When Dave booked tickets to see Drake in Amsterdam last year, he couldn’t have known his life was about to change. “We were only going for a friend’s birthday, but then his management rang and said he wanted to remix my song ‘Wanna Know’,” says the 19-year-old prodigy. “The show was cancelled but we got to meet him out there. The entire night is a blur.”
Since then, Dave’s racked up millions of YouTube views, schooled Samuel L Jackson on racism and joined Drake on stage at The O2 earlier this year. Now, he’s self-released a fiery new EP ‘Game Over’. Stuffed with a diverse palette of grime-flavoured bangers and deeply personal, political lyrics, it’s the kind of mature record most artists make at the end of their career, not the beginning. But despite his young age, the road to success has been a long one.
Born and raised in Streatham, south London, Dave Santan started writing lyrics at 11 after watching his big brother practise rapping at home. But his passion for music didn’t ignite until his mum brought home a piano three years later. “I’d finish school and play non-stop until I went to bed,” he says. “I learned by listening to movie themes like The Dark Knight and complex video game soundtracks.” He released his first video ‘Blackbox Cypher’ in 2015 and was quickly snapped up by management. It wasn’t until March 2016 that he played his first gig, though – a support slot for Kano at London’s Troxy, which didn’t go quite to plan. “It was the first time I’d rapped to a crowd and I instantly lost my voice,” he remembers. “The only notes that would come out were these super high-pitched ones. It wasn’t the easiest.” A minor blip, for sure.
Since, he’s established himself as one of the UK’s most exciting new musicians and is working on a debut album to be released next year. “I know exactly how I’m going to make it and what I need it to be,” he says. “I just need to find the time.” He shouldn’t rush. He’s got years ahead of him.