A moving, quasi-concept album, this debut from the 20-year-old rapper is bold and thought-provoking, the kind of record that comes along only rarely
On the Friday release of Psychodrama, Dave wrote on his Instagram: “I feel like my whole life’s been leading up to this one moment”, and indeed a lifetime worth of learning is evident throughout Psychodrama. The rapper, whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregi, may only be 20 years old, but he has lived a life, and he describes it vivid detail here.
Inspired by Dave’s older brother therapy sessions while in prison, ‘Psychodrama’ is a moving quasi-concept album, looking at the push-pull between the person and the world around them. Dave recently revealed that ‘Psychodrama’ follows a three-act structure of “environment”, “relationships” and “social compass”, and as the album unfolds, ‘Psychodrama’ becomes a journey of self discovery, anger, fear and ultimately hope.
Boasting industry veterans Fraser T Smith, 169, Nana Rogues and others on production, ‘Psychodrama’ is a slickly made effort, with robust beats offering a backdrop for Dave’s affecting lyrics. When Dave takes us on a tour of a lifetime of learnings and pressures and difficulties on stand out track ‘Black’, every piano key serves to emphasise the defiant and dexterous wordplay. When Radio One listeners complained about the racially charged lyrics (“The blacker the berry the sweeter the juice / A kid dies, the blacker the killer, the sweeter the news”) on ‘Black’, Annie Mac came to the song’s defence. Dave raps not to shock, but to investigate and interrogate.
Possessing a boldness you only encounter in a handful of albums a year, the record’s greatest strength is his ability to garner quiet moments of pondering in among the loud and rage of the world. Ninth track ‘Lesley’ is the grand work of ‘Psychodrama’, focusing on a chance encounter on a train between Dave and a pregnant woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship. Eleven minutes long, ‘Lesley’ could have easily crossed over to crass or exploitative, but such is Dave’s careful musing, when he raps “It’s a message to a woman with a toxic man/ I’m begging you to get support if you’re lost or trapped”, you truly feel it.
In exploring himself on ‘Psychodrama’, Dave has produced a masterpiece. This 20-year-old has lost in some ways and won in others, and asks us to listen as he tries to find some answers. The lessons you learn with Dave are sure to live long in the memory.