stripped him of the ability to work. Are you fucking kidding me? Anyway, despite his resilient nature, he finally realised there’s only so many shin kicks a man can take and made the decision to move back to Trinidad. But before he did, he decided to give music one last shot, armed with a pair of broken headphones and an old computer.
How the hell do I know all this?
Because his shot didn’t miss. His final hail mary, the music he made while locked in a ‘shithole flat’ for two weeks, came out today—and it’s incredible. Titled DEMOTAPE/VEGA, the rapper, producer, and multi-instrumentalist lays it all down in brutal detail, merging spoken word, rap, and soulful vocals to produce some of the most powerful music I’ve heard all year.
Named after the brightest star in the northern constellation of Lyra, VEGA is as moving as it is unique. On ‘Glory’, the debut single from the release, BERWYN channels the poetic lyricism of rappers like Dave and Saba, but with a style and story all his own. If you feel like weeping through multiple layers of shirt sleeve, press play below on his powerful performance of the song for Later With Jools Holland, which was also the first time he’d ever performed in front of his mother. The soulful rendition turned the whole world into one giant goosebump, and it was so moving that even Drake gave it a share.
Speaking of the papi of champagne—BERWYN gives a subtle shout out to his famous ‘Hotline Bling’ lyric on his track ‘Trap Phone’, reminiscing on when a lost love ‘used to call me on my trap phone.’ Somehow, though, he transforms the sentiment into something achingly heartfelt. There’s a rawness to his voice and a solemnity in his delivery that lodges a lump in your throat that just won’t budge; a common theme throughout the entire record. It’s kind of his superpower.
But it’s on ‘017 Freestyle’ that BERWYN’s painful past pushes him to the verge of tears as he delivers a devastating reflection on the reality of life on the streets, backed by piano and his filtered vocal. ‘I know I was destined to be more than just another dealer, and this is God’s plan, he’s just testing me’, he says. DEMOTAPE/VEGA proves he’s right.
Stream or download DEMOTAPE/VEGA here.