“Black” by Dave
On this song, Dave is speaking to the Black experience, with the title of course being a reference to “Black” people. And he states from the beginning that the lyrics are not relegated to the experiences of African-Americans, as in the most popular subset of Black people whom this adjective is often applied to. In fact Dave himself is a Black Briton of Nigerian ancestry.
Now as most readers would probably agree, Black people are generally given a raw deal. And that is part of what Dave is harping on. For instance, he references how such individuals have to “work twice as hard” in order to make it in certain parts of the (Western) world. But again going back to his roots, he also mentions some issues connected to Africa itself. For instance, Black people in the diaspora may be discouraged from tracing their ‘family tree’, as in making connections with the Motherland. And this is primarily because of the Western world’s socialization systems (i.e. education and media). These socialization systems tend to depict Africa as a place that is overrun by “famine and greed”. Owing to this, many people of African origin are reluctant to trace their roots.
Indeed Dave sort of focuses on an issue which many Black scholars have pointed out in the past. And this is how generally speaking Blacks in the Western world are only taught the negative or degrading aspects of their people’s history.
Black is Beautiful
But this focus on the negative aspects of being Black – so to speak – is countered by Dave also touting its advantages. For instance, the rapper drops the famous line “the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice”, alluding to the beauty of Black people.
So basically Dave is having a back-and-forth with himself and the audience, pointing out the pros and cons of being Black. And yes, as you would probably expect the negatives outweigh the positives. And this is apparently because Black people have a lot of different issues plaguing their communities. Some of these issues range from street violence to racism to mass incarcerations. But he also brings up ideas such as the powers-that-be seemingly being obsessed with Black culture, particularly from an entertainment standpoint. And he sums it all up conclusively by more or less stating that he is honored to be Black.
So considering the dual nature of this track, we can also conclude that it operates along two different themes. One is that Dave mentions a vast number of socio-economic/political issues that his people have to deal with. But overall this is definitely a statement of his pride in being Black himself. Or rather it can be said that he is forcefully identifying himself as “Black”. And in doing so, he also points out the various benefits and detriments that come along with this designation.
Facts about “Black”
Neighbourhood Records released this track on 22 October 2019. It came out as the first single from Dave’s maiden album, which is entitled “Psychodrama”. This album also contains Dave’s popular song “Lesley“.
It broke the top 40 on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number 10 on the UK R&B Chart. However, the song gained additional notoriety in early 2020. This is when Dave performed it at the Brit Awards and added additional lyrics to it. Some lines referenced how Meghan Markle was mistreated by the British media because she’s partly black. In addition to that, he referred to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “a real racist”.
But even prior to that “Black” struck a chord with certain listeners. For instance, Annie Mac of BBC Radio 1 is cited as saying that a considerable percentage of her audience had issues with the tune when she opted to play it.
“Black” was written by Dave and one of his frequent songwriting/producing partners Fraser T. Smith.
Dave’s Performance of “Black” at the 2020 Brit Awards
Dave performed this song at the Brit Awards ceremony which was held on 18 February 2020. This rendition has been dubbed an especially-powerful performance due to a plethora of reasons. For example, Dave himself took to the piano during the performance of the song. But more-notably he added an additional verse to the tune which referenced some specific issues and personalities in recent history. Amongst those were Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, the two individuals who were murdered by a knife-wielding terrorist in London during November of 2019.
He also gave a shoutout to the victims Grenfell Tower fire. That incident occurred in London in 2017 and took the lives of almost 100 individuals. And as aforementioned, he also used the opportunity to recognize Meghan Markle, a British Royal who recently left the UK, with many people believing she did so due to the racism she faced. So whereas “Black”, in its original wording, has more of generational, Afrocentric theme, Dave utilized the prominent stage the Brit Awards to give the song more of a contemporary, universal and humanitarian focus.