Dave is the south London MC you need to know about

Meet the 18-year-old who raps, plays piano and has worked with AJ Tracey.

Dave made his first festival appearance this year
Dave made his first festival appearance this year© press

2016 is shaping up to be the year of Dave. Hailing from Streatham, the 18-year-old rapper and producer has been turning out tracks like Wanna Know – taken from his brand new Six Paths EP – and Thiago Silva (with AJ Tracey) that show lyrical ingenuity and a wisdom beyond his years.

Last month he made his festival debut at Bestival, making a surprise appearance alongside AJ Tracey on the Eskimo Dance stage – read about it here. Afterwards I caught up with him to talk about where he gets his wisdom from, working with songwriter and producer Fraser T Smith and the artist in the world he’d most like to collaborate with…

Dave appears on the Rhymantics showcase on October 9 in Liverpool as part of the RBMA UK tour. Buy tickets.

First of all are you ‘SantanDave’ or just ‘Dave’ now?

Just Dave. Santandave was a play on words with the whole Santander bank thing. I was opening a bank account and there were just loads of strings.

Oh so you were a bank scammer 419’er?

No [laughs] I’m the most legit person ever.

Sometimes people have a road name and they get big in music then lie to the public about the true meaning behind it...

Mine's real, I promise.

You’re only 18 and your lyrics are very meaningful. Where did you get all of this wisdom?

I had to grow up fast where I came from. I'm from Streatham and there was a lot going on and I had to just be mature. Luckily I had good people around me, good teachers, good friends and my brother and mum.

I had to grow up fast where I came from – I had to be mature

When did you decide you wanted to spend your life rapping about the things you’ve seen and been through?

When I got my first SBTV Warm Up Session with Jamal [Edwards]. That opportunity was one of the biggest things for me and ever since then I’ve taken it proper seriously.

Lots of people your age still go to school, college, and university alongside doing music, are you one of those people?

Music is what I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing. My back up plan is in music anyway – if it’s not rap then it’s gonna be through producing. But it is going to be rap. I can’t picture any other way to live.

Dave grew up in Streatham, south London
Dave grew up in Streatham, south London© press

Musically, you do much more than rap. I first came across you on a video that went viral on Twitter of you playing the piano.

I started playing piano before I started rapping. It was after that the rap took off and it works well so now I do both. I taught myself. I kept practicing and learning by ear and then gradually got better and better, eventually I incorporated it into my music and now it works. I’m learning the guitar now, getting some help from Fraser T Smith.

He's very musical. You guys working together must be a great marriage.

He is very sick at everything. He teaches me stuff on piano, teaches me guitar, he got me my first guitar. Working with him has been crazy for me.

I’m learning the guitar now, getting some help from Fraser T Smith

I first heard of Fraser when he was working with Tinchy Stryder in 2009. What was your first memory of him?

I was listening to him indirectly. I was listening to Kano, the Home Sweet Home album so through that I’d be listening to Fraser.

Aside from Kano, who did you grow up listening to and who do you listen to now?

Devlin, he’s a big one. And Youngs Teflon, he’s so sick. I never used to listen to American music when I was growing up, strictly UK. Youngs Teflon has always had a lot of music for me to listen to.

You came out with AJ Tracey today, this is your first Bestival right?

This is my first ever festival. I went to Wireless and watched but this is my first one performing.

Was it scary?

Not really, you get used to it with shows, so I picked up on it quite quickly and when I go out there there’s no worries.

How did you and AJ Tracey first link up?

He DM’d me on Twitter. I’ve only done three or four features so far. Young Dizz, AJ Tracey, Tion Wayne and Big Watch plus there’s one with Coinz but it’s not out yet.

And who's on your hit list?

It’s probably not going to happen but Nines. I respect him highly. It would be crazy.

He’s a sick rapper. About grime, was it something you listened too heavily growing up?

I would only listen to grime instrumentals with melody, cause I like the musical side of it, I didn’t really like the droning basslines, so like Ghetto Kyote, Trumpet Boom, Pied Piper. Those types of beats, where the melody is strong. I like Wooo Riddim as well, those kind of beats made me like grime. Rap is more my thing – 95 to 105 BPM.

Dave joins D Double E, AJ Tracey, Lady Leshurr and more in Rhymantics, a unique beats-free performance at Liverpool's St George's Hall on October 9. Buy tickets here.

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Written by Sian Anderson