Craig David rose to fame on the back of one of garage’s biggest crossover hits.
The 1999 single Re-Rewind, a collaboration with Artful Dodger, saw him storm the charts before he’d even released a song under his own name. The ensuing string of hits included Fill Me In, Seven Days and Walking Away – all taken from the huge commercial success that was his debut album Born To Do It. Two more UK platinum albums and an Ivor Novello award followed, but Leigh Francis’ crude impersonation of him in the Bo Selecta! series was prominent in British public’s consciousness for a number of years, and the singles from 2007’s Trust Me charted poorly in comparison to his commercial peak. But for a number of reasons, Craig David is feeling as optimistic as ever right now. From his Miami home, he spoke to us on the phone to reflect on his highs and lows.
Mid-late 90s: Getting on the mic for the first time
My dad was the head of the West Indian Club in Southampton, and I’d go along to the club and get up on the mic. When your dad’s the chairman, they can’t say no. Then I started DJing and MCing on the South Coast with DJ Flash and there was a guy from Manchester called DJ T-Bone. We would play clubs on the South Coast and they’d let me have like ten minutes on the decks while they were chatting to girls. I loved it so much, I’d be like “Oi that girl’s looking at you,” just so I could jump on. I’ve been in the studio recently with some of those guys. I linked up with Toyboy and his crew the other day and they’re on a sick tip right now.
1999: Getting in the studio with Artful Dodger
Southampton’s a small place. I’d heard Artful Dodger were making music and they knew I was MCing and singing. Then we were DJing the same club night one time and decided to get in the studio. As soon as I got out of the studio, we put the tape on in the car and it was like – BOOM – straight away we’re imagining this going off in the club. It took off, Born To Do It took off and the rest is history.
2005: Moving to the US
I was coming out here from 2001. I was doing some filming and I fell in love with the place. There were palm trees, beaches. I got this opportunity to have my own place here and I wouldn’t have to go back and forth. I’m grateful that music gave me that opportunity. I’m glad people are coming out to see me. But trust me, if it wasn’t like that I’d still be making albums, still hustling. If you’ve got hustle inside you, it doesn’t go away.
2007: Creative struggles
When I was coming up with the songs for [Trust Me] I was torn. Torn between the studio and going round the world promoting the album. I didn’t have the time and space to create again. So now, we’re 15 years in and I’m working with young guys and getting that energy back – that sixteen year old, hungry, ready to shut down everything vibe. If you’re always on a high, what you gonna do when you’re in the boxing ring and you hit a low? How you gonna come back from that? For me personally I’m knocking the orange cones out, I’m opening up on the fast lane and I’m going all the way.
Present: Kurupt FM Radio 1 takeover and looking forward
MistaJam came to me and he was like ‘Craig man, you gotta come in here and just roll up on the mic’. [Kurrupt FM] are sick. They’re giving the UK garage scene a re-up. I got proper excited just by the whole energy on it, Big Narstie doing his thing, and then dropping that Fill Me In and Where Are U Now? freestyle. When I came out the building, I just got that same feeling when I was in the car playing Re-Rewind. It was like BOOM. Next thing you know, my phone’s blowing up and my manager’s calling me and I was like “man, I think I came in there and we shut it down,” If I didn’t give it my all, then I sold myself out. There’s too much talent there, you just have to give it all. This last year has been amazing.
Craig David is expected to release new material later this year