Danny Berno is busy these days. Between designing websites and logos, running a delivery business, and driving with Uber, some may wonder how he also finds the time to write, record, and produce his own music, but for Berno it’s all part of the plan.
Berno, 31, grew up in Ghana. His history with music stretches back to when he would write lyrics in high school and through college –– sometimes even during lectures. “When I was sitting in class I’m listening to the professor, but I’m still writing music,” Berno said. “My fondest music memories are way back in high school, when we just used to sit in class and make music from scratch. Back then we didn’t really find beats online. We basically crafted the chorus first and tried to rehearse by simply playing what we think the beats should sound like on our class desks. Then on to the studio and have the beats made from scratch by the engineer.”
In 2007, Berno came to the States to attend college, eventually earning a master’s degree in computer science. Like many college kids, Berno would spend summers working on the Island, and is now here almost year-round, running mvtakeout.com, an Island food delivery website he started with a friend.
With a head full of songs, Berno began recording his music with Island musician Phil daRosa. DaRosa has a music studio in downtown Oak Bluffs, where Berno records about 70 percent of his music; he also records in New York City and Boston. Last summer, he released “Cold World,” his first EP. The five tracks on the EP sample a little bit of everything Berno offers –– pure rap, melancholy tones, and amped-up beats. When writing songs, Berno likes to drive to scenic areas on the Island in the early morning. Once he has lyrics written down, he will buy a beat online and begin rapping to it.
Berno likes to tell a story through his music –– a true story pulled from personal experience, perhaps best demonstrated on one of his newest tracks, “Without You (R.I.P Momma)” a song he wrote for his mother, who died last year.
On “Cold World,” Berno raps about the harsh realities of life, but hints at a staying power: “Yeah, we live in a world where people will betray you cos of jealousy/ A world where innocent people get caught up in situations they can’t run away from/ It’s a cold world ya’ll but we still moving on.”
“Cold World” also features vocals from Élan Noelle, a friend of a friend who sings the chorus on the track. Berno originally had daRosa sing the part, but wanted a higher-pitched voice so he sent the song to Noelle, who was living in Florida at the time, and had her sing the part.
Religious themes flow throughout his lyrics as well. On one of his new songs, Berno raps, “I’m like a preacher with the mic/ but I don’t speak on pulpits.”
Berno’s music is inspired by old school hip-hop like Nas, Jadakiss, and Biggie, but he also is a big fan of artists working today like Meek Mill, J. Cole, and Childish Gambino.
All of Berno’s music can be found on his website, Apple music, SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, and just about every other music platform. Berno said he makes a small amount of money from streaming his music, but still works at his other jobs to make a living and save up to buy studio time. He said he makes more money streaming his music as opposed to just putting it on YouTube, because an artist needs thousands of views before he starts to make money, but with streaming, an artist can make money as soon as people play his music.
Berno said it can be tough balancing his jobs and music, but he doesn’t mind because music is his passion, and he will always make time for it. “It’s not easy, but I make it work. Since my takeout business alongside the Uber involves driving, I try to write when I don’t have any orders to deliver or any customers. I drive or park and listen to my beats and write to them. Sometimes while driving I use my surroundings and people around me as an influence to write lyrics in my head, then I put it on my phone notepad when I have the opportunity,” he said.
Since November, Berno has been hard at work on his next release –– a full-length 17-track studio album titled “Real Eyes,” which he plans to drop on his birthday, July 12.
Berno wants to play live shows on the Island this summer once his new album drops, but he doesn’t seem to be in a rush, because music is and always will be his hobby. Having fun with music is what seems the most important to Berno. “Believe in your craft,” Berno said, “your music will definitely not be for everyone. Take constructive criticisms and keep doing what you love best — music. Don’t let negative energy and criticism of your music bring you down. Music is my hobby. I like music so I can never stop, so I always continue to make it.”