Dave’s Psychodrama cements his talent as the perfect debut album.
In the UK our political institutions struggle to find an answer to age old questions about British identity and our place in the world. After years of government cuts to publicly funded outreach groups, education and health infrastructures which have contributed to rising knife crime and gang culture. Yet beyond the desired hegemony of the state and our Conservative government’s attempts to cement it’s rejuvenated hegemonic ascendency via the diversionary illumination of Brexit and culture wars there is one question which remains unanswered.
Where is black identity in 2019? In a country where black citizens are illegally deported, far right activism is on the rise and political discourse is managed on day time Television by right wing pundits like Piers Morgan?
It is a question that is not easy to answer. As knife crime rises the debate has again regressed to instantaneous solutions regarding stop and search laws in London. Here the focus is on black people and the supposed failures of the black family. Yet as rapper, author and philosopher Akala recently commented. Tougher criminal sentences and the focus on ethnic groups are phallic within a population in which race is not a common denominator when questioning the historical origins of criminality.
How do we even start to answer the question?
Well if you look at one of the best albums of the year the answer is clear.
To quote The Roots from their US album Game Theory “its in the music” and one of the best albums of the year by Dave with his first full LP: Psychodrama.
Ironically the album title The Roots used was a reference to economic strategizing and the cynicism capitalistic desire had brought into the community and music industry. That cynicism is not evident in this record.
Rapper Dave recently created a social media furore when BBC radio DJ Annie Mac played the lead single from his new album: Black. The reaction to the song wasn’t about a talented black piano playing musician discussing the beauty of his culture and diversity within a diaspora in which culture and ethnicity is not a monolith. No, the debate was centred around binary dichotomies centred around claims of racism against white people and negativity. A debate which is ridiculous in a society where black and white people are part of each other’s history. This symbiotic history isn’t what is taught in schools. It is silent until somebody steps up and breaks that silence. Dave is holding the hammer.
The video for black features football player Raheem Sterling, a black soccer player who is a victim of the British media’s racial bias and the subconscious racism that infects some of the country.
Black is the third track on this album. An album which opens up the confessional and individualistic song Psycho. The song is a haunting tale rooted within Dave’s South London roots. What the song does near to the conclusion is to do what so many tracks on this album do. It begins with a specific motif, tells a story and then reinforces the motif with geometric emotional clarity and musical scope.
This technique is echoed throughout the album with subtle uses of vocal dexterity, different cadence song writing skill and emotionality. Dave has the bars to excite you and yet on every song he effortlessly brings you in to a world you will understand and feel without falling back on the materialistic elements that keep the listener on the periphery. Here the beauty of women and emotions are part of the journey rather than decorative epithets.
Streatham, Screwface Capital, Environment and Drama embrace the intensity of British rap music but what Dave manages to do is to expand is the tactile emotionality within city life, sex, depression, friendship and emotion. What he also does is to illustrate that these are universally humanistic ideals and further proof that black British culture offers an entertainment and cultural outreach which is transcendent and uplifting both for black people and the country as a whole.
The longest song on the album is Lesley. A track which is about domestic abuse (the song even references Friday the 13th). An intricately stunning track. Here Dave speaks for those without a voice, women who are beaten emotionally and tortured by men. The song ends with a glorious vocal from singer Ruelle. Dave also poses the question “how many Lesley’s are running from their Jasons?”
One of the paradoxes within machismo is male desire toward women without the consideration for female culture as a whole. Fundamentally, you cannot adore women without striving for their emancipation from patriarchy and violence. Even as a man in his early twenties, Dave understands that the loss of male adolescence is in union with further understanding of the female experience. As he illustrates on this track.
Last year Gaika’s album Basic Volume was my favourite album from the UK. This year Little Simz threw down the gauntlet with her Inflo produced album, Grey Area. That record is a masterpiece.
Dave has also provided us not only with an album rooted within London’s musical and creative wealth he has also answered the question I posed at the start of this article.
What is black identity in 2019?
According to Dave it is excellent, expansive, funny, profound and wondrous.
This is a stunning album and one we should all be grateful for.
Words from @Theghostwriterc