D-Max (22) has always been singing in a bathroom, just for himself. When his grandma and friends overheard his singing, they convinced him he had natural talent. The encouragement prompted D-Max to start writing songs in his native French and posting them on YouTube and Instagram.

Born in Chad, Africa, as a female named Diane, D-Max was only eight months old when his mother abandoned him. Raised by his grandma, she was the central point of his life, making him everything he is today. When his family turned against him, she was the one that always stood up and fought for him.

During his childhood and teenage years, D-Max received a lot of rejection and bad treatment simply for being himself. Even after moving to Tunisia and later Ivory Coast, he still did not feel welcome. The challenges of growing up in a black household and transitioning into a male were all factors that intensified D-Max’s insecurities. He avoided approaching people, fearing they would judge him. There was no one he could trust.

It was his grandma’s idea that D-Max goes studying abroad. Even after retiring, she worked hard to support him financially and ensure he could pursue his studies. D-Max got accepted into Film and Digital Production in London. When he arrived there, he was all alone and spoke little English.

Looking for opportunities to enter the music world, D-Max saw the ad for the Expression Project on True Cadence’s Instagram page and decided to join, hoping it would help him become less shy and develop his career on the stage. In his first TC baseline performance, D-Max was very scared and timid. With a quiet voice, he sang the entire song standing on one spot while covering his eyes with a hat.

He has been wearing the hat ever since he was very young. It has become a part of his personality that protects him from getting hurt. He is someone who cannot hide his emotions, but with a hat, no one can read his face. He would wear it to “become another person”.

Even more difficult than overcoming his self-doubt was convincing D-Max’s grandma of how serious he felt about music. Initially, he had promised her to only have music on the side while focusing on his degree. However, in True Cadence, he found people willing to help him work on his music and build up on it. Eventually, he decided to write his grandma a song. When she heard him play it, her eyes beamed with joy, and she gave D-Max her approval to progress with music.

An opportunity presented itself to take D-Max’s music to the next level: True Cadence directed its participants toward the Youth Music NextGen Fund, and D-Max started working with his grandma on the application. She advised him to ask TC’s founder Manny for help, ensuring the application shed light on his musical abilities. Shortly after, D-Max’s grandma died.

A heart sank beneath the surface, heavy and swollen. The closest person D-Max has ever had was suddenly gone. He worked on the application because of her, but what is the point of it now? However, Manny reminded him of something – his grandma gave him her approval to make music because she believed in him; he must work hard to make sure she is proud of him, wherever she is now.

Upon hearing this, deep down, an unconceivable power was evoked in D-Max, pushing through the grief, driving him forward; he knew he had to fight. He had a goal in mind, more crystal clear than ever – to make his grandma proud. And he did: D-Max was awarded the Youth Music NextGen Fund, making him jump ecstatically and hope that his grandma was somewhere out there, smiling back at him.

With this belief in heart, D-Max is diligently working on his debut EP, “Amethyst”, which he dedicates to his grandma. “Amethyst” is a birthstone for February, the month when D-Max’s grandma was born. The stone represents their relationship and the strength they had to overcome all the hardships they had faced throughout their lives, never giving up. Although D-Max sings and raps in French, his debut EP will also feature British musicians. As a result, the EP will present a cross-national blend of English and French, which according to D-Max, will lead to something truly explosive.

Equally explosive was D-Max’s transformation throughout the programme. When D-Max performs now, he is an entirely different person: he looks at people, dances and moves around the stage, and shares his emotions with people without being shy or scared. In his recent performance session, he has even put his hat down – although he still tries to find the right balance – “It is fine to share emotions, but it is not something I want to do all the time – sometimes I wear a hat when I feel like it is time to keep it for myself, and other times, I will share it.”

Finding True Cadence changed everything for D-Max. Now, he is surrounded by people who believe in him, especially Manny, who supports him daily and tells him he is worth it. “True Cadence is a family I have never expected to have, so being a part of it is more than I could imagine – it is a victory.”

The Expression Project is coming to an end, but D-Max’s journey on TC has only just begun – he is ready to learn along the way and discover things about himself. Currently, Manny is overlooking D-Max’s process of creating “Amethyst”. In the meantime, we can watch out for D-Max’s single “Prince”, which will also be accompanied by a music video.

Our Founder, Manny, reflects on D-Max’s achievements on the programme before handing him the TC Significant Achievement Award.