Music

Reborn to do it: the second coming of Craig David

The golden boy of UK garage has banished the ghost of Bo' Selecta and is back on top in 2016.
Written by Ben Homewood
4 min readPublished on
Craig David: undergoing a career re-rewind
Craig David: undergoing a career re-rewind
At the dawn of 2015, Craig David was in danger of being better known for his Instagram account than his music – and what we saw on Instagram wasn’t altogether good. Photos of the 34-year-old looking awkward in a suit or grinning in front of a sparkly Christmas tree were interspersed with various platitudinous memes: the words ‘Infinite possibilities’ superimposed over a snowy landscape, or a handwritten note reading “My New years resolutions. Love more Live more Create more”. Nine years had passed since the comedian Leigh Francis had canned Bo’ Selecta, the Channel 4 show that turned the name Craig David into a punchline, but its message lingered: Craig David was kind of naff.
Fast-forward 12 months and the contrast couldn’t be starker. Craig David is poised to stage a remarkable comeback. The UK singer – whose flawless 2000 debut Born To Do It sold 8 million copies worldwide and sparked instant fame – started 2016 with a video of him dropping his 16-year-old R&B hit Fill Me In to a rammed crowd in cavernous old Birmingham club Central Hall. Similar clips, mostly filmed at his TS5 clubnights, filled his social media feeds throughout 2015, and saw him ad-libbing over R&B, dancehall, garage and grime tunes as well as crooning his classics.
The TS5 nights have the sweat-drenched feel of the drum’n’bass raves David grew up on in Southampton. At east London warehouse Shapes in November, he sang his gliding ballad Rendezvous over the beat from Dr Dre’s Still Dre, before blasting out Neyo and Drake. As the crowd rushed towards the barriers, he wheeled up and rewound – just like he used to in grimy basements back in the day.
TS5 – named after his Miami duplex apartment in which the parties started – was first picked up by Kiss FM in 2013 and now broadcasts on Capital Xtra. David spent 2015 taking it to glitzy clubs around the world, pitching up everywhere from Dubai to Abu Dhabi – but his resurgence was being built on something far less glamorous. The TS5 cash allowed him to spend every spare second holed up making music in the west London office of his JEM management company – the people who’ve looked after him since day one. Next to the leather sofas, chrome-plated desks and framed gold discs is the tiny studio in which David is making Following My Intuition, his first album since 2010’s regrettable (but still brilliantly sung) covers record Signed, Sealed, Delivered. In October, Channel 4 News filmed an interview there. Their subject deliriously described himself as “raring to go” and added, “You never really go away… I’ve always got three minutes in me that can change my life and everyone else’s.”
Three of those minutes came in the form of November’s single When The Bassline Drops. Featuring a verse from man-mountain MC Big Narstie, it’s a garage monster that harks back to David’s heyday, and not only because it’s littered with the smooth “Ooooh yeah”s he built a career on. Big Narstie’s involvement came about after the pair lit up Mistajam’s BBC Radio 1Xtra studio in September during a Kurupt FM takeover. YouTube footage of the session, during which Craig unveiled bassy new tracks produced by Manchester’s White Nerd, exudes the same sweaty vitality as his TS5 gigs. It’s this primal energy – the same stuff that hangs in the air wherever Skepta goes, that you can taste when Stormzy or Novelist play live – that this unlikely comeback is built on. It promises to sound great too: as well as Big Narstie and White Nerd, David has been in the studio with XL Recordings producer Kaytranada and Diplo – and there’s even a rumours of a Drake collaboration in the works.
Far from a rich, fitness-obsessed has-been, or the washed-up laughing stock Leigh Francis once painted him as, Craig David is new and exciting again. Expect him to be all over your boink in 2016.
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