Before Team America got everyone saying “Matt Damon” in the silliest way possible, the subject of name-based lampooning – at least here in the UK – was Craig David: mercilessly parodied by Leigh Francis (who is now achieving unfathomable success in his new guise, Keith Lemon) between 2002 and 2004 on the Channel 4 sketch show Bo’ Selecta!, it sent up David as a rubbery-faced, kestrel-loving loser who went from a “UK garage sensation; topping the charts, right on top, topping the charts, on top” to becoming “mediocre, under the bloody ocre” and getting sacked from a job at Greggs after two days.
Francis’ hounding of Craig David came as a result of the latter’s wild success at the turn of the century: first there was that guest feature on Artful Dodger’s still-great ‘Re-Rewind’ in 1999, and then came the overwhelming commercial success of his silky-smooth debut album, ‘Born To Do It’ (just the eight million records sold worldwide). There were number one singles (‘7 Days’, ‘Fill Me In’), BRIT Awards, and a spike in the sales of beanie hats, headphones and beard trimmers: it all looked so promising for the Craig David phenomenon during those halcyon days.
But then things somewhat stalled after that: although his follow-up, ‘Slicker Than Your Average’, sold well and (weirdly) featured a collaboration with Sting, it couldn’t maintain that early momentum, nor could it effectively combat Bo’ Selecta!’s relentless pre-meme caricature, which by that time had shifted public opinion negatively towards the star: “Inside it was absolutely pissing me off and hurtful beyond belief,” he told The Sunday Times in 2007. “There were times when I thought, ‘I just want to knock [Francis] out.’” Three more underwhelming albums followed between 2005 and 2010, and then… nothing.
But that time away from the spotlight has helped heal both David’s public appeal and his own creative streak; the latter seemingly hurtling towards something of a resurgence, as he revealed on BBC 1Xtra with an anecdote about bumping into Drake (as you do):
“When I saw Drake in this restaurant, we walked up to each other and there was this moment. I was like, ‘Oh man [‘Hotline Bling’] is all I’m listening to.’ And he was like, ‘Man I need to call my producer, if I can tell him right now that I’m with you, ‘Born To Do It’! The tunes you have.’ And this was kicking off.” Quizzed about a possible collaboration, the 34-year-old said: “When the time is right, when it’s really right, and there’s the Craig David/Drake mixtape, I promise you… he’d easily be like, ‘Yeah man, I want to do that.’” Listen to the full interview below.
This co-sign from Drake is just the latest in a conveyor belt of promising signs for the resurrection of David’s music career – here’s just a few pointers on why it’s time for the phoenix to rise from the charred, headphone-y ashes of Bo’ Selecta!-era Craig David…
He seems to be living an awesome life out of the spotlight
Take a look at David’s Instagram page: whilst he’s toned down the excess pics of his plush Miami pad and his ripped physique in recent months, he’s still posting images of himself DJing, recording, and, rather excellently, being featured in the local press in the Solomon Islands. If there was a hangover from his early success, it seems to have well and truly passed.
His latest song with Big Narstie is rather good
Big Narstie’s self-memeing aside (“BASS: Feel a bad girl like a sandwich”), ‘When The Bassline Drops’ is, by Craig David standards, actually pretty damn spectacular. The song’s garage flow sounds as good as it did in 2000, and with serious support from the likes of 1Xtra and Capital FM, it’s not too outrageous a notion to suggest that Craig David is becoming cool again.
There’s a desire amongst the public for the return of Craig
If you take the 495,000 streams of ‘…Drops’ on Spotify into account, that is. And with his new album set to drop sometime in 2016, it shows that people are more than interested to hear what Craig David 2.0 sounds like.
He’s a pretty decent DJ
With music on the backburner in recent years, Craig David’s DJ career has been able to take off – and it’s going rather well. Entitled TS5, the project is essentially an R&B party set that he honed whilst hosting parties at his Miami home (he claims P Diddy used to turn up now and again), and it now has a regular slot on Capital FM’s stations in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It’s also a venture that enables him to tour the world – he next parks up in London in March, although good luck getting tickets, as it’s sold out.
His back catalogue is still sublime
Chuck ‘Rewind’ on in a club and it’ll slay. Put ‘Fill Me In’ on at the office Christmas party and you’ll be dancing with the accounting department like you’ve known them your entire life. Put the chorus of ‘7 Days’ in your Tinder bio and you’ll have more matches then you’ve ever had before (maybe).
The point is this: perhaps it’s the nostalgia talking, but ‘Born To Do It’ is still a mighty fine listen 15 years later. Go ahead, whack it on Spotify now – you need to prepare yourself for the ‘What A Time To Be Alive Vol. 2’ mixtape that Craig David and Drake are going to drop in 2016, anyway. Craig David is cool again, and everyone is OK with that. Now where’s my beanie hat…