The bottom line
Following his release of successful Game Over EP two-years prior, the British rapper Dave continues to lean on his strengths and natural music ability to deliver an impressive debut album filled with personal battles and struggles.
The British rapper and songwriter Dave is a unique artist and a talented musician. He’s also another young artist, 21 at the time of his writing, who seems to have his sights set on the bigger picture when it comes to music content. He’s not afraid to put his personal problems on tracks and doesn’t shy away from rapping about political issues around the world.
NPR gave Dave the chance to perform a few songs in front of a small crowd. The songs he chose to perform were perfect in representing the kind artist Dave is. First, he performed “Location” which is a song that served as one of the singles for Psychodrama. He ended with two songs that have deep meanings and solemn messages over the piano and guitar. Overall it was a great performance. Check it out below.
The lead single for Psychodrama is a song called “Black” and it’s gotta be one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. The piano on this track is perfectly blended in with the percussion. It’s just quiet enough so you can focus on the lyrics without losing out on the beat.
Dave is rapping about the reality of black people in today’s world and the injustices and obstacles of making it. He touches on black history being erased, countries being named after the slave trade, and the pain of loved ones being locked up.
One detail about this track that stood out is how the two verses come to a close. The first verse ends with “Black has got a sour f*****’ flavor, here’s a taste of it / But black is all I know, there ain't a thing that I would change in it.” This is in contrast with how the second verse ends which is, “Black is like the sweetest f*****’ flavor, here’s a taste of it / But black is all I know, there ain't a thing that I would change in it.”
Sounds like Dave is saying being black is bittersweet and this song shows it.
The blacker the berry the sweeter the juice / 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 /– Black
This masterpiece also comes with a video.
While doing research for this album, it was discovered that “Psychodrama” is actually a concept album. The theme is clear from the short, well-placed skits of the therapist talking, but the concept didn’t make itself obvious. It took me looking up the definition of “Psychodrama” and a few listens to really understand the concept but once I did, it made sense.
(Psychodrama: a method of group psychotherapy in which participants take roles in improvisational dramatizations of emotionally charged situations.)
The production that’s on Psychodrama is very solid. With the help of various producers, including Dave himself, the blend of piano, percussion, and guitar sounds fantastic under the lyrics and singing.
Another thing that stood out was the fact that the skits didn’t interrupt the listening experience. They’re also kept pretty short. Well placed interludes are an underrated aspect of developing an album and Psychodrama performs well in this area.
Dave’s ability to tell a clear story and to project his emotions onto the listeners is outstanding. You can feel the stone-cold sadness on the track “Leslie” as the rapper tells a very somber story about a girl who begins to lose her sense of herself over time. An abusive boyfriend, a disloyal friend, and an untimely pregnancy all build-up to the message Dave is trying to send. The song ends with some powerful lines and a message for the listeners.
It's a message to a woman with a toxic man / I'm begging you to get support if you're lost or trapped / I understand that I can never understand and I ain't saying that it's easy but it must be right / Some of your sisters, aunties, mums or wives / Are fucked aside and they will never touch on why / I'm touched 'cause I've seen women that I love though like- / Cry little red tears through a bloodshot eye / This shit's awful, no matter what culture it ain't normal / Men try and twist it, make it seem like it's your fault / In that train full of people that you're taking / How many Lesleys are running from their Jasons? /– Leslie
Psychodrama ends with a track called “Drama”. It’s about his older brother who is currently serving a prison sentence for participation in a murder. He also touches on his father leaving, forcing Dave to become the man of the house. Lyrically, he does not disappoint. Take a look at these lines and witness the penmanship. This is amazing.
I remember when you got sentenced and I was throwing up / It's like they took a piece of my freedom when I had opened up / I just lost the only fucking person that I idolized/ For my entire life I copied you down to the finest line / Bro, I got a flame in my mind I'm trying to firefight / The pill I had to swallow wasn't bitter, it was cyanide /– Drama
At this point, it appears Dave performs best over quiet pianos while letting the lyrics do the most work. “Black”, “Leslie”, and “Drama” are all meaningful tracks that have those musical characteristics. It’s not so much of a complaint as it is an observation.
Whether it’s trading bars with fellow British rapper J Hus on the track “Disaster” or telling chilling stories about life struggles, Dave has a ton of potential. Being a rapper, singer, and pianist, Dave appears to be a musician from head to toe and he possesses an ear for great sounds. Plus his subject matter is unique in comparison to the current climate in hip hop.
Let’s hope for more quality hip hop like Psychodrama in the near future.
This is one of the best albums that was released in 2019 and it’s certainly the best album I’ve heard from a British rapper. This project gives off the vibe of a call for a change instead of ‘just’ being a rap album. The lyricism, the graceful production, and the powerful messages all combine for an impressive debut album from Dave. I'm looking forward to the next one.