South London rapper Dave has long stood out as a hugely promising voice in music, and his anticipated debut album ‘Psychodrama’ – out today – cements his status as one of the UK’s boldest and exciting artists. Taking on race, mental health, the prison system and abuse with unmatched storytelling, it’s a sort of musical scrapbook, which tells you everything you need to know about him.
So who is Dave, exactly? What’s he all about? These are the main takeaways…
He’s open about mental health and his experiences in therapy
‘Psychodrama’ is scattered with spoken excerpts from Dave’s psychotherapist, and the whole record is concerned with openness and honesty. “Tuesday, 23rd of January, 2018, I’m here with David, this is our first session,” the therapist says, opening the album. “We’re just gonna talk about your background, where you’re from, any issues you’ve been dealing with. So, where should we start?” His voice is sampled again on ‘Purple Heart’ and ‘Environment’. Conversations with his incarcerated brother – who is having therapy while serving his sentence – also inspired the album’s overarching concept.
He’s not swept up by the myths of stardom
Often ‘Psychodrama’ returns to the idea that being a mega-star isn’t all it has cracked up to be; if anything the excess and glamour that surrounds it can make reaching out for support very difficult. “Champagne bottles and all the screaming girls,” he raps on ‘Environment’, “it’s ironic how you’ll never hear a scream for help/ Fuckin’ hell, why do you think we’re going through the same thing? Depression when you make it, the pressure and the hatred”.
‘Lesley’ – a tale of an abusive relationship – is based on experiences close to home
In an emotional 11 minute track, Dave tells the tale of a woman named Lesley, who he befriends on the train from Norbury Station. Trapped in an abusive relationship, and pregnant with her abuser’s child, Lesley confides in him as she struggles with leaving her violent boyfriend Jason. After telling her story, Dave adds that “the story is more than a song or track/ It’s a message to a woman with a toxic man/ I’m begging you to get support if you’re lost or trapped” And two tracks later, on ‘Drama’, he reveals that the song is based on the experiences of his relatives.
The album features a cameo from Dave’s incarcerated older brother
The final song on Dave’s debut, ‘Drama’ opens with a recording of Dave’s older brother calling on the phone from prison. He’s currently serving a life sentence for his role in the murder of Sofyen Belamouadden at London Victoria Station in 2010, and the song plays out as a conversation between the pair: “I just lost the only fucking person that I idolised,” Dave says, angry and hurt.
‘Black’ is a masterpiece, a rallying cry, a celebration and an expression of anger at institutional racism
An urgent, sprawling exploration, ‘Black’ digs beneath the surface, and sees Dave laying out what blackness represents to him: “Look, black ain’t just a single fuckin’ colour, man there’s shades to it,” he raps. As well as a celebration – “black is beautiful, black is excellent” – the rapper also tackles institutional racism and brutality. Making reference to police shooting unarmed black men dead – while also protecting white mass-murderers like Dylann Roof – Dave highlights the vast discrepancies. “If he’s white you give him a chance, he’s ill and confused. If he’s black he’s probably armed, you see him and shoot.”
He takes songs in surprising directions
Whether he’s bragging about being a sex god or his financial successes, Dave’s got a talent for spinning things off in surprising directions. ‘Screwface Capital’ dodges from hyperbolic boasts (“made a link with the Russians / Six figure discussions“) to sudden realism; the song ends with the rapper reflecting on his past. “I ain’t got a memory of when dad was around, still a child when I turned man of the house,” he says, before the track dissolves into a fragmented outro.
Dave’s debut album ‘Psychodrama’ is out now