i-D's music class of 2017: dave
Mononymous rapper Dave is quietly self-assured — and he should be. He has almost 2m monthly listeners on Spotify and music videos with over a million views on YouTube. You know you're doing something right when Drake remixes your record, as the 18-year-old South Londoner discovered when Drizzy covered "Wanna Know" last year. Almost reluctant to talk about it, the humble teen would rather discuss his love of film soundtracks, the positive message in his lyrics, and his older brothers, who he writes a lot of his material about. Though currently in prison, they've taught him a lot over the years and the thought of them hearing his music on the radio makes him smile. With plans to support his mom and take the UK scene to the next level, he'd better get working on another Paths EP, the debut record that saw him rise through the ranks in 2016. As his AJ Tracey collaboration "Thiago Silva" plays over and over in our heads, we're certain he has the talent and determination to stay up.
What're the best thing about where you're from?
There's no real gangs and you can get to central London in about 20 minutes.
What message do you want to give with your music?
Sometimes it's aggressive because that's what I'm feeling inside. Sometimes it's about how I want to go out and make money. Sometimes I want to tell people that they can do whatever, that they should aspire to be great. The overall message is positive.
Is there an artist that you respect for using their platform for good?
Probably Stormzy, because he's gone out and shown people that there's strength in being independent and that you can do whatever you put your mind to.
What role do you feel you play in the UK music scene?
I just do whatever I want... slipping and sliding between any genre I please. I did grime with AJ [Tracey], then "Wanna Know" is a song with melody. I might jump on an acoustic song with a message. There's no place that I could confine myself to because I'm just trying to play my own role in music; trying to make my own lane. Hopefully being versatile will put me in a different bracket.
Do you have to be in a certain mood to make music?
In bad spells I probably write a new song every two months. I have to go through an experience to talk about it, otherwise you're just writing lyrics with no substance and there's no point. Emotionally-charged. Have to be awake as well, can't be tired. I've got a lot to say, but I have to be in the right mood.
You write about your brothers a lot. What've you learned from them?
To be your own person, don't follow the crowd, and no matter what circumstances life throws at you, find the positive in it.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a soccer player, then I wanted to be an actor, and at one point I even wanted to be a lawyer. Then when I saw "Started From The Bottom" and other American rap videos I would imagine what it would be like to be a rapper like that, with those parties and the budget for those music videos. But back then it all seemed so far away and so impossible. There was such a huge divide between break-out UK artists and people who were signed that you'd see on TV. I think what started happening was people from the underground would put their music on YouTube and freestyles would start spreading. Now we're taking that to the next level and I'm so proud to be a part of that generation. It's exciting to see what can happen from here.
Can we talk about Drake...
It's weird because a lot has happened so fast and don't really know how it happened. It just did. Everything that's gone on there is beautiful, but my main focus will always be what I'm doing in the UK.
How did he discover you? Did you know he was going to rework "Wanna Know"?
Well we knew it was going to happen, but it was all just a blur really. I'm lost for words. I don't know what to say other than that I'm really thankful.
"Wanna Know" was shot in Venice. Why there?
It just felt like the type of city to show what I was speaking about. London can seem a bit stand-offish, so I thought that Venice on a gondola with all the statues would be cool. I wanted the location to match the scenery that I saw in my head for the song. "Wanna Know" was Venice straight away for me, in the same way that Thiago Silva was Paris.
What do you really "Wanna Know"?
My one true quest is for immortality. Either that, or, the lyrics to what will be my biggest song so I can write it now.
Good answer. Have you heard of cryogenics?
Oh yeah, freezing yourself! That seems so long. I just don't think it's practical because how can they start your organs again?
I think the idea is that in the future they'll be a way of either restarting it or downloading your brain onto a computer. So, until you solve the issue of human mortality, which of your achievements are you most proud of?
Working with Frazer T Smith on my EP, and the piano session with Semtex when I played piano and rapped at the same time. That's something I couldn't do for a long time but I threw away that mental block.
And who do you most want to work with?
I'm a big fan of Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer. I like film scores a lot. They'd do a revamped sci-fi type thing and I'd love to sit in and see how they work and give them a youthful take on things, because sometimes their soundtracks can be a bit droney... but they probably know best.
What film would your music be the best soundtrack for?
Songs like "Picture Me" would be good for drama or sci-fi, "Wanna Know" for a comedy, and "71" for an action film. I can see it now: the piano kicks in when they get in the car and the chase starts, they go at super high speeds and off a ramp into a river.
What are your plans for 2017?
I just wanna make sure that my mom doesn't have to work as hard as she's been working, because she works a lot of jobs and I don't see her that often. I also want to be one of the artists taking the UK scene to the next level.
Text Frankie Dunn