Essential UK rapper Dave takes his brutally revealing poetry to surreal soundscapes on his sophomore record.
From inner-city London to the streets of Lagos, Dave stays vigilant. He takes his experiences, finds the takeaways, then decorates them with persuasive language, and brooding trap.
For his scintillating, platinum debut, Psychodrama, the artist conceptualises a therapy session as the stage for critical realisations. Now, on We’re All Alone In This Together, a name inspired by a conversation with Hans Zimmer, Dave serves up a thrilling antidote to our time in lockdown, pressing us to open our eyes to uncomfortable truths. These truths, some unique to Dave, others universal, are complex but detailed with honesty throughout the 12 tracks.
Opener We’re All Alone clocks in with a film reel scroll, foreshadowing the album’s cinematic feel and breadth. “I remember when I used to be innocent, ain’t shit changed. I’m a young black belligerent, child of an immigrant”, Dave spiels.
While the opener from his last album referred to his fans as his “therapist”, the artist now wrestles with introspection alone. This is Dave’s story, unfiltered and wholly memorable.
The track breathes context into isolation, as Dave compares being rich while his family isn’t to “flying first class in a crashing plane”. Dave has achieved heavyweight rap status, but a myriad of complex problems remain.
Smash hit Clash, featuring fellow UK wordsmith Stormzy, flexes this wealth in signature halftime flow with swagger, yet the soundscape remains dark.
Experiences of racism, love, and migration have all influenced this journey to the top. Three Rivers examines the latter with strings and wandering piano, and how the UK is both his “oppressor” and “liberator”.
Dave samples interviews with other immigrants to emphasise his point, where we discover the undying roots of injustice and classism. “Thirty-seven years of paying taxes and I got a letter saying I was an illegal immigrant”, one interview reveals.
At the album’s midpoint, System presents upbeat, instrumentation; a fresh pallet cleanser for the listener.
Still, Dave doesn’t stray from tackling the complex, touching on how the class system is “built, so we’re living in debt”. Kanye highlighted the same issue of staggering wealth inequality on New Slaves back in 2013, but things haven’t changed, clearly.
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Both Sides Of A Smile is one of Dave’s most moving tracks ever, quipping a heartfelt feature from James Blake, who also had a big hand in producing the album.
The 8-minute epic is laden with spoken word, as the track explores a severe argument between Dave and a significant other. “Love’s a film and I’m just flicking through the parts I’m in,” is storytelling sagacity, as we, the listener, begin to learn and understand yet another tragedy in the artists’ boiling pot of misfortunes.
Blake’s falsetto melodies provide even more emotive grip, as the piano grounds the staggering realisations.
Closer Survivor’s Guilt is padded with minor synths, ebbing and flowing with a percussive backbeat. The ruminative sound allows Dave’s unflinching analysis to hit the mark one final time, as he tears back the “glitz and glamour” to reveal anxiety and indecision, but a powerful desire to be a positive force and keep creating.
Upon every release, Dave’s search for answers inspires us to do the same.
We’re All Alone In This Together is out now via Neighbourhood Recordings / Virgin Music Australia. Stream or purchase your copy here.