Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Dave: Psychodrama [Neighbourhood, 2019]
London-based Nigerian rapper David Orobosa Omoregie has quite a history. When he was an infant his clergyman father was marooned in Africa in a snarl of immigration snafu, religio-political sectarianism, and marital dysfunction. One brother was sentenced to life in a gang murder and another has done time for bank fraud. Dave himself, however, is a piano-playing paragon who took law and philosophy classes while studying sound design in college and won a Mercury Prize for this debut studio album. Its beats orchestrally and/or electronically embellished piano riffs, its lyrics intelligible, thoughtful, calm, sometimes even gentle, it's framed as a course of psychotherapy spanning 2018, when Dave turned 20. He has plenty of perspective: "You see our gold chains and our flashy cars/I see a lack of self-worth and I see battle scars" is an observation both wise and cocky for a debut album, and though he's a rapper first, cameos from knife-wielding London rapper J Hus, Afro-fusion luminary Burna Boy, and Nashville up-and-comer Ruelle suggest the breadth of his self-conception. Exactly how compelling he can be musically remains an open question. But the climactic tragedy "Lesley" definitely points him in the right direction. A-