He did it. Dave’s debut album Psychodrama (named after a form of psychotherapy where patients role-play past experiences from their lives to help make sense of them) reached number 1 in the UK album charts on Friday, beating Foals and Dido. On the album, the 20-year-old rapper scrutinises his insecurities as well as confronting his demons (“Probably battling with manic depression/Man, I think I’m going mad again”). His lyrics are bold and honest.
For people who may have just clocked the Streatham-raised south Londoner’s talent, this would certainly look like a momentous milestone. His Drake-featuring "Wanna Know" remix, then his Ivor Novello awardwinning lyrical scorcher “Question Time” – where he called out Theresa May for her lack of action after the Grenfell Tower disaster, among other issues – may well have introduced him to new listeners. But really, Dave’s been building toward this level of success for years. And so we spoke to some of his fans, about what this chart success and his wider impact means to them.
“His music influences me to pay attention to lyrics a lot more”
Dave is by far my favourite UK artist. I first started listening to him, as most did, when the “Wanna Know” remix came out. I listened to the Six Paths EP after that, along with my favourite Dave track “Thiago Silva” and since then I've listened to everything he has been involved with. I thought Psychodrama was brilliant. The whole album is exactly what he wants it to be and he raps about what matters to him, not what will climb the charts straight away.
Dave's music has influenced me to pay attention to lyrics a lot more closely and this has lead me to enjoy artists like Krept and Konan a lot more than I ever did before. I think Dave is so successful because he's so diverse in what he can do. He can make number 1s like “Funky Friday” and also talk about politics or tell a story like he does on “How I Met My Ex” and “Lesley.” Dave reminds me of a young Kanye, because he is so different to the scene around him and I think he'll stay at the top of the charts for the next ten years.
— Harry Wilkins, 18
“He makes it easy for you to empathise with him”
I loved Psychodrama from the moment I first listened to it. His music is influential to society as a whole because of its substance; he talks about so many topical issues and things that happen daily to many in all walks of life. Although I may not experience, for example, racism in the same way that he indicates on his song “Black”, I really can resonate with it and understand where he comes from on that – on being an ethnic minority member who is portrayed by the media/targeted in a different way.
Dave has an amazing lyrical ability and he uses it to talk about real problems and sheds light on issues he may have gone through and that other people are going through. This makes it so much easier for people to relate to: the struggles he is talking about, the music and to really empathise with him. The fact that he’s only 20 and making a huge impact is truly commendable.
— Ammaarah, 18
“He’s made it without having to constantly rap about drugs to appeal to us”
I am a huge fan of Dave. I first found him when someone retweeted a clip of his Fire in the Booth freestyle. I then went and looked for more of his music and discovered tracks like “JKYL+HYD” and never looked back since. I thought Psychodrama was so clever and one of the most unique albums I’ve ever listened too. The diversity of the album also makes it great.
His music has influenced me to work hard and become successful. Seeing someone so similar in age to me, with a lot tougher circumstances, making it big time leaves me no excuses but to do well myself. I think Dave is so successful due to his ability to deliver strong, powerful messages, whether they’re political, or personal. To this day, I could listen to something from his Six Paths EP and find a new reference that I haven’t realised in two years. The guy doesn’t need to constantly rap about guns or drugs to appeal to an entire generation or make a banger. All of the above, mixed with his raw emotions are what really propel him to the top of the UK rap scene.
— Harry Butler, 18
“He’s relatable not just to young men, but to anyone who’s gone through a shit time”
I first heard Dave in 2016, on the “Wanna Know” remix featuring Drake. Back then, I just saw him as another UK club rapper. That was until I heard the Game Over EP and realised he was a whole lot more than that; touching on many of the themes that young men are faced with in their lives, not just drugs, women, and violence but depression and financial insecurity. Now, Psychodrama is a masterpiece. The linkage between the tracks and the underlying theme with the therapist proves how much thought went into the piece. It’s not just a regular album with 10 comparable bangers.
Personally, Dave’s music has restored my faith in hip-hop. Like many genres, the music we’re exposed to – particularly in the charts and on the radio – becomes repetitive. As a normal guy working a 9-5 job in Ireland, I can relate to depression and the hardships involved in becoming a man: peer comparison, financial struggles, lack of self worth etc. This lyric off "Environment" on Psychodrama sums it up – “They see a Cuban and a whip, I see a house deposit”.
For such a young guy to be that forward-thinking, it’s honestly incredible. Dave’s not scared to push back about the falsehoods that other rappers focus their music on, instead pushing them down and rapping about life's real problems. That’s why he’s so successful. He’s relatable not just to young men but anyone who’s gone through shit times in their life.
— George Joyce, 24
“He makes you think about the things you have in life”
Yeah, I am a fan of Dave. I heard his “Fire in the Booth” then “JKYL + HYD.” And now, I think Psychodrama is the best UK album to be released this year – it’s made me think about the things I have and my freedom. “My 19th Birthday” is my favourite song because it shows his character and personality and Dave is successful because of his lyrical talent and his work ethic. He puts 100 percent into every song because it’s both his love and profession.
— Rashad Vaidya, 16
“He reflects the wisdom he’s picked up from his life experiences”
Dave’s music has a powerful, uplifting energy that influences me personally to strive and achieve any of the goals I’ve set for myself. Other people may have said this but he doesn’t rap only about generic things – money, drugs, etc. He has a message behind his music and at such a young age shows the wisdom he’s gained from his life experiences. Beyond that, the way he’s able to use word play is unbelievable.”
— Juvahne Lewis, 20
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