We recently caught up with Welsh rapper Drew Iain who is gearing up to drop his new mixtape.

Born and raised in the village of Gilwern, near Abergavenny, Drew Iain burst onto the music scene as a solo artist when he dropped his debut mixtape A Conversation with Myself in October 2022. And the 29-year-old has been busy since, working on his second album while studying music industry enterprise at university.

Drew’s second album From The Inside Looking Out is due for a summer release and includes his recently released single End Up.

Read on to find out what we thought of the track and – more importantly – what the singer and songwriter has said about it all…

End Up

End Up was the first song Drew wrote for his second album and includes additional vocals by Rowan Armiger (who is also featured in the music video).

End Up follows the story of a guy whose fallen upon hard times and turns to desperate measures,” said Drew.

“The focus of the song is more about the emotions and that feeling of desperation than the particular situation.”

End Up is a cautionary tale focused on a man whose desperation to provide for himself and his family leads him down a dark path – it draws on real experiences that many people face such as poverty, desperation, and the moral dilemmas which can be caused by survival mode.

The song does not glamorise crime; lyrics such as “this is what I gotta do to provide” demonstrate the helplessness felt by the protagonist who is “not proud” of the choices he’s made and has “never felt so stuck”.

The repetition of the line “who knows where I might end up?” in the chorus drives the point home – the character knows they’re endangering themselves but feels there’s no other way to improve his financial situation.

“There are several things to take away from End Up,” says Drew.

“It’s easy to judge a person’s choices, but people often fight battles that nobody else sees.

“On the other hand, it also shows that every action has a reaction and that the means don’t always justify the end.”

End Up, and the other seven tracks on the upcoming mixtape, were recorded with help from Ryan Jordan at AR Studios (who was also involved in creating A Conversation with Myself plus provided additional vocals for End Up). Legion Beats provided the instrumental for End Up, and Gavin Robinson – of Von Boom Industries – produced the artwork.

It was Gavin Robinson who recommended Tom Damsell Imagery to Drew for his videography and photography needs – and Tom did not disappoint.

“I spoke to Tom about my ideas and drew up a storyboard and, fair play, he incorporated all of it,” said Drew.

“He was super professional and an absolute dream to work with – it took three days to film the video and I’m proper proud of it.”

The video for End Up stars Ryan Davies, Alana Jones, Rowan Armiger and Xander Davies. It was shared on social media in three clips over three weeks.

Drew, who recently completed a master’s degree in music industry enterprise, was “really inspired” by artists using shortform videos on social media.

Ren Gill (known musically as Ren) is a good example of this. The Welsh-born singer and songwriter made headlines when his independently released album Sick Boi was announced as a UK number one in October 2023.

Despite Ren being unable to promote Sick Boi through performance, due to treatment for health problems, he beat Rick Astley to the number one spot by 6,000 units.

He told Official Charts it was thanks to fans “pushing this record” – short form video on social media played a significant role in this.

Inspired by this modern method of music promotion, Drew knew he wanted to tell a “three-part story” with End Up and he did just that.

The three clips were shared one week apart – with part one and part two ending on cliff-hangers to encourage listeners to “get invested” before part three (the full song and video) went live.

South Wales Argus: Rapper Drew Iain

From The Inside Looking Out

From The Inside Looking Out has similarities to Drew’s debut album. Both feature eight tracks – including six with outsourced instrumentals and two tracks that the Monmouthshire musician wrote entirely himself “from the ground up” – and both are quite dark in tone.  

But there are also some key differences, Drew told Voice.

A Conversation With Myself is more introspective, while this next mixtape is more looking outward, hence the name,” he said.

From The Inside Looking Out is an experience led album inspired by personal experiences and things my friends have experienced. The songs have different tones; some are angry, some are uplifting, some – like End Up – are cautionary.

“I think that my style has matured too. From the Inside Looking Out is more sonically adventurous than A Conversation with Myself, and my writing is stronger than it used to be.”

He added that the upcoming mixtape was recorded at AR Studios in Hereford (while A Conversation with Myself was recorded in a “makeshift” studio) so he hopes the sound is “more polished and professional”.

While the official launch date is yet to be announced, From The Inside Looking Out will be released this summer. Drew hopes that the album resonates with listeners and creates a sense of connection which – for him – is an important part of music.

“As with all my music I hope that listeners can feel connected,” said Drew.

“My favourite thing is when someone tells me that a lyric or a song has resonated with them – it’s a lovely sense of human connection.

“Rap can be very competitive and alienating at times, so that human connection is so important.”

It’s been a long journey for Drew who wrote, produced, and recorded From The Inside Looking Out while studying. Although the mixtape has kept Drew busy, and given him a creative outlet, he admits some of the songs were challenging to create – particularly Cold.

“I wrote Cold about a friend who passed away,” Drew told Voice.

“It was really hard to write and record, but it’s a passionate song and one that I’m proud of – I think that Ciaran would be proud of it too.”

While Drew has been busy preparing for the official release of From The Inside Looking Out, he’s also been looking to the future and has been learning the Welsh language to incorporate into future tracks, showing his Welsh pride and (hopefully) helping him gain more prominence across Wales.

“Gilwern is quite small, so it doesn’t have a huge music scene,” admits Drew.

“But I hope that I can help inspire young people in the area, and other small villages, to follow their passion.”

Follow Drew Iain online:

This feature originally appeared in Voice magazine. Photos are credit of Tom Damsell Photography.