From the outset, Dave has been unapologetic about his lyrics as he paints a picture of modern youth and society. While Dave could convince many that music is very much second nature to him, in part down to his confidence on early tracks and freestyles, the main reason for Dave starting out was to use the medium of music to express himself; “I had a lot of personal stuff going on in my life so I found it therapeutic”.
South London’s Dave burst onto the scene through his features on underground channel BL@CKBOX and freestyles on shows for 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex & Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Booth. However, the first thing that caught many people’s attention, including mine, was not his age, but his maturity and confidence on the mic. [“Now you’re in the station telling stories like Roald Dahl. Your man are in a holding cell, hoping that you hold out. My endz are so fucked now, got a n***a trying to cut now”].
Since it’s incarnation, the UK urban scene has seen a number of young stars come through the ranks, looking to make a name for themselves – Wiley introduced Chip and Icekid to the world when they were only 16. Dave is an MC who’s been showing his worth since an early age and looks to take his music in a new, refreshing direction. As much as he is becoming recognised for his own music, he is also a massive fan of the UK scene and when talking about influences, remains very much on home turf;
“I didn’t really look at too much American music when I was growing up, so from the UK, there was Youngs Teflon who has always had a crazy catalogue of music. There was Devlin, who just had a crazy way of rhyming words and his content matter was miles ahead of anyone else. Those were the two main ones for me”.
When we catch up with Dave in South London, we ask him to take us to a place that he knows. His local area has always played a large part in his music, and as we pass Streatham Common station and eventually post up at the staircase where he filmed the majority of his first video, “JKYL+HYD”, it’s clear that he is still very much a local guy.
Looking at those early videos, when Dave closes his eyes, he opens up to the mic and that we’re merely serving as onlookers to his story. As Dave raps about his family, his life and his hardships on the road, you can tell that he means every word and these sessions are, as he says, his form of therapy. Looking through the comments on some of his aforementioned freestyles, there are hundreds of people who comment on Dave’s emotive style and honest and passionate delivery.
Our conversation itself takes us on a tour around the place he calls home and as we walk about, a number of local people approach Dave and crew passing on their best wishes and commenting on his success.
These early freestyle videos also allowed Dave to find a perfect platform to hone his craft and build a following of fans. But when the decision came to make music, he understood that he would need to change up his game;
“Approaching a track and a freestyle are completely different. The more music I made, the easier it was for me to get a grasp of what was working well or what wasn’t. I think that the freestyles helped me build the emotional side and make a connection with people who were listening to my music. And then, when I started making music, I had people that like me for me. Once you can write lyrics, you can never forget lyrics”.
The talk swings round to age and whether it has ever posed as a barrier to making music. While Dave is adamant that his age has actually helped him, he said it had also pushed him to create music that can be accessible to all; “When you’re younger, it’s difficult for older people to listen to you. So you have to have crazy content matter past your age for olders to tune in”. And tune in they have, with support coming in for Dave from across the scene, both young and old, all praising the 18 year old’s talents. After appearing on the remix of AJ Tracey’s “Spirit Bomb” with a quote-worthy verse, the two would link up again for “Thiago Silva”, a track packed with energy which to date, has amassed over 1,600,000 views. The chemistry between the two is instantly relatable and has the feel of classic back-to-back grime tracks [even refixing the classic “Pied Piper” instrumental]. But while Dave pays homage to those before him, it’s clear that he is looking to the future and to create his own thing.
“I’m not just gonna spit over old grime beats to give you a nostalgic feeling. If anything, I’m going to take it and put my own spin on it and make it current. Those melodies from early grime tracks are special and are part of the foundation but I’m looking to do me”.
This desire to succeed led to the announcement that he would be releasing his first full project of work, ‘Six Paths’ at the end of September and our first look at what to expect came in the form of “Picture Me”, a thought provoking track matched with a stunning visual. On first play, it drew comparisons to Nas’ “I Can” with a message of inspiration for younger generations and a statement that your environment does not define your potential. The track serves as another reminder of Dave’s maturity and his willingness to pass on a positive message at such an early stage. Its release coincided with a time when many young people where dealing with tough decisions in their life with exam results and university and the track itself was inspired by a similar event a year prior;
“When I wrote it, I just got my A Level results and I was at that point where I was at a crossroads and thinking what I wanted to do with my life. It felt like a powerful track when I wrote it and I knew it was special. I wanted to show people that there is more to life then what is shown”.
At this age in life, and especially people from my background and demographic, this is a crucial stage.
Looking at the title of his upcoming EP, one might be led to expect that there could be a number of themes on the project; “Six Paths came about from numerous Anime references [a theme that has run through his FITB and ‘JKYL+HYD’] and I thought it was a fitting title for the EP because I wanted it to be about direction. At this age in life, and especially people from my background and demographic, this is a crucial stage. So the Six Paths are used to explain where I’m coming from and where I’m going”.
Dave admits that he has some “feel good tracks that we wouldn’t expect” on the disc. As his first full piece of work, Dave should be allowed to experiment with his music and ‘Six Paths’ will serve as a platform for him to do so. As he said early on in our discussion, he can be his own biggest critic and from any experience, he is keen to figure out how to develop as an artist and improve. When asked the one thing he wants people to take away from it, its Dave’s down to earth persona that shines through;
“I want people to understand that I’m with them and not above them or detached from their situation or my content matter. I’ve lived what I talk about and I want to show support for others doing the same. I’m in the position myself so while I’m passing on a message to others, I’m actually talking to myself at the same time”.
One thing that remains constant is Dave’s humility in the face of it all. As his videos rack up views, his tracks get mainstream attention and the anticipation for his EP grows, Dave is more than happy to be around his friends and live his life to the fullest. But how does he want to be remembered?
“I want to be remembered as someone who changed the game. At the moment I’m trying and I hope I do get there because I’m not coming at it from the normal angle of making a few choruses, a few tracks, taking my money and leaving. I’m here for every aspect of music – the instrumentals, the production, the vocals, the live acoustic sessions, I’m here to learn instruments and score movie soundtracks!”
‘Six Paths’ EP is out on the 30th of September and available to pre-order from iTunes.