Dave is known infamously for his use of skilful word play and his execution of knowledge. The South London rapper was able to bag a No.1 with ‘Funky Friday’ featuring Fredo which turned into a monumental moment for the UK rap scene. Through gaining credits from previous projects, Dave has cemented his status as one of the UK’s boldest artists.
Psychodramais an immersive and complex exploration into a young man’s mind who grew up in a place where “everybody wants to make it out”. It delivers dark insights and thought provoking ideas that play out in the role of a therapy session. Laced with raw, emotional lyricism and intelligence this gripping masterpiece of an album makes you question a lot. Touching on topics like mental health, race, the prison system and abuse through his profound storytelling this album needs your undivided attention and focus. Often accompanied with beautiful yet moody piano riffs, Dave only proves that his delivery and lyrical capability is incomparable to anyone else within the UK scene.
The album kicks off with track “Psycho” with an opening liner from a therapist where Dave then discusses battling issues around mental health. “Man, I think i’m going mad again / It’s like I’m happy for a second then I’m sad again”. Produced by Fraser T Smith, this song ties in with the overall theme of Psychodrama being a “year long course of therapy”.
The words ‘flexing’ and the overuse of egos is now imbedded within the culture of rap and trap music. Dave is able to strip all this away and expose the fragility behind the masks especially on the track “Environment”, "You see our gold chains and our flashy cars / I see a lack of self worth and I see battle scars / He has to be with twenty man when he wears jewellery / And you see it as gangster, I see it as insecurity". The lyrics speak for themselves, a topic of masculinity which is highly avoided within culture. Dave also refers back to how being a ‘mega-star’ or ‘celebrity’ isn’t all what it seems especially within the music industry, how wanting to reach out for help or support is exceedingly difficult “Champagne bottles and all the screaming girls / It’s ironic how you’ll never hear a scream for help / Fuckin’ hell, who do you think we’re going through the same thing? / Depression when you make it, the pressure and the hatred”. Mental health issues such as depression are massive underlying issues within the Music Industry and are only recently becoming a topic of conversation.
Prior to releasing the album, Dave released "Black" which dives into racial identities and challenges that communities face regarding cultural appropriation, racism and prejudice. It’s an honest reflection of what being black is like 2019 mixed with a fusion of harsh realities. This song received a lot of backlash and controversy which overall is baffling. The likes of Greg James and Annie Mac felt to defend Dave “If you are genuinely offended by a man talking about the colour of his skin and how its shaped his identity, then that is a problem for you.” With the UK drill music scene having so much controversy recently for being branded as somewhat ‘dangerous’ listeners strongly felt that “Black” was branding that same image. Certain audiences will never accept the honest beauty and intelligence of black music for what it is and this is why Psychodrama is a key statement for the culture. This album is what the UK needed. For Dave to choose a track with such a bold statement for the lead up to his long awaited album this already set the tone for what was coming.
“Lesley” is an 11 minute track of a tale about an abusive relationship between a woman named Lesley, who he befriends on a train from Norbury Station who was trapped in an abusive relationship whilst being pregnant by her abuser who ultimately ends up in a coma. The song entails of Lesley confiding into him about her struggles with leaving her violent boyfriend Jason. Describing her as once being the life of the party to being cornered into a cycle of abuse, Dave encourages women everywhere to get out of relationships that involve “toxic” men “The story is more than a song or track / It’s a message to a woman with a toxic man / Im begging you to get support if you’re lost or trapped”.
To finish off the album, “Drama” opens up with a recording of Dave’s brother on the phone from prison who is currently serving a life sentence. Dave touchers on how he had to become the man of the house from a young age. Through not having a father figure, Dave discusses having his brother taken away from him “It’s like they took a piece of my freedom when I had opened up / I just lost the only fucking person that I idolised / For my entire life I copied you down to the finest line”.
Although Dave’s deep and intense lyricism may steal the show, he breaks this up with more lively and bouncy beats with features from J Hus on “Disaster” and Burna Boy on “Location”.
Psychodrama is an album made to inspire. Sitting down to fully appreciate, consume and learn from what Dave has put his blood, sweat and tears into is well needed. 52 minutes of music unlike anything we have heard from the UK music scene in a long time. Dave is leading a new generation of rap with his antidotes, lyricism and strong messages into becoming a true voice within various cultures and communities. This is an album that will be looked back on in time as a seminal piece of art.