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Dave is a 20-year-old lyrical phenomenon whose album, Pyschodrama, just topped the British charts on debut.
Get to know Dave! Monster Children interview South London’s chart topping rap phenomenon for this years publication of Daily Splendour.
Interview by Vaughan Dead
Dave is a 20-year-old lyrical phenomenon whose album, Pyschodrama, just topped the British charts on debut. Hailed as one of the most significant bodies of rap music in a generation, the South Londoner is bringing the full force of his electrifying talent to this year’s SITG, and I will be standing in the front row with an ‘I Love Dave’ t-shirt on, because I can’t think of an album I’ve heard in the last five years that has left me in this much in awe.
I appreciate that a lot man. Thank you. I think that being able to express yourself is something that comes with time really. I’ve got to say what I’m thinking and feeling, so in some ways it was never a choice for me. It comes naturally. As a kid, I was definitely interested in how things worked. I liked cars and stuff, and I was always drawn towards music, instruments and other things. I loved doing random research on things for no other reason than having an interest in them, and that would inform me on the things that I was passionate about and interested in. As you get older those passions and interests evolve, from cars and music to things like politics and what’s going on in the world around us. So, I guess that applies directly to my music, my lyrics and the style that I’m known for.
Fraser T. Smith was definitely a big influence; he’s a producer I’ve worked with a lot, and he helped me take not only my music to a level that I couldn’t have reached on my own, but also my thoughts on life and my perspective, as well as my viewpoint of the world. He’s someone who’s definitely been a northern star for me, to reference and keep me in line and in check with the ways of the world. Having someone that’s come before you and had success in what they do, means they can give you advice from an honest place and make sure you’re making the right moves for your soul. Someone like that is important because they can help to steer you in the right direction; someone who’s been there before and knows the ins and outs of it all.
I was always pretty decent at English and rhyming never seemed to be a problem for me. I enjoyed rhyming. Where I struggled was with things that were a little more complicated, like, singing melodic tracks was never something I was into naturally, I had to learn it. But when it came to rhyming words and putting things into sentences and waxing them, it was pretty easy. The flow, the melody, the content and the things that I would say, I guess I had to put them down and then learn what made sense, what was good or what wasn’t.
There’s a couple of tracks that I’ve listened to from 2015 recently that are pretty good, but anything that dates back further than that… They’re not awful, like, I’m not embarrassed by them or anything like that… it’s just that they’re not refined. It’s not polished. It’s all a lot more raw and a lot messier. Now I think I’ve refined myself, and sometimes that can be a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing because that early rawness can reveal a more natural side to you. But to answer your question, I don’t necessarily listen back to old music and think, ‘Yeah this is the craziest thing in the world.’
Storytelling was just about creating a picture in my mind about what I wanted to say and do. Taking people on that journey is really important to me. Music is a way to connect with people’s emotions and get a message across, and it is very rewarding if you do it correctly, but… It’s difficult to do correctly. I think if you put in the time and the effort to make sure that the message is clear and powerful, then people will get it, and you might just have a timeless piece of music in your hands. Something that is affecting.
It took a while. It was definitely up and downs. I wasn’t necessarily sure about myself in every song, in every moment and thing that I was putting towards the album. Right up to the end there were last minute decisions, last minute additions, last minute tracks getting taken away. It was definitely a process. And I definitely learnt some stuff about myself. ‘Drama,’ the outro, felt like I was writing an outro from someone else’s perspective; I was articulating feelings that I wasn’t quite aware of in the moment, that became real to me after the fact. It was the acknowledgment of near completion. It was the realisation I had could really do this, that I could go way out there. A lot of that came from the objective to give people a fair idea of what life is like for a 19 or 20-year-old kid from South London, making music in the area I grew up in. I wanted people to get a sense of South London and what Streatham is like, what I’m like, and what being a young black man in South London is like. If I’ve done that, I have achieved what I set out to do. To capture this moment in time, 2019, so that hopefully in 2020, 2021, 2035 or 20 whatever it is, people can listen back and have an idea what this all felt like in 2019. If I’ve done that, I’ve achieved my purpose.
Definitely. There’ll be some songs off the album and some of the bigger songs I had from earlier on. There will be a lot of experimentation and definitely a lot of fun moments. That’s what the festivals are about: making sure I can deliver the intensity the people want to hear. That’s what I’m coming to do. Show up and give the best performance that I can and make sure everyone at Splendour in the Grass has a great time. I have a lot of time for people in Australia, and I want to say thank you to Australia for making me feel at home. I’ll be bringing the best show possible.
I was optimistic as a kid. Even when life was difficult, I always felt better times would come somewhere, I just didn’t know how; and as time has gone, I’ve felt that my mission is becoming clearer and clearer and clearer. The song ‘Voices’, for example, is trying to express that the good and the bad of life go hand in hand, they’re inevitable feelings. It’s impossible to always be happy, and so it’s a strange thing to strive for, but ultimately you can make the choice to fill your life with happiness and optimism and emotions that align with positivity. Optimism is a nice feeling to have in your life. It does feel like the overall goal of world peace is beyond us at times; when I watch the news, it all seems to be getting worse, but I know that I can try and affect the world one-by-one, and do my little bit to make sure I leave a positive impact on everyone that I speak to and deal with. If everyone can try and have an attitude that they want to leave people and the world better off than before, we might be ok. Maybe the world isn’t as bad as they report on the news? But I’ll never know for sure, because I can’t be everywhere in the world to really get down on the ground and see what’s going on. I can only try and make sure I create the best impact I can, and that’s why I spit more than just ear candy, and try to put a positive effect in people’s lives–because it’s the only thing I’ve got in the world. It’s my only way of making change. The only thing that I’m good at is music. That’s my contribution to helping make life better.
Catch Dave tonight at the Mix Up stage at 5:30pm.