At 23, Dave has already amassed more accolades than most artists earn in their entire careers. His 2019 debut Psychodrama won a Mercury Prize to accompany a couple of Ivor Novello statuettes and a Brit Award, as well as rave reviews for his maniacal turn in Top Boy. More significant, perhaps, is the way the Streatham-born rapper has used his platform to confront societal injustices and urban poverty, exemplified by a Brits performance in which he called Boris Johnson a racist on live TV.
His second album We’re All Alone in This Together probes further into those themes than its conceptual predecessor. Intro We’re All Alone is emblematic of this, with Dave candidly recalling a suicidal fan who sought his counsel and regretting his own lazy response (“I tell him to see a shrink so I can go live with myself”). While the fan thanks him for saving his life, it’s telling that Dave twice emphasises that they “got more in common than he thinks”, aware of the responsibilities that come with being in the public eye but still wrestling with the same demons he laid bare on Psychodrama.
This blend of the personal and political is also apparent in his examination of the immigrant experience in the UK. On Three Rivers, he tackles the Windrush scandal, whilst also highlighting the hypocrisy of those who dismiss their struggles while clapping for an overstretched NHS last year (“We rely on migration more than ever before/ They’re key workers, but they couldn’t even get in the door”). Later, on the poignant Heart Attack, he credits his success to the sacrifices his mother has made. It’s a ten-minute epic which ends, upsettingly, with a recording of his mum tearfully recounting the myriad challenges she faced raising children in dire circumstances, with dignity and resolve.
Despite such weighty subject matter, We’re All Alone in This Together is still a hopeful record. The Wizkid-assisted System and Lazarus with alté star BOJ are buoyant homages to his Nigerian roots. He joyfully swaps verses with Stormzy on the ballerific Clash, and triumphant posse cut In the Fire features a who’s who of grime and UK rap luminaries in Fredo, Ghetts, and Giggs, with a standout verse from Meekz Manny the cherry on top (“If you fell in my fire, you’d probably roast on it/ Heat up the stove and put hope on it”).
Still, as a complete work, We’re All Alone in This Together differs greatly from the joie de vivre of earlier bangers like Thiago Silva and 100Ms. But the ability to take on knottier topics is one of Dave’s greatest strengths, and here results in a mature, compelling record that cements the young artist as a voice of a disenchanted generation.