In 2016 we sat in Camden Assembly, where a queue was snaking around the venue and out the door. Everyone there to go see someone called ‘Dave’. We laughed at the simple name, and thought not much more of it. Turns out we were mugs. When ‘100M’s’ fizzed its way into our lives, we realised our mistake. The following EP, Game Over, boasting the searing ‘Question Time’, moved that on further: this was someone special, with something worth saying and saying it with equal amounts of eloquence and ire. Could that momentum be continued onto his debut album? Danny Wright got Tara Joshi and Eki Igbinoba together to find out…
How long have you been a fan?
Eki: I think it was 2015/2016 when he did his debut Fire in the Booth? I just remember being taken aback by his flow and his use of metaphors. He’s so articulate in a non-intimidating, relatable way. And his song with J Hus…
Tara: It was a little later for me – just after ‘Six Paths’ dropped, so end of 2016? It was definitely something about him being so quietly articulate that drew me in, and also doing things a little out there in terms of musicality? And I can’t lie, the J Hus and Drake associations helped me pay attention, haha.
After all the singles and collaborations, did the album live up to expectations?
Eki: I’m glad he took his time. Some UK rappers have built up a lot of hype and sadly haven’t delivered. It was more conscious than I was expecting, and it’s going to really define him as a UK MC everyone should pay attention to.
Tara: With Game Over he asserted himself as someone with very poetic, conscious ability, but you’re right, I wasn’t expecting the album to lean into that side as much, but I’m really glad he did. It’s pretentious to say, but it’s still relatively rare that consumers consider MCs as ‘artists’, but this is an album of artistry.
Eki: Same. Blackness in UK music is still not as talked about as our US counterparts. As a black girl, having a prominent black man speak about loving yourself despite society setting you up for failure is a very important message. Dave and I are from the same part of Nigeria so, in terms of identity, I resonate with him a lot.
What did you make of the reaction to ‘Black’?
Eki: Lol. I don’t expect anything more from the British public to be honest, but shout out to the Radio 1 DJs, white and black, defending him.
Tara: Yeah that was very cool at least, good to see who the real allies are. But you know, they shouldn’t have had to. A young black man expressing himself and, let’s be real, not even being offensive, and people want to call him out? Bizarre.
Eki: The reaction just proves we still have a long way to go, which is why it’s such an important song.
Tara: Racism here is just a lot more insidious. But then it’s like “oh lol, where did all these deportations come from!?”
Eki: Shout out Amber Rudd!
What do you think of the psychotherapist concept?
Tara: It’s a really clever way of linking the themes.
Eki: Mental health with music is such a key conversation right now, especially amongst men. I thought it was subtle but very effective. And I love when rappers do skits, it adds so much to the story.
Tara: I can’t speak to the experience of a young British black man, but even just as a person of colour, I’m aware conversations about mental health are a lot more stigmatised, and with men that conversation has a long way to go – so it’s so great that he’s openly being ‘in conversation’ with a therapist.
Eki: Exactly, like the album is his therapy session, and it creates a conversation. Within Nigerian culture we don’t really talk about mental health, so I feel like this will inspire a conversation.
Is there one track that stands out?
Eki: ‘Streatham’ and ‘Screwface Capital’. ‘Streatham’ carefully explains what it’s like to be a young black boy in the ends, and this song is a nice little ‘fuck you’ to The Sun and The Daily Mail who demonise young black boys.
Tara: ‘Screwface Capital’, yesss! Also ‘Location’ for that line about Indian girls! And ‘Lesley’ is something else. There are very few artists who could pull off 11-minute tracks that get so deep without losing interest. It’s a credit to his incredible skills as a storyteller.
Any lines that have stayed with you?
Eki: So many – I’d say ‘Black’ stands out the most. It doesn’t romanticise our trauma, it highlights it and proves we’re still wonderful in spite of the shit we face. Those words mean a lot to me. I’m all for black artists promoting self-love.
Tara: Solange-style “FUBU”, which I can’t fully relate to in the same way, but fully appreciate. Also on a much less serious note, if I had to pick one line “Girl from India, sweet as naani / Head so good, now I speak Gujarati,” rendered me dead for a bit…
Finally, how important an artist do you think he can be?
Eki: He’s 20 and has already put out such a strong body of work. He’s intelligent and he knows what he wants, which for someone so young can only be inspiring.
Tara: The scope of what he could evolve into when he’s already doing so much is hard to comprehend. I’m normally wary about talking about how ‘important’ an artist is, because a lot of the language around empowerment and protest has been wildly misused and turned meaningless – but I think he’s very, very important, in a sincere way.
Photo by Joe Magowan.