Dave: rapper, activist and national treasure
October 6 2022, by Will Allen and Xan Lytle
David Orobosa Omoregie, mostly widely known as ‘Santan Dave’ or ‘Dave’ has become one of the most influential artists across the UK. Dave’s prominent use of socially conscious lyricism and wordplay has captivated people from all backgrounds and ages. Dave uses complex examinations of racial identity to highlight racial inequalities still prevalent in society and uses his platform to promote change and equality.
After his release of EPs: ‘Six Paths’ and ‘Game Over’, Dave released his debut-solo album ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ in March 2019. This album shows a different side of music as it follows the narrative of a psychotherapy session, where Dave reveals his struggles after his older brother was sentenced to jail, discussed in ‘Drama’. Dave also digresses into his struggles with his own mental health, in songs such as ‘psycho’; complicated relationships, in ‘Lesley’; and the tough social environments that poor black youths battle, explored in his prominent tracks ‘Streathem’, ‘Screwface Capital’ and ‘Black’. Dave’s pure realism and relatable lyrics helped debut the album at Number 1 in the UK Album Charts. ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ became the most-streamed, first-week British rap album in the UK with a staggering 23.6 million streams.
After the immense success of his debut album, Dave released his second studio album ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ in July 2021. In this album Dave talks about the failings of the government’s treatment towards immigrants and highlights the unjust treatment of the Windrush migrants, in songs such ‘Heart attack’ and ‘three rivers’. Almost every line in each song has multiple meanings allowing his listeners to connect with their own personal interpretation and experiences. In ‘Heart attack’, Dave questions the corrupt practices of the UK political system, communicating how ‘all the best politicians (have) been taught to lie’. He also comments on the war on drugs, posing the rhetorical question ‘are their dealers safe or on the borderline?’ Dave employs a long monologue in ‘Heart Attack’ to expose his own vulnerability, using echo effects and no backings to portray the image of himself all alone as he confesses his thoughts and regrets of the mistakes that he made as a youth, in addition to an exploration of the relationship between Dave and his father, Pastor Frank, who was deported before Dave reached the age of one. It also offers a reflection into the difficulties faced by Dave’s mother, Juliet Omoregie, being in an and out of detention camps in Nigeria, and after eventually migrating to England, in search of a better life, reflects that she found herself on the street for ‘three years’.
In ‘Lesley’, part of the ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ album, Dave delves into the day to day struggles black women face, trapped in abusive relationships and urges these women to “get support if you’re lost or trapped”. This resonated strongly with his female fans, exploring the raw topic of domestic abuse, neglected by other musicians and youth role models. Dave also implores his males fans to never abuse their partners and to help silenced victims of domestic abuse. As the song progresses, the protagonist, Lesley, unexpectedly discovers that she is pregnant and, reliant on financial support, is forced back into an abusive relationship. He reflects on her only ambition being to deliver the baby safely, revealed in the line “her baby was the reason she was holding on”. Dave asks his listeners, when confronted with seemingly unsolvable issues to consider other options before running back into dangerous relations.
‘Black’ by Dave was one of the largest hits on ‘PSYCHODRAMA’. This deeply-worded and hard-hitting single afforded Dave an invitation to perform live at the Brit’s Awards. In ‘Black’, Dave references Grenfell, the Windrush generation and the ill-treatment of Megan Markle. In his live performance he directly calls out ex-PM Boris Johnson for being racist, stating: “you say we’re the least racist, I say the least racist is still racist” and exclaims that all racism is unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated, especially in government. Dave also expresses his grievances at the wrongful and discriminatory treatment of Meghan Markle and compares the press’s treatment of Kate to Meghan, less accepting of Meghan purely on the grounds of her ethnicity. He also questions the UK educational system as it encourages us to grow up not exploring racial diversity, in addition to its failure to expose Britain’s involvement in black oppression and the monstrosities of the slave trade.
Will Allen, L6 and Xan Lytle, U6
- Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together review – an eerie, anguished triumph (The Guardian)
- Dave at the O2 review: an intimate, vulnerable arena show from a born star (Evening Standard)
- How Jonathan Larson taught me to become a better critic (New York Times)
- Dave live at Reading Festival 2022 review: a statement-making set from the youngest ever solo headliner (NME)