Dave, at The Academy Green Room, 24 November 2017
Although Dave is considered to be at the forefront of the freshman class in the second coming of grime, it would be slightly remiss to label him so. Sure, he lifts straight from the 140 bpm cookbook, and his delivery adopts the snarling ferocity of the genre’s frustrated undercurrents. But there is a sensitivity to his lyricism, a greater self-awareness that extends beyond the typical braggadocio. There is also a desire to challenge the self-serving socio-economic policies of the bureaucracy.
Dave’s musicality grants far more access points than a lot of the rest of his community, which can be far too insular and closed off. Wanna Know for example, provided the 19-year-old with just the right exposure when Drake remixed it for his ‘More Life’ playlist. It was the well-roundedness of the tune that enabled it to rise above the underground.
The London rapper arrived in Dublin off the back of the spectacular ‘Game Over’ EP. And it was this EP’s titular opener which kicked off proceedings. Whatever intoxication was denied from the absence of a functioning bar was soon concocted when the abrasion began and the crowd started jumping. Dave, a self-confessed avid gamer infuses elements of that world into his sound (something long-associated with the 8-bit rudiments of grime but a tactic never deployed so gracefully.)
Calling Me Out, with its Latin rhythms (which seem to be the flavour of the month recently) proves particularly successful. But it’s Question Time and most notably How I Met My Ex which truly stand out.
Question Time, a reference to the popular BBC political debate show does just that. A scathing seven minute-long rant that takes aim at everything from David Cameron’s negligence towards the youth to hypocritical trade deals to the mismanagement of the Grenfell Towers. All while putting shame to Campaign Speech in the process. For the nature of the song, it’s a testament to his profundity that the crowd – some several hundred strong – remain tuned in throughout.
Everything stops on its axis however as soon as Dave soliloquises about the relationship with his ex; starting with the love-struck beginnings and obsessive behaviour on social media but ultimately ending with the inevitable jealousy and paranoia, lack of seriousness taken towards her profession and untimely the relationship’s collapse.
This was a truly heart-wrenching eight minutes or so. So much so that he had to depart the stage for a minute to compose himself. Therein lies Dave’s greatest skillset; the ability to transpose his own heartache onto the listener so fluidly, making his emotions and story palpable.
He doesn’t half have a knack for a banger though as well. His verse off Giggs’ Peligro goes down a treat. But it’s Tequila and Thiago Silva which he performs with a member from the crowd who knows every bit of AJ Tracey’s part (a further testament to how much he has enamoured his fanbase), that capture the imagination most.
When assessing Dave, it is important to remember that he’s like any 19-year-old. He loves his mates, longs for familial harmony and will drop a mention to a footballer (Thiago Silva, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller) at a moment’s notice. But Dave has also been forced to grow-up quickly, find a vocation and make sense of the socio-economic difficulties that have been dealt his way, difficulties that have seen his brothers land in prison.
See, in Dave’s world, it’s sink or swim. So he found music, learned to play piano and to rap and he is currently learning to play guitar. He studies ethics at university and has challenged the status quo both musically and academically. And taking all that into account, the future for Dave looks to be a very worthwhile one indeed.