One of the UK’s most coveted musical exports, Brixton-born, Streatham-raised Dave is one of the world’s favourite rappers on this side of the Atlantic – and it’s all for good reason. You look back to 2016, when he released his debut EP ‘Six Path’, and wonder if the then-18-year-old would have ever thought he’d be a constant top seller, rubbing shoulders with the likes of OVO founder Drake, having become one of the leading rappers to ever come out of Britain.
He proved himself immensely with his 2019 debut album ‘Psychodrama’, and there’s a sense that this follow-up will have to reach high standards indeed to fulfil its promise. Luckily, ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ might be his most introspective work yet, digging so deep into his personal life that the record is nothing short of an autobiography. With what is his only his second full-length studio album, Dave has struck gold again.
Dave gives us some club bangers to recreate the success of his debut’s Burna Boy-assisted ‘Location’, the best here being ‘System’ with legendary Afrobeats star WizKid. We’re midway through the 12-track record at this point, and the rapper has been getting very heavy, addressing the Windrush scandal, immigrant injustice (the skeletal ‘Three Rivers’) and the harsh realities that have kept him bogged down. ‘System’ is an upbeat addition to an otherwise vulnerable album. Yet even with the groovy bassline and dancing guitar notes, you can’t escape from the Streatham resident adding a few political lines: “But the system’s built so we’re livin’ in debt / Man ‘fi rise up ’cause we livin’ in, yeah”.
And then there’s the buoyant ‘Clash’, Dave’s recent single with Stormzy. The duo rhyme with signature rap braggadocio over a zippy drill track, but – once again – it’s still a little gloomy sounding, a result of its trappy production as the minor notes and a wobbling bassline run wild.
Yet club bangers aren’t, for the most part, what Dave’s most interested in giving us on ‘We’re All Alone in This Together’. This is mostly a record of lengthy, thought-provoking sermons from the 23-year-old as he raps about his observations on the world around him in a strikingly direct and intelligent way. Through the clarity of his vocal delivery – raw, with no AutoTune or quickened flows to hide any questionable lines – Dave truly speaks for millions of youngsters, and especially young Londoners.
Whether he relays tales of how hard his mother has had it to get him where he needs to be (from the acoustic guitar-assisted ‘Heart Attack’: “How many of our parents had dreams they abandoned so they could put food on the table?”), or about his relationship problems (“I used to cheat with Americans for a living,” he raps on the aching, James Blake-featuring ‘Both Side of a Smile’, “I felt nervous every time I got a call from a plus one’), Dave always goes a little further when giving us an insight into his world.
The latter track is a true highlight of the whole album; eight minutes of smooth, ethereal piano notes that waltz around beautifully as the duo recount a story of misfortune centred on matters of the heart. Blake’s opening falsetto sets the glum tone as he sings with a sense of denial: “Looking back it ain’t last / The future’s just a lie”. And then Dave comes out with some of his best-ever metaphors and one-liners as he dramatises how sceptical he – and many have been hurt like him – are when it comes to love. “We’re lovers with a broken past, grew apart,” he intones, “Most things that last have the slowest start.”
It’s one of the most memorable, moving moments in Dave’s back catalogue (which isn’t exactly lacking memorable, moving moments). There’s even an affecting back-and-forth with east London vocalist ShaSimone, the east Londoner representing women who have been scorned by romantic skeptics: “Ask me if I’m taken, I say, ‘Taken for granted’”.
As illustrated throughout the stunning ‘Psychodrama’, Dave has always been the one to rap traditionally, using hip-hop for what it was intended to do: give a voice to the voiceless. He has always been able to show the inner-workings of many young Londoners in a clean and universal way that can perhaps help the whole world to better understand the Black British experience, especially that of Black men. Always ready to tell the hard truths for those who can’t, Dave has proved again that he’s a voice of a generation, sitting pretty atop his peers when it comes to making unforgettable London rap classics.
Release date: July 23rd
Record Label: Dave / Neighbourhood Recordings