I can just imagine the reactions to Dave as he sat at the piano on-stage during this year’s Brit Awards. Living rooms across the nation rumbling with angry people scoffing and folding their arms because they were forced to listen to yet another rant about race.
“Here we go again! Bloomin’ race this, race that. Always bloody moaning about something,” they say from their sofas. Imagine Gogglebox but with no filter and with a cast of Tory voters. Sounds dark, right?
In reality, Dave’s performance was to be expected from the wordsmith that penned “Question Time” a few years back. His messaging was astute, as was his delivery. It does have to be stated that it wasn’t necessarily a critical race-theory takedown, but what can be noted is that 21-year-old Dave is continuing to use the platforms that previous generations built to continue bringing the establishment and state to account. “It is racist, whether or not it feels racist. The truth is our Prime Minister’s a real racist / They say, ‘You should be grateful we’re the least racist’; I say the least racist is still racist,” spits Dave in a poignant additional verse to his song “Black”.
Even some of the people that voted for Boris Johnson can agree with Dave’s draw-out. The issue here is largely because these primetime moments designated for entertainment are being used to call out the highest authority in office and the unfair treatment of black people. Gone are the days when you’d have a half cut Gallagher bowling towards the stage with a pint in-hand (although, if that attitude came back, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for pop). Dave sought to use the biggest platform in UK music to call out the establishment, and good on him.
“Dave, who rightfully took home the award for Best Album for Psychodrama, will continue to use his platform how he sees fit and the gammon elite will have no choice but to chew and swallow.”
This particular moment conjured memories of Swiss’ “Cry”, Kano’s “Sometimes”, Klashnekoff’s “Murda” and Bashy’s “Black Boys”, which were all early examples of British lyricists using their platform to call out the state. The latter was subsequently banned from radio broadcast, largely because it stirred the very argument being had today. Dave commands a much bigger audience and presence than his predecessors did when those tracks were released, and with much of the conversation being generated online, it feels as though the air is a lot thicker with the hostility and racism that’s being openly expressed.
Nevertheless, Dave’s additional verse on “Black” didn’t necessarily offer an observation we hadn’t heard or seen before. While it would be slightly hyperbolic to say that these lines exuded bravery—calling out racism or any form of oppression has now become the standard—he’s representative of a generation of young people who have had enough of broken promises.
He may be a celebrity now, but Dave has never been far removed from the issues affecting the country’s most vulnerable and neglected. Most popular artists today are aware that there’s very little room for political and social apathy. We expect them all to stand for something bigger than themselves, and that was shown when Dave paid tribute to Jack Merritt—who was murdered in last November’s London Bridge attack. It’s also important to remind ourselves that the issue the general public have with Dave’s performance isn’t that he called out racism alone—he called out the British media for how they’ve treated Meghan Markle, and the serious downfalls (Grenfell, anyone?) of a government taking this country for a joke.
Dave, who rightfully took home the award for Best Album for Psychodrama, will continue to use his platform how he sees fit and the gammon elite will have no choice but to chew and swallow, especially while we have to endure the unwanted thoughts and opinions of Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan. The 2020 Brits was a reminder that Dave is the voice of a generation fed up with a country unwilling to change and continues to self-sabotage itself. He held up a mirror to Britain, and what reflected back was a truly hideous image of the hostile environment that those who decried his performance have been complicit in.