(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )

Psychodrama (2019), 7.5/10
We're All Alone in This Together (2021), 6.5/10

English rapper Dave (last name Omoregie), born to Nigerian parents, debuted with the singles Thiago Silva (2016) and Wanna Know (2016) and the EPs Six Paths (2016) and Game Over (2017). His reputation was crystallized by the austere and almost funereal political rant Question Time (2018) and by the more mundane hit Funky Friday (2018).

The album Psychodrama (2019) balanced confessional angst and social commentary. If the suspenseful noir atmosphere of Psycho (produced by Kyle Evans), and the almost religious feeling of Streatham (produced by Nana Rogues with a church-like female invocation and a funereal piano motif) displays Dave's skills at musical choreography, the disorienting quasi-reggae Location (a collaboration with Nigerian singer Damini "Burna Boy" Ogulu and Ghanian producer Jonathan "Jae5" Mensah) and the moving Black (produced by Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith pitting a choir against an uplifting piano and strings tune) prove his eclectic stylistic range. Dave is even more than that. The theatrical "message" Disaster (featuring afroswing rapper Momodou "J Hus" Jallow and produced by Ikeoluwa Oladigbolu) is the appetizer for the main course of the album: Dave demonstrates his mastery of melodramatic storytelling in the eleven-minute chamber-rap Lesley, the story of a girl abused by her boyfriend, produced by Smith with no beat and only harp and violins until two minutes from the end when a female singer, Maggie Eckford of Ruelle, impersonating the abused girl, intones a sad lullaby. That kammerspiel has a follow-up in the seven bleak minutes of Drama, also produced by Smith this time with a very slow beat and a ghostly nebula of voices. The album is a profoundly emotional experience.

We're All Alone in This Together (2021) is a multi-faceted effort that includes politicized raps that feel like newsreels (notably Three Rivers), doom and gloom (Survivor's Guilt and Twenty to One), cathartic autobiography (the eight-minute Both Sides of a Smile) and blues-pop-rap hybrids. Dave reaches for new levels of complexity in the seven-minute In the Fire (produced by James Blake, Kyle Evans and Dom Maker), a polyphonic work that includes a looping sample of a gospel choir and the four guest rappers taking turns with him, and that ends with the beat disappearing and spoken-poetry recited over a simple piano figure. The ten-minute Heart Attack (produced by Joe Reeves and James Blake) is a dignified documentary of real life, accompanied only by atmospheric guitar and piano (and no beat) with an emotional sobbing finale over melancholy piano. The other collaborations with Blake and Evans add dimensions to Dave's art although in different directions, from the chamber-rap of Three Rivers (with melacholy piano and strings) to the eight-minute Both Sides of a Smile that includes heavily orchestrated sections and neosoul laments. We're All Alone (produced by Kyle Evans and Nana Rogues with an almost comic evocation of tropical islands) is an odd overture to the album; and Jae5, Joe Reeves and Richard "P2J" Isong hijack the album towards the Caribbean jazz of System and the Afro-pop of Lazarus (featuring a Nigerian jazz-rock band). They certainly make the album more danceable, but detract from the emotional flow of the songs.

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