The rise and fall and rise of Craig David
(The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2016 - 9:00am

As Craig David himself once sang, “Re-rewind.” The year is 2003. If you were a young person then, perhaps in your teens, and into post-trance dance music, it’s likely that you were partly responsible for the overwhelming success of the British performer’s albums “Born To Do It,” released in 2000, and its follow-up “Slicker Than Your Average” from 2002.

There was a streak of inescapable hits, beginning with a guest feature on Artful Dodger’s still-great Re-Rewind in 1999, to Fill Me In, 7 Days and Walking Away, through to Rendezvous, What’s Your Flava? and Hidden Agenda. There, too, was the accompanying aesthetic. White T-shirts, beanie hats, single diamanté earrings, Reebok Classics and pre-Beats by Dre headphones all spoke to the world of UK garage, a genre of British dance music that originally had a four-to-the-floor beat before evolving to include breakbeat-influenced 2-step sounds and reggae, drum n bass and hip-hop elements. Garage pronounced the British way, garij — produced the sub-genres grime, dubstep and bassline.

Halcyon Days

Craig David was a 19-year-old phenomenon during those halcyon days, a period that saw the rise in popularity of British urban music acts such as Shola Ama, The Streets, Ms Dynamite, Dizzee Rascal and Wiley. But when the English standup comedian Keith Lemon, a.k.a. Leigh Francis, did impersonations of David on his British skit show Bo Selecta, it stalled the singer’s momentum and sent him into freefall. Though the gag originally ran from 2002 to 2004, the effect on David’s career reverberated years after. Lemon’s rubber-faced parody had turned the breakout star into the laughingstock of the UK music industry.

“I thought it was going to go away, eventually, and that we had to ignore it,” David told Music Week in 2013. “But it did completely the opposite, it just grew and grew. I was watching a brand, our brand, being destroyed. We can all accept criticism of creative work, but to be publicly ridiculed for it is incredibly difficult to deal with.”

Lost Years

Fifteen years after “Born To Do It,” it seems that fans are in the midst of a Craig David comeback. After fleeing London to live in a hotel in Miami, throwing house parties, getting into bodybuilding, and reinventing himself as a DJ, the R&B vocalist has reemerged older and wiser. Now 34, he has decided to embrace and celebrate his roots as the former poster boy of UK garage instead of trying to copy what younger acts such as Chris Brown and Jason Derulo have been doing while he was away from the scene, his lost years.

While David’s career has seen a revival in recent months — he performed at the Isle of Wight’s multi-award winning Bestival in September and joined Major Lazer to perform Fill Me In at their London gig in October — his latest track When The Bassline Drops, a collaboration with grime MC Big Narstie, could be the sign that he is hurtling towards something of a resurgence. Four years since his last studio album, Craig David is gearing up to release “Following My Intuition” in 2016, featuring work with Kaytranada, GoldLink, Diplo and Chase & Status.

Cool Again

Speaking to BBC Radio 1Xtra, Craig David has suggested that Drake is open to a collaboration between the pair, hinting that a joint mixtape could be on the way.

David recently met the Toronto rapper and revealed that they shared a mutual love of each other’s work. Last month, he freestyled over Drake’s Hotline Bling and XTC’s Functions On The Low, and two weeks ago performed a cool garage rendition of Justin Bieber’s number one single Love Yourself.

Perhaps it’s the nostalgia talking, but the goodwill surrounding the Southampton-born vocalist at the moment is hard to ignore. Tracks by current artists such as Disclosure, SBTRKT, Jacques Green and Mosca feature classic garage undertones from the turn of the millennium. Given the cyclical nature of music trends, the smooth, honeyed vocals of Fill Me In and Hidden Agenda still sound surprisingly fresh today. It might not be too outrageous to suggest that Craig David is becoming cool again.



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