Label volunteer, Harjan Sahota reminisces Dave’s debut album, ‘Psychodrama’, accompanying his thoughts and feelings on the album and some of the songs found within it.
Music speaks to us in a rather compelling way. Music artists can convey their personal life in their songs and take their listeners on a journey. This is exactly what Streatham-born 21-year-old UK rapper, David Orabosa Omoregie, aka Dave, portrays through his music. March 2021 marks the two-year anniversary of ‘Psychodrama’, the debut album from Dave.
‘Psychodrama’ is a concept album illustrating Dave’s exceptional storytelling. A body of work that is not full of head-bopping hits but rather, one which requires the listener’s undivided attention so that they comprehend the significant messages. Dave’s vulnerability is presented in this album; he articulates his struggles and successes, his pain and comfort, his blessings and lessons & joys and grief. He explained how this album is influenced by the therapy sessions that took place for Dave’s older brother in prison. What makes ‘Psychodrama’ stand out is its delicate use of piano rather than the conventional grime sound. In addition to this, ‘Psychodrama’ was strongly praised by critics and achieved a Mercury Prize and Brit Award for the Best Album.
In the opening track of ‘Psychodrama’, Psycho, Dave shares his mental health problems. Psycho introduces us to the first therapy session between Dave and a therapist, whose input we hear on other tracks such as Environment. The therapist notes Dave’s personal growth as the albums progresses. Psychodrama is a form of psychotherapy that uses role play and drama to heal from past experiences and traumas. Essentially, Dave invites his fans to this musical therapy session whereby Dave reflects on personal problems, racial oppression and domestic violence.
The third song on the album, Black, is the history lesson we were never taught in school. The British education system did not acknowledge Britain’s pivotal role in the perpetuation of anti-black racism. Black explores the uncomfortable realities that comes with being black. ‘The blacker the killer, the sweeter the news’; in this powerful line, Dave highlights the stereotypes that generalise black people as violent. The album intentionally only has a few features; Dave’s collaboration with J Hus on Disaster encompasses prideful lyrics. The more up-tempo song, Location, features Burna Boy; this song was arguably the summer anthem of 2019!
Moreover, the ninth song on the album, Lesley is powerful and emotive. The 11-minute track narrates the tragic story of a woman stuck in an abusive relationship with a man. As Dave states in this track, Lesley is ‘a message to a woman with a toxic man’. Dave is begging for them to ‘get support’ if they feel ‘lost or trapped’. He highlights his ability to empathise as he exclaims, ‘I understand that I can never understand and I ain’t saying that it’s easy, but it must be right’. The final track, Drama, features a phone call from Dave’s older brother Christopher. In the verse, Dave acknowledges his brother without the presence of a therapist. Dave vents his thoughts to Christopher like a therapy session. Drama mirrors the haunting production of the intro track Psycho. Both tracks are cohesive with each other; they fulfil the ‘Psychodrama’ story as they commence and conclude the album.
Overall, ‘Psychodrama’ is an iconic masterpiece that clearly demonstrates Dave’s impeccable writing prowess at such a young age. Dave comes across as a British version of J Cole, a young man trying to voice the injustices and problems he has witnessed around him. He was dedicated to creating an album that was a work of art rather than a typical album full of hits aimed for the charts. Dave is only getting started, and I am here for it! In the future, I hope to see Dave release more albums as extraordinary as ‘Psychodrama’. It would be great for him to experiment with slower R&B ballads like his track Purple Heart.
‘Psychodrama’ is all about the psychological hold that trauma has, which is an uncommon message in UK rap albums. Therefore, I hope to see more albums like ‘Psychodrama’ from UK rappers, predominantly covering dark emotional themes that provide food for thought. I expect Dave to pave the way for more rappers and encourage them to share experiences of sensitive matters such as racial oppression and mental health, which were deeply ingrained in ‘Psychodrama’.
Header by Christos Leo Alamaniotis – Head of Design
Article Edited by Matthew Rousou – Label Music Editor