Dave Biography and Profile, David Orobosa Omoregie Biography and Profile, Nigerian-British Rapper, Nigerian-British Singer

Dave Early Life

David Orobosa Omoregie, born 5 June 1998, known professionally as ‘Dave’, is a Nigerian-British rapper, singer, songwriter and musician from Streatham, South London. His collaborator and production partner is Tyrell “169” Paul. South London rapper Dave has enjoyed a meteoric rise from promising but largely unknown prospect on the UK hip hop scene to winning one of the most prestigious prizes in British music. He has also worked with Fraser T Smith, AJ Tracey and Drake, who remixed Dave’s single “Wanna Know”. Dave released the Six Paths EP and singles “Thiago Silva” and “JKYL+HYD” in 2016, followed by the Game Over EP in 2017, which included his first UK top 20 hit “No Words”. In October 2018, his song “Funky Friday” debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart.

Since earning an early career boost from Canadian superstar Drake established himself as one of the UK’s most exciting musicians, with a chart-topping debut album and viral Glastonbury performance under his belt.

Dave Biography and Profile

David Orobosa Omoregie (Dave), Nigerian-British rapper, singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and actor, was born 5 June 1998. Dave – whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie – is the youngest of three brothers. His mother is an NHS nurse. Dave released his debut EP Six Paths in 2016, after the release of a number of successful singles such as “JKYL+HYD” and “Thiago Silva” with AJ Tracey.

Dave began rapping at the age of 13 and spent up to five hours a night playing the piano. Dave first made headlines when Canadian superstar Drake remixed his 2016 single Wanna Know and added his own verse. The song was the then-teenage Dave’s first entry on the UK singles chart. As the buzz around him began to grow, he followed up on Wanna Know with the 2017 EP Game Over. Game Over’s success further fuelled the excitement around Dave and by now fans were clamouring for a full album.

“Bland.” That’s how Dave describes himself when asked what he was like as a child. “Yeah. A very bland eleven-year-old, playing computer games. I went to a local primary school but I wasn’t anything special or anything insanely interesting. I didn’t have a crazy personality. I was somewhat book smart, but I wasn’t hanging off the teacher, nor was I messing up in class. I wasn’t doing much to disrupt anything. I was just there, existing.”

What was he reading? “An Inspector Calls, To Kill A Mockingbird… That one was painful. I’d read a lot in class. The Tempest… I liked that one called Artemis Fowl, but I wouldn’t read at home. I remember my mum’s friend Bernard used to write books, some sort of dark fantasy erotica. I never understood why.” Did he like school? “I learnt what I am not good at: listening, staying focused, turning up on time, following orders… I realised that I was going to have to pull off something special, something different.”

Dave describes himself as a “dilettante”, a rummager, a cultural meanderer, someone who will pick up and play with pretty much any cultural marble but only stick with the things that truly take his brain somewhere else. Anime was one of these things: “Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, that kind of drawing.” Rap was something too. “My older brother used to rap, although he drew as well. It was always there. None of us knew we had any sort of talent.

“I remember loving artists such as Kano and Devlin, but as there was no social media it was much harder to access them. You could download tracks through Limewire [a torrent app] or if you were lucky you’d catch them on Channel U [a pioneering urban music satellite channel that stopped broadcasting last year] in the morning before you went to school. Rap stars, artists, whatever you want to call them, were like aliens. Untouchable. Unimaginable really.”

It was 2009 and Dave was eleven when he wrote his first bar. “I don’t remember feeling shy or worried. I remember feeling pretty confident about it. It was 2009, I think, as I know it was about Newcastle FC just getting relegated. ‘Relegation, segregation…’ Something like that. I was just passing the time really. There was never any strategy or goal.” Aged 13 he put out his first track: “Everybody hated it,” he says, chuckling. “I kind of thought I’d blown it really. I retired.”

Music didn’t become meaningful for Dave until, aged 14, he realised it was a universe that could absorb his thoughts, something that he could shape and create rather than just words or notes he had to mine and mimic. “The moment I started learning to play the piano it changed my whole dynamic with music and with school. Suddenly I had a reason to be there, or at least at my music lessons; it just took hold of me.” Seeing the impact music was having on her son, and keen for him to find something to push his energy into, Dave’s mother bought him an electric keyboard.

“It wasn’t immediate,” he explains. “Getting good took time.” Dave had a friend called Kyle and they decided to learn piano together, getting competitive over who could learn compositions first. They pored over soundtracks, in particular music from Christopher Nolan’s films, such as Inception and Interstellar. “Hans Zimmer is a hero, for sure. ‘Like A Dog Chasing Cars’ [from The Dark Knight soundtrack] is one of my all-time favourite tracks.”

Each week Dave and Kyle would choose a song – another was Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – track down the sheet music online, practise and then play it back to one another. His music teachers at school also encouraged him; later, he mentions he’s still close to at least one of them. Kyle is credited on Psychodrama as a producer, helping out on keys and composition on certain tracks. Eventually, Dave attained piano grade seven, the second highest given.

“I was just replying to other people’s music at first and then something changed. I wanted to put my own twist on things, make my songs and my melodies. It took years, though, and I don’t pretend it’s something I clicked into right away. After three years of learning piano, pretty much self-taught, I started improvising. But, again, it wasn’t in the bloodline or anything anyone in my school had done. It was just a really random thing I picked up.”

David Orobosa Omoregie Father

David Orobosa Omoregie brother’s home life was in turmoil. His father had always been absent – “I have no memories of him”.

David Orobosa Omoregie Brother

As David Orobosa Omoregie Brother was turning from child to young teenager, around eleven, both his older brothers, Ben and Chris, were sent to prison, Ben for robbery and Chris for his conviction under joint enterprise for gang-related violent crime.

The eldest, Ben, came out in 2018 after serving four years, but Chris, five years older than Dave, received a minimum life sentence of 18 years. Although Dave wasn’t particularly close to his brothers socially, he still looked up to them hugely and their convictions tore through his family; the blast radius affected everything and everyone, not least their mother. Although Dave prefers to let his music fill in the blanks around this subject, rightly worried about media misrepresentation, the influence these events have had on him and his work is deeply significant.

Dave’s mental health was also affected. After his brothers went to jail his mother became, unsurprisingly, overprotective of her youngest. In agreement with her other sons she banned Dave from going out after school. This meant less time on the streets, in the crosshairs of trouble, and more time at the piano and more time honing his lyrics and flow. Of course, it also meant more time in his room alone – at an important juncture of development – staring at the constellation of his own thoughts and concerns. Yet, as his mind went inwards, he found it helped to channel those emotions outwards and into his music. Aged 13, he tried and he stumbled. But he got much better. And quickly.

One of the first times anyone got to see and hear the progress Dave had made as a rapper was on 10 May 2015, not only the day he started college in Richmond (aged 16, studying philosophy, ethics, law and sound design), but also when he released a freestyle on Blackbox, a Youtube channel dedicated to promoting “the up & coming”. The name comes from the room in which the artist is videoed.

David Orobosa Omoregie Education

Dave, who has passed grade seven on piano, was due to start studying for a degree when his music started to take off in 2017.

Dave’s Mother and Support

He said: “When it gets to that time to tell your mum that you’re not going to university, which has been her grand plan for you for the past 18 years, all of a sudden 700,000 YouTube views mean absolutely nothing.

“That’s not a currency she recognises. She’s given me my life. I literally owe everything to her and God. So to have her here, and to have her experience this, is surreal.

David Orobosa Omoregie - Rapper Dave - with his mother
David Orobosa Omoregie – Rapper Dave – with his mother

“She’s just been screaming. She’s gone crazy.

“It’s not easy to make your mum feel like she’s got something to scream and shout about.”

Dave and Politics

In May 2018, his politically charged track Question Time won best contemporary song at the Ivor Novello Awards. In October his track Funky Friday, featuring British rapper Fredo, reached number one in the UK singles charts, setting expectations even higher.

Does he have faith in politicians? “I don’t think it’s easy to have faith in politicians; it’s an impossible job.” And how about Johnson? “Boris is definitely someone who knows more than he lets on. That impression we have of him…” at which point Dave suddenly breaks his calm demeanour and does what is actually not a terrible impression of the blond-haired Bojo, all blustery mumbling and head shaking “…is something of a disguise.

He’s in a position to be prime minster for a reason; Boris is not a bumbling fool. But I’m not saying he’s someone with a clean heart either. Wasn’t he mayor for a while?” He was, yes. “Was he any different to what Sadiq Khan is doing now?” Well, I say, one has to wonder whether enough is being done around the spike in youth violence and knife crime presently.

Dave Rapper Songs

One of his previous 11 singles and two EPs caught the attention of rap superstar Drake and the two collaborated on the Netflix drama Top Boy, in which Dave plays a drug dealer. Dave told Vice in 2016: “I’ve always had a different ear for music. I really enjoy Lana Del Rey and Pink Floyd are amazing. I like soundtracks. I love Hans Zimmer – the score for The Dark Knight Rises is one of my favourites. I also like Man of Steel, Inception, and Interstellar.

“I’ve always listened to different styles of music to make sure I’m balanced. I feel like if you only listen to your type of music you can never go outside of it.”

Dave ‘Psychodrama’

Psychodrama, Dave’s highly anticipated maiden album, arrived in March. Supported by the singles Black, Streatham, Location and Disaster, the ambitious concept album follows the narrative of a therapy session and explores Dave’s older brothers’ criminal convictions and themes of mental health and growing up as a working class black man. It did not disappoint, heading straight to number one while being praised by critics.

And Psychodrama has now won Dave the 2019 Mercury Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in British music. It comes after his performance at Glastonbury’s Other Stage in June went viral after he plucked a fan from the crowd to rap along to his hit Thiago Silva, named after a Brazilian footballer.

David Orobosa Omoregie, Dave Album Psychodrama, Nigerian Singer, Nigerian Rapper
David Orobosa Omoregie, Dave’s ‘Psychodrama’ Album

The two-storey studio space with a green Astroturf courtyard and beige metal garden furniture is where Dave came almost every day for a year between January 2018 and February 2019 to record his debut album, Psychodrama, which has been hailed as one of the most significant and accomplished hip hop albums – never mind debuts – of recent times. It was largely produced by Fraser T Smith, a Grammy Award winner who’s worked with everyone from Stormzy to Adele via Sam Smith.

Fraser, Dave, even Bane: they can all be proud. Psychodrama is without doubt a masterpiece, the album of 2019 by quite some distance. Powerful, bold, ambitious, complex and at times desperately bleak, it’s less of a record to flex good vibes at a Saturday-night house party and more music to lose your thoughts to. Dave calls it a concept album and the title is taken from a form of therapy used in prisons that sees offenders role-play events from their past in order to help with rehabilitation.

Throughout the record the listener hears the voice of an actor playing Dave’s therapist. We hear the therapist introduce the premise and Dave’s first track: “Tuesday 23 January 2018. I’m here with David. This is our first session. We’re just going to talk about your background, where you’re from, any issues you’ve been dealing with… So where should we start?”

There are occasional chinks of light – a track named “Location” (feat Burna Boy) being about the closest Dave ever gets to a summer banger – but the issues wrestled with include identity, race, mental health, domestic violence, societal injustice, industry posturing, the prison system, cultural appropriation and the pressures of growing up with a family split apart by youth violence and the pressure of making ends meet in a city that is divided.

Unlike other rap artists, Dave is also fearless about pointing out the failings of his own community and his own industry. “Environment” begins with the therapist asking, “What do you think people see when they look at you?” And as an answer Dave responds, “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 20 man when he wears jewellery / And you see it as gangster, I see it as insecurity.”

Whether Dave did go on to medication to help him deal with the trauma of his home life is unclear; but his surroundings’ creative influence on Psychodrama is undeniable. The last track on the album, “Drama”, begins with his brother’s voice from prison, explaining how he didn’t know who would “Bring me out of this shit,” but that “Mans, I’m very proud. I’m very happy to see it’s one of my own.” Dave’s subsequent verses are delivered directly to his brother.

It’s full of anticipation (“I’m excited, man, I pray you get to hear my craft / From our childhood, our mother didn’t hear me laugh”), regret at not being closer to his sibling (“My brothers never spoke to each other when I was growing up / I remember tryna build a bridge, I wasn’t old enough”) and an explanation, of sorts, about how all that turmoil resulted in his silent ambition and a roar for success (“I learn over time, separation issues I describe / Are probably the reasons that I struggle feeling anything / I ain’t got a vision of a marriage or a wedding ring / It’s world domination in music or it ain’t anything”).

David Orobosa Omoregie Wins £25,000 Mercury Prize

The Mercury Prize is awarded for the best album released in the UK by a British or Irish act and has a winning cheque for £25,000 as well. Dave, from Streatham, made headlines at this year’s Glastonbury when he invited teenager Alex Mann to join him on stage to rap along to his hit Thiago Silva and the clip went viral.

Dave’s Awards

Dave’s Mercury Prize win is a huge deal for the rapper as the award is regarded by many as the top recognition for British and Irish music artists. Mercury Prize judge Annie Mac said the album “showed remarkable levels of musicianship” as well as “true artistry, courage and honesty”.

Dave, who initially called himself Santan Dave but whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie, said as he took to the stage: “I did not expect this. I’m lost for words.”

David Orobosa Omoregie - Rapper Dave
David Orobosa Omoregie Awards

In 2018, Dave won an Ivor Novello Award for his song “Question Time”, a track that took a direct aim at Theresa May and what the rapper saw as the UK political establishment’s failings concerning Grenfell, the war in Syria, Isis, terrorism, underpaid NHS workers (Dave’s own mother worked for 22 years as a cleaner in various London hospitals), Brexit and even the £350m pledged by Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign. In the song he also points the finger at US politicians: “Speaking of America, state and the president / With all due respect, I’ve got something to say for them / I just find it funny you can’t give a hand to Palestine / But you can trade whole arms with Saudi Arabia.”

“I’m still angry about Grenfell. I think we all are. I worry about finding the right words, but we’re all upset and I don’t feel people have been treated correctly. I think it’s up to us, as musicians, to take note. For me music is always about making time capsules; ‘Question Time’ is one of those time capsules, although the problems raised will stand forever. That’s politics.”

David Orobosa Omoregie, Dave, Brit Awards, Nigerian Singer, Nigerian Rapper

Dave is the crème de la crème

An imaginative, socially conscious and self-aware lyricist, comparisons have been made to US rappers Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Nas and even Eminem. If Stormzy paved the way from the streets (via grime’s new lease of life around five years ago) to the charts (peaking with a headline slot at Glastonbury this year), then Dave is the crème de la crème of the next generation of British rap stars (alongside J Hus, AJ Tracey, Skepta, MoStack, Slowthai and Loyle Carner) to come through and feel the heat of some significant commercial success.

David Orobosa Omoregie Family

Dave was born David Orobosa Omoregie on 5 June 1998 in the Brixton area of London, the youngest of three brothers born to Nigerian parents. He was raised in nearby Streatham by a single mother, as his father was absent during his childhood.

David Orobosa Omoregie Biography and Profile