Selected by: James Keith

Name: Berna

Where He’s From: East London

When He Started: 2016

Genre: Rap

File Next To: JB Scofield, Jevon, Dave, Pa Salieu

Sounds Like: “Lyrical, insane flows, energetic and fulla vibes.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “It was ‘Juicy’ by The Notorious B.I.G. When I first heard this, I was amazed. He came in so smooth and spoke so much realness.”

In July 2016, just six months after first picking up a mic, Harold Hill rhymer Berna made his debut on BL@CKBOX with a now-infamous freestyle. Without even a tune to his name, a 17-year-old Berna planted his flag in the scene with an impressively sure-footed session that had the kind of potency and self-assuredness you’d expect from someone with 10 years in the game. Less than a year later, and still four months before his debut single arrived, Berna was invited on to Fire In The Booth. “I believe I’m still the first person to do a Fire In The Booth without ever dropping a single,” he says.

Away from the booth, Berna’s studio singles have arrived at a consistent rate ever since “All Of It” landed at the tail-end of 2017. They have all been bangers, packed with quotables and intense energy, but it’s his most recent offering that gives us Berna at his best. The PLRK (Poor Little Rich Kid) EP dropped at the top of the month and brought with it a slightly different side to the rapper. Mixed in with the rowdy hype of “Poppin” and “PLRK”, we get hints of Berna’s life story as he touches on his late brother, Champion, who was brutally murdered in 2013. Brother died left a hole in me, he spits on “Da Intro”, But I don’t share my feelings, I hold it in.

Before his passing, his brother had a burgeoning rap career of his own, recording freestyles and building up a healthy fanbase under the name Chrome. After picking up the torch, Berna continues to take inspiration from his family. Although his brother’s presence looms large over the EP, and just about every track mentions him (I knew life was fucked when I woke up and had to put bro in a casket, he says on the title track, All of that mourning, now I won't stop till the whole team’s balling), it’s a memory which drives him and at just 20 years old, he’s managed to harness that pain to achieve astonishing things.

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Posted on October 14, 2020