Despite only emerging on the South London rap scene two years ago, Dave has already gained a reputation as one of the UK’s fastest rising musicians. His age, 19, is deceptive; Dave has been writing bars since age 10 and featured freestyling on underground grime channel Bl@ckbox aged just 16. His early start in rap was driven by its power to channel his anxieties and stresses at the time – his older brothers spent significant time in jail during his childhood. However, Dave dwells on the present, not on his earlier life, in his lyrics; choosing to focus on the now, though there are hints of the pain of his past through the emotion of his voice.
Dave’s odd, simple stage name mirrors his matter of fact lyrics, matched with colourful but chilled out beats which frame his words, ensuring his message remains the central focus of the listener. Covering themes from friendships and relationships to introspective insights into how his life has changed as he’s matured and become famous, the rising star is already an experienced and wise performer and lyricist.
In 2016, Dave featured on Radio 1’s Fire In The Booth hosted by Charlie Sloth, his first taste of the mainstream limelight. Later that year, a collaboration with West London’s AJ Tracey on ‘Thiago Silva’ was a huge hit and established Dave as a household name with UK rap fans. It also highlighted Dave’s love of referencing football players in his music: ‘Attitude’, for example, includes lines “That’s a German on the line call me Manuel Neuer”, “That’s a German up front call me Thomas Muller” and in ‘Panic Attack’, Dave again uses a footballer-based analogy: “With squares I had strikers but I’m more like Ibra/ Over Vardy when it’s beef.” The Streatham songwriter followed up ‘Thiago Silva’ with another collaboration, this time with one of his peers and perhaps the hottest name in London music right now, J-Hus, on the moody hit ‘Samantha’.
Dave isn’t just a local, or even national phenomenon – he achieved a global reach after Drake remixed his song ‘Wanna Know’, bringing his work to an audience of millions. The cover of the remix alluded to another of his interests, anime, as both him and Drake were dressed like ninjas from popular show ‘Naruto’. This is also referenced by the title of his track, ‘Six Paths’, a plot from the show which hints at the many possible directions someone’s life can develop in.
The Englishman doesn’t just address light-hearted topics such as anime and football though, he takes on the harder discussions too. On the aptly titled ‘Question Time’ he challenges Theresa May over the war in Syria, uses his mother’s experience as an overworked nurse to attack healthcare cuts and also lambasts the Prime Minister over her response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, before shifting focus to David Cameron and the calling of the Brexit referendum. Finally, he questions Jeremy Corbyn, and whether his party truly supports him, before leaving with the parting message to a potentially disengaged listener: “I hope you know that what they’re saying is affecting us/
The small steps are way better than no steps.”
Furthermore, the rapper has a versatility that sets him apart from his contemporaries, most obvious on the number ‘How I Met My Ex’ from his latest 7 track mixtape ‘Game Over’. Accompanied solely by a piano the young man regales his listener with an incredibly candid and humble 7-minute tale of youthful naivety and passion. The honesty and detail he captures in his narrative coupled with the relatable nature of his topic, the pursuit of love, forces the listener to give him their full attention, and sets him on a different level to many of his rivals.
Dave’s rise has been meteoric; everyone that hears him is a fan. If this continues, in 2018 you’ll be hearing a lot more of his beats and bars, in many more places
Alex West, URY