Since his appearance on YouTube channel Blackbox three years ago, it became clear there was something special about 20-year-old rapper Dave. From his simple stage name to his piano playing and narrator like rapping style, Dave quickly set himself apart as a different kind of UK rapper. He's since gone on to win a MOBO Award for Best Newcomer, caught waves with his 2017 politically-charged single 'Question Time', and achieved a number one hit with ‘Funky Friday’ alongside West London rapper Fredo. Most recently, Dave cemented himself as one of the leading rappers in Britain with his chart-topping debut album, Psychodrama. So, the young rapper had a lot to celebrate and his Friday night show at the O2 Academy in Brixton was the perfect stage for that.
Supporting acts Jaykae and Murkage Dave helped to build the hype on Friday night’s sold out show. When Dave finally emerged in a thrilling vision of pyrotechnics, he was welcomed by a rapturous crowd. As this show is part of the Psychodrama tour, it was no surprise that Dave chose to start off the night with ‘Psycho’, the first track on his debut album. After Dave’s first performance, the crowd chanted “Santan Dave” and Dave responded to their cheers by asking if they wanted to “go crazy one more time.” Dave then threw it back to his 2017 single ‘100Ms’, and it became clear that the O2 Arena was full of fans who have followed him from the beginning of his career, as fans rapped the lyrics along with him.
Then came the first surprise of the night with an appearance from drill rapper Headie One, who set the crowd alight with performances of ‘Golden Boot’ and ‘Know Better’. What became clear with the first surprise guest of Friday night’s show is that Dave is proudly a fan of his peers and it was more than just a regular concert, but a celebration of the achievements of black British music.
Following Headie One’s appearance, Dave then brought it back to Psychodrama with a performance of ‘Voices’. Again, the crowd chanted “Santan Dave” without any prompting from him and Dave let the crowd know he isn’t a natural singer. In what was a beautiful moment, the crowd then sang the hook of 'Voices' alongside Dave. The rapper then decided to revisit his older music and the crowd amazingly rapped every word no matter what song Dave performed.
After performing his older tracks, Dave was then joined by South London rap duo D-Block Europe as surprise guests. The pair, consisting of Young Adz and Dirtbike LB, performed their viral single ‘Kitchen Kings’. Before D-Block Europe left the stage, Dave mentioned how Young Adz reminded him of himself and how D-Block Europe has been making music for such a long time. Again, Dave the fan emerged and he solidified that this show is not just about him, it’s about celebrating the talents of his peers.
Dave then got nostalgic again and brought it back to songs from his past in an innovative fashion. A Russian roulette appeared on the screen, and Dave tells the audience that he would perform whichever song the roulette wheel landed on. Dave begins this segment of the show with the titular track from his EP Six Paths, and he reminisces that he wrote this project while in college. Dave also performs ‘Hangman’ and lyrics such as:
“How you beefing man if you don't even know the man? Before you poke a man you man wanna expose a man”
are painfully poignant in times of London’s worrying violent crime epidemic. The contemplative mood continues and Dave moves onto the song ‘Black’, which served as the lead single of Psychodrama. Black’s captivating lyrics about blackness and racial injustice are punctuated by the powerful imagery of the music video that played against the large skull prop.
The mood lightened as Dave performed grime anthem ‘Thiago Silva’, which included having a fan passionately rapping AJ Tracey’s part of the song. Dave then set the fan a challenge of doing 5 football kick ups on stage, which he succeeds in doing and Dave himself showed off his footballing skills too.
After some footballing fun, Dave gets back to the music and reminds the audience that this a special show and most importantly it’s a celebration. Dave says “Bring out the GOAT”, and Stormzy emerges on stage performing his record-breaking new number one single ‘Vossi Bop’. A beautiful moment ensues following Stormzy’s performance as Dave said Stormzy opened the door for him but Stomzy insists it’s the other way around. Its an endearing moment of unity, and awe-inspiring to see two giants in their fields gush over each other’s achievements.
The show continues to get bigger and better as Dave is joined by Nigerian artist Burna Boy for a performance of their top 20 hit 'Location.' The biggest applause of the night was for the last surprise guest J Hus, as he joined Dave on stage to perform ‘Disaster’. Once again, Dave tells J Hus that he’s a fan and J Hus later went on to perform fan favourite 'Dark Vader' before exiting the stage.
After the raucous celebration with surprise guests, Dave reads out aloud a touching text message his mum sent him about their family struggles and how proud she is of him. Dave closes the night with his number one single ‘Funky Friday’ and a blast of confetti marks the end of the show.
Friday night at the O2 Academy in Brixton marked the end of Dave’s Psychodrama tour, but this is only the beginning of a prosperous musical career. Dave’s concert was as multi-layered as his critically-acclaimed album, as the concert gave fans time to party, enjoy and reflect on what an exciting era black British music is currently in.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Johnston