Craig David’s reputation precedes him: seminal dance hits, a now-successful DJing profile and a largely beloved, if not tolerated, presence: the days of being mercilessly mocked on Bo Selecta feel long-gone, perhaps. His eighth album, ‘22’, is a celebration of the journey so far, and a revival for his R&B credibility.
Opening with the sultry Jon B-inspired ‘Teardrops’, on ‘22’ Craig David isn’t just thinking about making the garage tracks that made him famous. Instead, he heavily focuses on a refreshing R&B sound. Interpolating the well-known R&B classic ‘They Don’t Know’, the mandolin skips around whilst David is regretful for making his love interest upset: “It hurts so bad because I need you / And it hurts ‘cause they don’t know about this here”.
Most intriguing, however, is when he passes the baton to his talented friends, old and new. ‘21’ is a jubilant ‘00s-esque track, interpolating 50 Cent’s ‘21 Questions’ with drill’n’b pioneer Isong; ‘Obvious’ is sees him team-up with budding viral superstar Muni Long as they reflect both sides of a relationship falling to pieces. The flirty guitar’s riff escalates the punchy back and forth, just like how Monica and Brandy’s 1998 smash, ‘The Boy Is Mine’.
‘G Love’, however, starring NME 100 alumni Nippa is the highlight. The duo have been seen together as David seems to have taken Nippa under his wing, and after touring together, there’s clear chemistry. A hazy love track, the pair trade lines about their lovers, and Nippa’s cheeky promiscuous lines are a hit on the track: “And don’t worry if I leave with your cousin / She was in the corner, tryna show me some lovin’”.
Heavily relying on the feel-good nature of classic ‘00s R&B – and the Robin S ‘Show Me Love’ house sample on ‘My Heart’s Been Waiting For You’ – Craig David could have dangerously made a gimmicky throwback album. Yet, in a time when many UK R&B fans are crying out for great music and recognition, Craig David not only feeds that appetite but uses his platform to laud up some stars to watch too.
Release date: September 30
Record label: BMG Records