Psychodrama By Dave – Unpack the Drama

dave_psychodrama

Lauded for his political consciousness on “Question Time” yet his knack for making hits like recent chart topper “Funky Friday”, Dave is undoubtedly a gem in the crown of UK music. It’s been EPs and singles up until this point, but now he presents his debut full length effort, Psychodrama.

It’s a journey of an album – tracks succinctly interwoven by the words of a therapist who guides Dave, and the listener through the drama in a series of parts.  We enter into Dave’s world with “Psycho”.

A hesitant and tense Dave is divulging everything that is on his mind. Pressures and pleasures – like verbal diarrhoea before reaching breaking point. Production-wise, it follows the rollercoaster of his thoughts and emotions – hard-hitting snares and bass ring through the haunted atmosphere, right before the piano breakdown as he admits he might be battling depression.

DaveThe first chapter to the story we have Dave offloading. “Psycho” is a general unpacking of trauma while the following three tracks are a more thorough examination of his pains. “Streatham” shines a light on the inner city. Named after his hometown, the tales of drugs, violence and deceit are not alien topics, whether immersed in that world or not. It shares links with “Purple Heart”, with both addressing his experiences with women.

Black”, however, stands separate as an honest account of his socio-ethnic disposition. While discussing themes of racial and social inequality and also triumph, Fraser T Smith’s harrowing piano-led production provides the perfect canvas to really drive home a message. It’s cognitive dissonance – as much as being ‘black’ can sometimes be painful, you wouldn’t desire to be anything different. That relatable truth makes “Black” so powerful.

And thus the second chapter begins. In some ways, it’s Dave on the defensive. Having become incredibly vulnerable to a near stranger not too long ago, he attempts to gloss over his seemingly bleak reality. For example, with “Location”. It takes a different approach to the themes of “Purple Heart”, with Dave glamorising the lifestyle that he has acquired, in particular in regards to women. He has become elevated from the hardships spoken about in the former songs. “Disaster”, sinister through its use of intricate melody and in its content, almost glamorises the very same things Dave was weary about in “Streatham”.

But as much as “Environment” could be viewed as an expose on the industry, it should Dave-683x1024actually serve to highlight that very little separates artists and fans. Entertainers can also be vulnerable, and it’s important to pay attention to their wellbeing irrespective of their lifestyle. It’s an easy segue to the final chapter.

The final chapter is a real turning point in the tale. At this point, with much time dedicated to therapy, Dave is processing his emotions better and has become better equipped to deal with his drama, displayed eloquently through “Lesley”. Prompted by the therapist, he recounts the vivid story of a woman he knew and her painful affair with domestic abuse and dishonesty. He puts himself in her shoes, and now both Dave and the listener develop a deep sense of empathy. Pianos serve as the canvas of the saga, layered by a moving orchestral ensemble right until her point of her passing – suggestive by the sudden end of the orchestra to then the haunting voice of Ruelle.

With “Voices”, the narrative seems to conclude – a positive acknowledgement of progress and mental maturity. Dave conceptualises and personifies the realness of his emotions as if they are versions of him, or even real people. Visualising negative emotions departing from his life, cast upon the upbeat instrumentation of the track, is in essence the “happily ever after” that we seek.

dave-hp-gq-26nov18_bBut “Drama” is a powerful addition…for a few reasons. In many ways, “Drama” is the second half of “Psycho” – with all the growth that he has undergone, he comes around full circle. We have a mature Dave being able to really process his thoughts and his ‘drama’. He does so while in conversation with his older brother, a figure missing in his life due to incarceration and possibly a cause of his ‘drama’.

We see how his experiences have formed him into the man he is today. “Drama” is his retrospective look over the ten tracks that come before it. As it concludes with his brother speaking to him on the phone and reciting the Biblical story of King David, the message seems to be that just like David in the Bible, Dave was chosen.

If we, for a second, examine the definition of psychodrama…

“a form of psychotherapy in which patients act out events from their past.”

Then this album is exactly that. But its beauty in particular is that it’s very personal, yet there is a universality in his story. Dave was chosen to tell his story. To tell his brother’s story. And all those that came before him.

With Psychodrama, in many ways, Dave is allowing himself to be vulnerable in place of black men who don’t feel able to, in the hope that we can learn to get to that place. Addressing the issues of mental health, we get to understand the complexities of men in his position, in the hope that they can gain the humanity that was harshly stripped away back again.

Favourite Albums of 2018 Part 2

Last year,  I managed to compile together (against constraints) what I felt was a solid list of some of the best projects to grace my ears over the course of the year. A difficult task seeing the amount of music I got through and despite the hard decisions, some had to be delegated to just ‘honorable mentions’.

This year, I’ve been absolutely swamped with music and for the most part it’s been pretty good stuff. So, just like last year, rather that just writing a review on every single project, why not see the year off in style and do a top album compilation.

Here are my “Favourite Albums of 2018” – Part 2. Enjoy.

Janelle MonáeDirty Computer1200x630bb

Janelle Monáe’s third studio album, Dirty Computer, was a rather pleasant surprise,  packaged as an excellent concept album. Accompanied by a short film of the same name, the album showcases Monáe’s unique style of blending genres, a hint of pop, a sprinkle of funk, a dash of hip-hop and all organic

Monáe managed to successfully insert inclusivity into her music, especially with the short film – set in a futuristic world, the singer, songwriter and producer attempts to portray a reality without prejudice, where being true to oneself comes before anything else.

Standout “Django Jane” – by far one of my favourite songs to come out in 2018 – she raps on the power of womanhood, especially black womanhood, fuelled by her own empowerment and beautifully dancing the duality of poetry lyricism and potent wordplay. And it’s over dope production might I add.

Honoring women and the spectrum of sexual identities, Dirty Computer sees Janelle coming into her authentic self with a more personal offering, as she herself explores her own sexual identity with themes of self-worth, blackness and female power. It comes together in a package that oozes purely creative genius.

 

Geography – Tom Misch

tom misch geographyAfter working with some amazing talent in front and behind the scenes, we have the culmination of efforts of 21-year-old singer/songwriter and DJ Tom Misch’s several self-released mixtapes and EPs – Geography.

Geography takes on many of Misch’s different influences. Main elements of Funk and Jazz are staple to his brand but also Soul in smaller parts cover the breadth of this album for a smooth, glossy finish. Fans of his, especially long term, will appreciate even the most minute of details.

There are some really beautiful songs on the album, like the introductory bright and upbeat “Lost in Paris” or the electric “Disco Yes” with Poppy Ajudha. You can also not to forget the anthem stand out “Water Baby” with Loyle Carner, sandwiched between dreamy ballads, covers and a cheeky guest feature from Hip-Hop legend Posdnuos of De La Soul. There’s no commotion in the ocean with this one. It’s an album suited for relaxed listening.

 

East Atlanta Love Letter – 6LACK6lack east atlanta

If you were enticed by his chilly vocals, minimalist beats, and conditions of the heart on Atlanta artist 6LACK’s first album then you may be thoroughly impressed at what he brings to the table on his newest project. If we take a look under the robust set of melancholy pianos, rasping drum machines and ambient synths, we have an open and transparent 6LACK; his complications, flaws and complexities projected in a gloomy but alluring monotony.

While the album as a whole follows a style could fit well as background music, there are definitely some standouts which you shouldn’t miss out on. The title track features the star power of rapper Future who assists in making a street record with pop overtones.  As piano melodies encompass the album feel, it’s done brilliantly on “Disconnect” which makes a horrible break-up sound so soothing. And the rattling, hard-hitting lead single “Switch”, sandwiched between all the melancholy proves that 6LACK is able to create sensational music which can be played outside of personal listening and still hits hard.

 

Saturn – NAO

nao saturnOn her second outing, alt-R&B singer-songwriter Nao relives all the intricacies of a quarter-life crisis through an astrological lens. Saturn draws from R&B, pop, and funk influences at lengths and breaths to cover personal growth, the complicated art of love and heartbreak and the treacherous journey of young adulthood with keen soulful attention.

Make It Out Alive” typifies the entire mood of the album in trying to make sense of what’s complicated and it’s not surprise that it was the lead single. It’s silky, straight-talking R&B cut and is one of the two duets on the album as it features SiR; the other being the beautifully solemn title track with Kwabs.

Highlights “If You Ever” and “Yellow of the Sun” are light and fluttery daydreams to romance, beautified by Nao’s sublime vocals while the electric funk of “Gabriel” leans on sultry tendencies. “Drive and Disconnect” is surely Nao at her most expansive – an unexpected Afrobeats-inspired jam that’s worth the listen. Between Nao’s lush voice and the album’s glossy production, it’s easy to get lost in Saturn.

 

Oxnard – Anderson .Paakanderson-paak-oxnard

The multi-faceted music maestro Anderson .Paak released one of the most long-awaited albums in Hip-Hop this year. Named in homage to Anderson’s California hometown, it paints a clear sonic picture of its cultural landscape, influenced by funk and soul, the very genre the area boasts. Paak is clearly made from these quintessential sounds and his own persona is a central crux.

Hip-Hop Legend Dr Dre helped Anderson .Paak produce an album bursting to the brim with funk without losing rap flair or soulful edge. From the bitter price of fame on the breezy summer jam “Tints” to the joys of opulence on the rebellious “Mansa Musa”. A woozy tale of love in “Trippy” or a hard-line Casanova’s tale in “Sweet Chick”. You get a showcase his versatility as a vocalist and a rapper with just a thin veil of innuendo form. There’s a lot to take in but if you’re into that then it’s pure eargasms.

 

Outside – Burna Boy

Burna-Boy outside

The soundscape of modern African Music is quite diverse. Somehow, Burna Boy as an artist attempts to straddle these multiple worlds with Outside. As a whole, you can place songs into three categories: Dancehall, Afrobeats, ‘Experimental’ and he tackles them all with flair and showmanship in a way that not many can do.

If the upbeat melody and infections drums on “PH City Vibration” or the traditional Fuji vibes and Yoruba flavour of “Koni Baje” are not shaking your spirit, then maybe the J-Hus-assisted “Sekkle Down” or the reggae inspired “Giddem” will get you moving your hips in the mood for seduction. Burna is in no way or form predictable as he manages to throw curveballs into the mix, “Heaven’s Gate” with its unrivalled sound and “Devil in California” shows that Burna Boy can be R&B-ish and be vulnerable.

With the Afrobeats anthem “Ye” hallmarking an incredible 2018 for the man and becoming a viral sensation in the process, Outside will long live in the memory of many fans of African music as the gift that kept on giving.

 

But of course, I can’t have them all. In good spirit, honourable mentions must go to:

  • Purple – A2
  • Ghetto Gospel II – Ghetts
  • Seasons – Mahalia
  • November – SiR
  • Godfather II – Wiley
  • Milky Way – Bas

As we conclude part 2 and come to the end of the list, be sure to check out part 1 here.