An Analysis of Dave’s Psychodrama: A Thought Provoking Debut
David Orobosa Omoregie, also known simply as Dave or Santan Dave, is a 20-year-old British-Nigerian rapper hailing from the streets of Streatham, South London. Dave has been active in the music scene since 2015; he released his debut EP, Six Paths in 2016, followed by his second EP Game Over in 2017. In addition to his EPs, Dave has also released a number of successful singles, featuring artists such as J Hus and Fredo. However, the 20-year-old British-Nigerian rapper’s compelling debut album, Psychodrama, has set the streets ablaze.
Psychodrama is a form of therapy where participants act out life events to evaluate past behaviors and gain a deeper understanding of their reactions and dispositions. Dave’s interest in the therapeutic method stems from his older brother, Chris, who is serving a life sentence and receives psychodrama therapy. Throughout this 11-track album, Dave takes listeners on a raw journey through his psychodrama session. The emerging rapper tackles complex themes like racial inequality, mental health, domestic violence, and the impact of an absent father on the growth and development of a young Black man.
I remember the first time that I heard of Dave, it was a few years ago on the track, “Thiago Silva” with AJ Tracey. I saw freestyles and then…I saw him playing the piano. I was amazed by the talent this kid possessed at such a young age. I gravitated towards Dave because of perceived similarities, a Nigerian kid from South London, he reminded me a lot of kids I grew up with.
Ever since “Thiago Silva,” I have been listening and looking forward to more music from Dave. When Psychodrama was announced, after “Black” was released, I was beyond eager. At first listen of Pscyhodrama made me think of Drake’s line on “Look at What You’ve Done,” “boo-hoo, sad story–Black American dad story.” It always stood out to me because while I have an amazing relationship with my dad, I look around my circles and realize, it is not always the same thing. So what does this have to do with Dave? Everything, because it is a typical story, compiled with the daily pain that comes with being Black.
Dave pays homage to his London roots with tracks such as “Environment”, “Streatham” and “Screwface Capital”, letting the world into the reality of someone from London and not the pinky up, drinking tea London that is often projected in the media. My standout tracks include “Black,” “Location,” “Lesley,” “Disaster” and “Screwface Captial.”
The album’s premier single “Black,” is where Dave describes his seemingly ubiquitous experience as a Black man. The artist dismays what he believes is a negative narrative about our ancestors as “barbaric” and debilitated by famine, greed, and colonial subjugation. “Black” also highlights the experiences of young Black men and women, such as witnessing our people’s unjustified murders and the unsettling realization we may be next; listening to our parents’ reluctant, albeit necessary, warnings; and acknowledging the commodification of our Blackness amidst a rejection of actual Blackness. Although Dave is expounding his racial experience in the UK, his story universally resonates with Black people, succinctly capturing the frustration, sorrow, and anger many of us feel but deceptively avoid. Thus far, the single’s reception has been ironically mixed, praised widely by some and deemed “offensive” and “uncomfortable” by others. When questioned by DJ Target on the importance of discussing institutional racism on “Black” Dave states, “It’s my personal take on an issue I feel like has been covered a lot but can never get enough coverage. I feel like it’s an important content matter.” “Black” proves a bold and necessary move, delivered in a hard-hitting and rhythmic song.
From the opening track “Psycho” to end “Drama”, a conversation with his older brother, who is in prison for life, Dave uses his wordplay to let us into his world. “Drama” is haunting, the reality, proves that as aforementioned, it is not a “black American dad” story, it is a harsh reality for many, as Dave says “never had a father and I needed you to be the figure.”. The apex of the album nears the end with the 11-minute track, “Lesley”. Aside from being a talented wordsmith, Dave shows off his storytelling abilities as he shares the story of a pregnant girl he met on the train who is in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Jason. In an interview, Dave states that “Lesley” is “about someone suffering a complete loss of character by being with someone who isn’t good for them” (The Observer). We later find out, in “Drama”, that “Lesley” is based on his relatives, and Dave is encouraging women who are in abusive relationships to seek help.
“Brother I’m a careful, humble, reckless, arrogant / Extravagant, n*gga probably battlin’ with manic depression / Man, I think I’m going mad again / It’s like I’m happy for a second, then I’m sad again”. – Dave (psycho)
It does not matter what country or what your ethnicity is, quality rap music is quality. You can be from the USA, from the UK, France or any European nation, from any Caribbean island, from any of the 54 African countries, we all deal with pain and that in itself makes us human. Dave takes that pain and delivers with Psychodrama.
Psychodrama is a stream of confession and self-reflection wherein Dave, with the help of his therapist, guides us through his journey of loss, grief, and self-discovery. On the day of its release, Dave took to Instagram to say: “Blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights went into this for years and again I just hope the world enjoys hearing my story.”
It is quite evident that many hours went into the production of this album, which resulted in one of the most monumental bodies of work to come out of the U.K. hip-hop scene. It is a win for the Diaspora, it is a win for UK rap and hip hop. The album is a deep dive into the mind of Dave, through his raw emotions, his introspection and ability to deliver a balanced conceptual album from someone’s whose career is just starting; the sky is the limit for Dave.