“Tuesday, 23rd of January, 2018, I’m here with David, this is our first session,” the therapist says, opening the album. Three years ago, Dave started to gain a reputation for his freestyle videos.
“Champagne bottles and all the screaming girls,” he raps on ‘Environment’, “it’s ironic how you’ll never hear a scream for help/ Fuckin’ hell, why do you think we’re going through the same thing? Now Dave is 20, and his debut album, Psychodrama, is one of the most significant bodies of British rap music in a generation. It was difficult to fathom that he was only a teenager.
“I ain’t got a memory of when dad was around, still a child when I turned man of the house,” he says, before the track dissolves into a fragmented outro. psychotherapist, and the whole record is concerned with openness and honesty. In an emotional 11 minute track, Dave tells the tale of a woman named Lesley, who he befriends on the train from Norbury Station. “Lesley” closes on the disembodied voice of Dave’s fictional therapist, who expresses relief as his client nears the end of the album’s psychodramatic course. If he’s black he’s probably armed, you see him and shoot.”. His debut album tells you everything you need to know about the Streatham rapper. “We’re just gonna talk about your background, where you’re from, any issues you’ve been dealing with. ‘Psychodrama’ is scattered with spoken excerpts from Dave’s psychotherapist, and the whole record is concerned with openness and honesty. With the significance of the narratives being woven, it's essential that the album's production doesn't attempt to take the spotlight for itself. Often ‘Psychodrama’ returns to the idea that being a mega-star isn’t all it has cracked up to be; if anything the excess and glamour that surrounds it can make reaching out for support very difficult. With a Drake co-sign, a number one-charting hit, and a string of viral singles dating back to 2016, the London-born rapper had every opportunity to secure the bag, whip up a half-baked debut and guarantee himself the big-label sophomore. But the gravitational pull at the center of this magnum opus is “Lesley,” an 11-minute deep dive into the life and abusive relationship of a woman Dave meets on a train, as if colliding “two different worlds in the same location.” It is a microcosm of Psychodrama’s refusal to contain itself as a work of art, instead reaching for emotional intimacy and therapeutic resonance. Putting tool to tone, he morphs the piano to suit his needs, reflecting everything from joy to aggression through note placement and complementary electronics.
What’s more, by teaming up with afrobeat star Burna Boy and celebrated British-Ghanaian hitmaker Jae5 for “Location,” and fellow London boundary-pusher J Hus on “Disaster,” Dave stretches the album’s reach to absorb upbeat diasporic influence, movement, and color. I just lost the only fucking person that I idolised,” Dave says, angry and hurt.
Yet far from just blunt reportage, PSYCHODRAMA's lyrics are steeped in wordplay. The tools of this are organic and instrumental: "Purple Heart" and "Lesley" reflect isolation and grief through strings, while vocal samples put a haunting strand through "Screwface Capital" and "Black."
An urgent, sprawling exploration, ‘Black’ digs beneath the surface, and sees Dave laying out what blackness represents to him: “Look, black ain’t just a single fuckin’ colour, man there’s shades to it,” he raps. He’s currently serving a life sentence for his role in the murder of Sofyen Belamouadden at London Victoria Station in 2010, and the song plays out as a conversation between the pair: “I just lost the only fucking person that I idolised,” Dave says, angry and hurt. Often ‘Psychodrama’ returns to the idea that being a mega-star isn’t all it has cracked up to be; if anything the excess and glamour that surrounds it can make reaching out for support very difficult. Whether he’s bragging about being a sex god or his financial successes, Dave’s got a talent for spinning things off in surprising directions. As political and media establishments in Britain continue to fall short in representing ethnic minority experiences (in one recent case, a centrist politician found herself unable to avoid even a basic faux pas), “Black” doubles as a manifesto for responsible phraseology, and against anachronistic stereotyping. Songs like “Screwface Capital” and “Streatham” stick closely to Dave’s formula of conscious, modern UK rap, delivering hard yet emotionally available odes to the cold city that birthed him. The primary force at work here, though, is Dave's piano. The track, which is produced by Kyle Evans, sees Dave speak on the issues surrounding him, varying from pain to PSYCHODRAMA holds visions of broken relationships, poverty, and deep-set depression, yet they're never inflated; through projecting his own experiences, Dave reflects the conditions of his South London home with frankness and personal grievance. Softer, poppier offerings like “Purple Heart” and “Voices” will appeal to Dave’s increasingly diverse audience of older fans and newcomers seeking easy access to London’s unforgivingly hardline rap scene. Trapped in an abusive relationship, and pregnant with her abuser’s child, Lesley confides in him as she struggles with leaving her violent boyfriend Jason.
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That we're only getting Dave's debut album in 2019 tells us a lot about the artist himself. When the single “Black” was debuted on BBC Radio 1 as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World, it garnered backlash from listeners who missed its nuanced critique of language as a limiting construct on racial identity, expression, and diversity. But the song—on which Dave shares his piano bench with acclaimed producer Fraser T. Smith, whose influence can be heard throughout the album—is not just a proud race anthem. On the same “I’m just happy you’re at a place now where you feel you understand your emotions, and are in control,” the therapist says. As well as a celebration – “black is beautiful, black is excellent” – the rapper also tackles institutional racism and brutality. “We’re just gonna talk about your background, where you’re from, any issues you’ve been dealing with. In an emotional 11 minute track, Dave tells the tale of a woman named Lesley, who he befriends on the train from Norbury Station. “Tell me what you know about a bag full of bills/And your mom crying out, saying, ‘Son, I can’t take it,’/And then staring in the mirror for an hour/With a tear in your eye like, ‘I gotta go make it,’” he spits. That's not to mention late gems "Lesley" and "Drama," skeletal narrative outpourings that tear away the wittiness to deliver heart-wrenching stories of distraught families and isolation. Psychodrama is a form of psychotherapy in which patients role-play events from their past to heal and make sense of themselves. Much like the late-teen Nas on Illmatic, Dave's pen works beyond his years. Depression when you make it, the pressure and the hatred”. Conversations with his incarcerated brother – who is having therapy while serving his sentence – also inspired the album’s overarching concept. Whether it be the rallying cry for racial identity on "Black," generational voicing of "Environment," or 11-minute domestic abuse narrative of "Lesley," Dave's words consistently blur the line between personal and universal, addressing significant issues aptly while giving greater insight into the artist himself. The young wordsmith, also known as Santan Dave, would stare into the camera and relay fierce reflections about his tumultuous life, using them as a lyrical crowbar to pry open the doors keeping voiceless Londoners in the dark. Taking on race, mental health, the prison system and abuse with unmatched storytelling, it’s a sort of musical scrapbook, which tells you everything you need to know about him. Lines like "Now he's cuttin' through bricks like the 118" manifest triple entendres with ease, while others like "I've got a baby, a crossbow like Cupid" employ sly references to Dave's home city.
“A kid dies, the blacker the killer, the sweeter the news/And if he’s white, you give him a chance, he’s ill and confused/If he’s black he’s probably armed, you see him and shoot,” Dave assesses. Packing dense lyricism, poignant introspection, and resonant production into a neatly compiled concept, PSYCHODRAMA has all the makings of a generational classic. South London rapper Dave has long stood out as a hugely promising voice in music, and his anticipated debut album ‘Psychodrama’ – out today – cements his status as one of the UK’s boldest and exciting artists. Making reference to police shooting unarmed black men dead – while also protecting white mass-murderers like Dylann Roof – Dave highlights the vast discrepancies. Psychodrama is a form of psychotherapy in which patients role-play events from their past to heal and make sense of themselves. This haunting backdrop has long bled into Dave’s lyricism—“Never had a father and I needed you to be the figure,” he cries in the album’s closing passage—but its impact is more closely examined across Psychodrama than ever before. The result is an album where sonics reinforce moods, allowing Dave to express a wealth of emotions in a measured, complex approach. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 90, based on 10 reviews and it is currently one of the top 100 highest-rated albums on the website. ‘Screwface Capital’ dodges from hyperbolic boasts (“made a link with the Russians / Six figure discussions“) to sudden realism; the song ends with the rapper reflecting on his past. An urgent, sprawling exploration, ‘Black’ digs beneath the surface, and sees Dave laying out what blackness represents to him: “L, while also protecting white mass-murderers like Dylann Roof. Dave’s debut album ‘Psychodrama’ is out now. ‘Psychodrama’ is scattered with spoken excerpts from Dave’s.
So, where should we start?” His voice is sampled again on ‘Purple Heart’ and ‘Environment’. ‘Psychodrama’ is scattered with spoken excerpts from Dave’s psychotherapist, and the whole record is concerned with openness and honesty. These are the main takeaways…. Trapped in an abusive relationship, and pregnant with her abuser’s child, Lesley confides in him as she struggles with leaving her violent boyfriend Jason. Conversations with his incarcerated brother – who is having therapy while serving his sentence – also inspired the album’s overarching concept.
“Tuesday, 23rd of January, 2018, I’m here with David, this is our first session,” the therapist says, opening the album. As much as these words mark Dave’s progress in his quest to get … As well as adding authorial color, this wordplay gives the album's blunter moments a greater poignancy: "I used to cry about my dad until my f*cking eyes burnt" cuts sharply through the riffing of "Psycho," while "Environment" deconstructs public perception with "You see this industry where everybody came up / I see a bag of weird rappers". Much like the late-teen Nas on Illmatic, Dave's pen works beyond his years. On his debut album, the talented South London rapper Dave explores family and identity with the unguarded catharsis of a therapy session.
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