Craig David was part of the whole UK garage 2-step scene circa 1990’s when names like So Solid were plying their trade. Remarkably despite the scene being flush with names who could have gone onto larger success, Craig David remains somewhat of an anomaly having gained an element of success in America. While that success was to an extent short lived, Craig David is a well-known face in the UK and America. The big question remains; is the 36-year old still a musically relevant force?
To this day, his debut album Born To do It (2000) still resonates
Despite being only aged six, I had experienced a surprising amount garage music for someone so young. Influenced by my older cousins and aunts, I grew up on Artful Dodger, and the girl group Mis-Teeq which featured among others X Factor’s Alesha Dixon. While the aforementioned had success, perhaps one of the most successful from that UK heyday of garage was one Craig Ashley David.
His earliest exposure came when he wrote the track I’m Ready (1997). This pivotal single was the B-side for the then successful British boy band Damage. It was a great launch pad for Craig David as the single was the B-side to Damage’s most successful single Wonderful Tonight (1997). This led Craig David to work with Artful Dodger who was known in the garage scene. Following that successful debut, he was picked up by Colin Lester, owner of Wildstar Records, who identified the 17-year old’s huge potential.
Lester’s faith was duly rewarded when Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta) 1999 produced by Artful Dodger became part of the garage classic anthems. It firmly stated that Craig David was here. Indeed, it was the beginning of a love affair that would spread globally (initially). After all here was a youngster not only ‘rapping’ but ‘singing’. Craig David can evidently lay claim to inspiring some of the more contemporary artists who ply the ability to ‘do both’ like they were the first.
While the garage 2-step energy of Re-Rewind was a notable cut, in this juncture my focus turns to 7 Days (2000) taken from his debut album. I remember being in the car with my family driving somewhere when it was released. All I remember was hearing the track for the first time on the radio. From there I would watch Top of The Pops every Thursday and I was always stoked to hear Craig David perform. To this day, his debut album Born To do It (2000) still resonates with many and is still one of the best albums ever.
While David, kept to his garage roots (and one can argue keeps those roots to an extent), his debut was less urban and really was his first experiment with the mainstream. 7 Days, allowed him to bridge from the urban into the mainstream. It didn’t have the garage sound from his work with Artful Dodger and initiated his transition out of underground garage and he did not look back.
What’s most surprising and rare is that he had success over the pond in America. Most British artists who have come from the urban scene are not household names in America. Craig David however really pioneered a path. It wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that he is a household name. He turned to America in a time of difficulty when his reputation and character was put under the microscope in a comedy sketch called Bo’ Selecta (2002-09). He was left dejected and turned his attention away from music and onto partying in Florida.
This lifestyle soon drained him, and he was back in the studio working on his new project TS5. On social media and in interviews he made it a point that his re-emergence would not only take place in the UK but also in America. For many, including myself, seeing him announce a comeback in 2011-12 after many years gave a sense of excitement and nostalgia. It instantly being reminded of simpler times.
This feeling stayed with me and persuaded me to go see his live show in Nottingham in 2017. Coughing up £40 for a ticket my friends were confused but I had high expectations. The excitement had been building ever since his appearance on BBC Radio 1XTRA for Kurupt FM’s ‘Sixty Minute Takeover.’
While When the Bassline Drops (2015) is one of my favourite songs the Following My Intuition tour was somewhat of a let-down. Playing a mix of his old and new stuff it seemed like he had lost his creative spark and was simply reworking his old music.
Craig David will always be one of my favourite artists but maybe he should look back to the year 2000 and draw inspiration from there when making music was his focus.