‘People often think I have cancer’

Student Tristan raps about his alopecia

‘People often think I have cancer’

On his new single Kaal (‘Bald’), Tristan Hofman bares both his soul and his skin. Due to alopecia, he has no hair, and he’s not ashamed of that anymore. ‘I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this three years ago.’
By Sisi van Halsema / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

It’s a cool little reggaeton track you could hear playing at any club on a Saturday night. But anyone who is familiar with business student and rapper Tristan Hofman, aka Solus, knows his new single Kaal has deeper meaning.  

It started when he was six: when she was cutting his hair, Tristan’s mother noticed he had a little bald spot on the back of his head. She knew what it was. Tristan’s grandfather had also suffered from alopecia universalis, a condition that makes your hair fall out. His father had it as well, but his hair eventually grew back. Tristan wasn’t as fortunate: by the time he was ten years old, he was completely bald. 

Now, at twenty-two, he’s a perfectly self-assured young man. But it’s taken him a while to get there. ‘High school wasn’t an easy time for me. Puberty is rough at the best of times and especially when you have a condition like this that just messes with your confidence.’ He skipped school a lot to escape the bullying. ‘I missed more than four hundred hours and I was a total video game addict.’ 

Creams and pills

There is no cure for alopecia. ‘I had a hard time accepting baldness as my reality. I tried everything — creams, pills — but nothing helped.’ 

When he was eighteen, Tristan made up his mind. Though he never wore a wig like his grandfather had, he did always cover his head with a bandanna. ‘Then, I just reached that point where I didn’t want to hide anymore’, he says. ‘New Year’s Eve was a great opportunity to get rid of my bandanna. As the clock struck twelve, I threw it into the fire. My whole family was there. A new year, new opportunities, and a new Tristan.’    

His move to Groningen was also a new start. ‘A lot of people make assumptions. They often think I’ve got cancer. What I don’t like is when they don’t ask me what’s going on. But in Groningen people are so direct that they just come up and ask me why I’m bald.’ 

And now he’s put out Kaal, the final step in his journey of self-acceptance. ‘I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this three years ago’, says Tristan. 

The track spontaneously came together during a session with fellow rapper De Kees, at his good friend Olivier’s studio. ‘The three of us went into the studio for a night of fun. We didn’t plan on making anything. At one point we had this rhythm, and Olivier started saying stuff on the beat: “This guy is bald, bald, bald.” And that somehow became a track.’ 

Self-mockery

Balder than Humberto
We’re harder than metal 

Kaal is full of self-mockery. ‘It’s not some sensitive track about my life with alopecia’, Tristan explains. ‘I didn’t want it to be too serious. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.’ 

Humour is a theme in his music: a year ago, he and XO Nomit put out the track Studi, about DUO and study debt. ‘I want to mix things you already know about with stuff you might not think works with it. Kaal is a fun little pop song with something extra.’ 

Tristan has no aspirations to make it big. ‘But we did say it would be really cool if they played the track at the Negende Cirkel. And I’d love for other people with alopecia to see me making a fool of myself on stage, while still having fun. I’d love it if that made them realise they don’t have to be ashamed.’ 

Nederlands

30 October 2019 | 30-10-2019, 10:11