David Orobosa Omoregie, better known as Santan Dave, and even more as simply Dave, is undoubtedly one of the best artists in the UK right now - across any genre.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that isn’t hyperbole. Dave has been a leader in the UK rap scene for over half a decade, captivating audiences with his passion, honesty, and introspective lyrics that come layered over dense beats. But, as evidenced by collaborations with Burna Boy (‘Location’), AJ Tracey (‘Thiago Silva’) and several singles of his own such as ‘Wanna Know’, and ‘Funky Friday ft Fredo’, he knows when to release an anthem too.
Since he first burst onto the scene in 2016, the South Londoner (raised in Streatham, as his banger of the same name notes) has won the Hyundai Mercury Prize for his 2019 album ‘Psychodrama’, accumulated 2 million (and counting) Instagram followers, and released several platinum singles. And, yes, he’s still only 23 years old.
His second album, ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’, is one of this year’s most anticipated projects. Its first single, ‘Clash’, featured Stormzy, and has already accumulated six million streams on YouTube alone in just a week.
The album dropped in full today. So, naturally, DIY dove into the genius of Dave. Get ready for your go-to guide to UK rap’s icon-in-the-making.
He’s Always Been Naturally Talented
Dave’s 2020 Brit Awards appearance is already a seminal moment. But as well as the emotional impact of the showstopping performance, it also showed that Dave is bloody good at playing the piano. In fact, he was first interested in the instrument in his early teens, starting to watch videos on YouTube and learning music theory before he even got his hands on the physical thing. The piano often plays an integral role in Dave’s work, allowing him to meditate slowly and carefully on important conversations revolving around race, economic inequality and misogyny, among other key issues.
Along with his piano skills, Dave’s penmanship holds a rare kind of poignancy too. He first started penning lyrics at 11 after watching his brother practise rapping at home. At 23, his career is in a place most established artists have worked over a decade to achieve. But, as seen on his Bl@ckbox Freestyle from 2015 when he was only 16, Dave’s passion, honesty and talent are evident, marking him out as a bonafide star even then.
His Gifts Are Varied Too
Though he showed interest in becoming a lawyer and a footballer when he was younger, Dave eventually went down the music route. But sitting comfortably at the height of the music industry has meant that he’s been able to try his hand at something else - acting. A new series of British drama Top Boy in 2019, executive produced by Drake, featured Dave as recurring character, Modie. It showcased Dave’s effortless charisma and acting prowess, showing his multifaceted talents. Rightly, his performances were universally lauded by critics and fans alike.
He’s Already Made It Across The Pond And Back
Before most of the UK mainstream knew about Dave, someone influential across the pond was listening. In the autumn of 2016, Dave had booked tickets to see Drake in Amsterdam. It was for a friend’s birthday, and the then-18-year-old was hyped until Drake cancelled the show. Dave wasn’t feeling low for long though; he still ended up going to Amsterdam - this time because he got a phone call telling him that Drake wanted to remix his song ‘Wanna Know’. Taking place when London rap artists were starting to get big global attention, the collaboration with Drake propelled Dave into one of UK rap’s main exports overnight.
Dave may not have scored a big US hit yet, but he’s well versed to those in the know. He’s made trips out to America and been invited on the highly-lauded Rap Radar podcast on Tidal, distilling his experiences as a Black British artist to a primarily American audience. Dave’s global success was always inevitable, Drake just caught the early train.
He’s A Cunning Collaborator
The sound that’s made Dave? You know, the one where it seems to skip across genres at leisure? Agile bursts of drill, grime, and UK rap underpinned by an ethos that allows Dave’s words to coil themselves around the production so the sound becomes a single-headed beast? A lot of that may be the Streatham artist, but it also owes itself to the collaborative process, with Dave thrashing ideas and sounds out with frequent collaborators 169 as well as Fraser T Smith - the producer famous for working with Sam Smith, Kano, Stormzy and Adele.
Two of Dave’s most famous tracks, ‘Wanna Know’ and ‘Black’, were produced by Fraser while he co-executive produced the 2019 Mercury Prize-winning debut album, ‘Psychodrama’. Dave is known for his keeping his circle close, and that’s revealed to be true across his oeuvre with a small circle of his contemporaries - like Fredo, AJ Tracey, Stormzy and others - making sublime guest spots in his work.
During any of his live performances of ‘Thiago Silva’, Dave is known for bringing members of the audience on stage to rap alongside him. Normally, the member would take the spot of AJ Tracey, bouncing verses off Dave like a game of hot potato. Though many have done it well, it was Alex from Glasto who etched his name into history, appearing on stage at Glastonbury 2019 stunned, bewildered and delivering a word-perfect performance.
The release of ‘Psychodrama’ in March 2019 heralded a new star in UK rap. For those that weren’t familiar with Dave, they couldn’t escape his sounds playing on the radio, or out of cars and kitchen windows. It became the most-streamed first-week British rap album in the UK, with a staggering 23.6 million streams. It was certified Platinum, won the 2019 Mercury Prize and Album of the Year at the 2020 Brit Awards. But those are just accolades.
The cultural impact the album had was felt for months, and arguably is still felt to this day. A concept album based on the eponymous therapeutic course, in which patients role-play events from their past to heal and make sense of their trauma, Dave does just that across 51 minutes. He discusses what it’s like being a Black British 20-year-old man with the added pressure of fame and the excesses that come with that. It tackles topics his contemporaries have shied away from, namely the kind of vulnerable familial affairs most hide away in the closet.
We’re All Alone In This Together
Made in lockdown, the second album from Dave is one of the most highly-anticipated projects by a UK artist in recent times. He hasn’t revealed much about its contents, even being cagey in a recent interview with British GQ. He’s promised that the album takes listeners on a journey to showcase what and who has made him the artist he is today.
If there’s one artist we can trust to deliver a project that is wholly unique and will take many listens to digest, it’s the peerless Dave.