An ode to Dave – Why his performance of ‘Black’ at the BRIT Awards was a much needed expression of political protest.


Written By: Charlotte Hingley – @charhingley

Photos: BBC

12/03/2020


This year at the Brit Awards, Dave, also known as Santan Dave or David Omoregie was able to single-handedly summarized the thoughts, feelings and angst of thousands of U.K. citizens within a five minute time-frame. The 21 year old’s iconic song featured lines such as ‘black is pain, black is joy, black is evident’, before he added the now notorious freestyle: ‘the truth is our Prime Minister is a real racist’.

Not only did he manage to blow out unjustified stereotypes of U.K. grime artists, which some media outlets choose too describe as uneducated or two-dimensional. He was also able to touch the hearts of those who are directly affected by the extreme pro-capitalist and elitist government that currently hold the reigns of ‘democracy’, and who are, quite frankly, steering Britain into a divided future and crisis of morality. 


Santan Dave

Many reasons can be drawn to explain why Dave’s freestyle was received so warmly, however, it can be argued that the core of the impact derived from the fact that his lyrics encompass the lived experiences of hundreds of thousands of Brits today, particularly the black community. His political poetry gave a powerful voice to those that the traditional media suppresses. 

The entire rap of ‘Black’ is moving and raw – an insight into the realities of growing up as a black person in the U.K:

‘Black is bein’ strong inside and facing defeat, 

‘Poverty made me a beast, I battled the streets,

We all struggled but your struggle ain’t a struggle like me’. 

The lyrics are poignant but laced with empowerment (‘but black is all I know, there ain’t a thing that I would change in it’), a piece delicately sewn together by an artist who skillfully embedded personal experience into his work to create a verse that spits the perfect mix of truth, passion and veracity.

The Fourth Verse

While the lyrics of the entire rap are extremely important for society to process and accept, I will focus this article on unpicking the fourth verse, as this explosive recital sent shockwaves through the country with many people remarking on how they felt particularly moved by these lyrics:

'It is racist whether or not it feels racist
The truth is our Prime Minister is a real racist
They say, "You should be grateful we're the least racist"
I say the least racist is still racist
And if somebody hasn't said it
Equality is a right, it doesn't deserve credit
Now if you don't want to get it, then you're never gonna get it,
How the news treats Kate versus how they treated Megan
Rest in Peace Jack Merritt, you're my brother in arms
There's tears in our eyes and love in our hearts
We never had the same background, culture, colour, or past
But you devoted your life to giving others a chance
And for that, I'm so taken aback
Because it gave us all a voice, I have to say it for Jack
As a young black man seeing paper and crack
Giving tougher sentences, it's just paper and cracks
All he would want is unity, funding for communities
Equal opportunities, people under scrutiny
No more immunity, way less hatred
More conservation, less deforestation
We want rehabilitation, now that would be amazing
But Grenfell victims still need accommodation
And we still need support for the Windrush generation
Reparations for the time our people spent on plantations'
I'm done'

The exuberance and energy he has when spitting, meant that Dave hypnotised the audience, viewers at home and the media – all eyes, ears and thoughts were on him and what he was saying. Both excitement and a melancholy sensation intoxicated the O2 Arena and living rooms – with the rest of the U.K. soon to read and acknowledge his political truth’s. 

The truth is that Britain, to most of us, seems to be falling apart before our eyes. The political atmosphere is infected with a stale sense of despair. The fact that our prime minister, arguably the most powerful person in Britain, is a: racist (comparing Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’, refers to black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”), homophobe (‘tank-topped bumboys’) and sexist (‘just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way’) bigot is the ultimate failure to progression. What is more worrying is the fact we, as a society, voted for him to be there… This can come down to two main reasons other than: elitism and the corruption and racism in the media.

The Paradox of Meghan & Kate

Dave’s speech criticises the media for being racist, highlighting the disgusting treatment of Meghan Markle in comparison to Kate Middleton:

Dave explains how the paradoxical treatment of these two women in the press highlights is a perfect example of how racism remains embedded within society – the difference between these two women are their cultural and ethnic backgrounds – while both women are privileged, the white woman from the countryside in Britain is deemed fit in a position of power in comparison to the black woman who grew up in America due to Kate fitting the cookie cutter media image of class.

The UK media and politics can be described as two peas in a pod of corruption. Whilst Boris Johnson’s prejudice, discriminatory and painfully backwards comments are now easily accessible to the public domain, why were they not plastered over the newspapers, TV and social media at the time of Brexit? How was the rightwing media able to publish painstaking lies about the Brexit/Tory agenda in the press? How is it that amidst bullying claims in the conservative government, papers are choosing to report on Boris’ and Carrie’s expectant baby? Is this news, or is this PR? 

The Fault of the Media

I think it is of importance to stress how the media misrepresents the black community in the press. This issue, touched on by Dave (‘the blacker the berry, the sweeter the news’) is only fueling the racism seeping through the cracks of the country. In an extensive study of the representation of young black men in the British news, it was discovered that ‘close to 7 in 10 stories of black young men and boys related in some form to crime – a comparatively higher figure than in coverage of young men and boys more generally’. This study also proved ‘an image associating black young men and boys with gun and knife crime does quite clearly exist within the news media’. Undoubtedly, hatred fuels mass media.

How are we meant to become unified without compassion, understanding, and a source of news we can trust?

Concluding Thoughts

Dave eloquently ties together a string of travesties that have torn modern Britain apart. How is it that the top ten percent of earners in the UK hold 45 percent of all wealth, while the poorest ten percent hold 2? Whilst the mention of Grenfell has dwindled down in the mainstream press conceptualising the notion of ‘yesterday’s news’, the tragedy was a harrowing example of how the safety of Grenfell victims meant little to the council in comparison to keeping their “usable reserves at 31 March of 2017 of £247m”; their desperate, repeated cries for help muffled over the laughs of capitalist prosperity. 

It is needless to say that Dave’s performance was a much needed outcry of the political dissatisfaction of the U.K. Contrary to the media, he illuminates the heartfelt reality of underprivileged communities, and communicates the political frustration that comes from the never ending stream of lies that are manufactured in the establishment. Dave further shatters the medias illusion that Grime exclusively goes hand in hand with drugs, violence and gang. Instead, HIS message is plastered in the press, a huge step forward for music and progressive political change. While we cannot stop elitism, we can expose the truth that we know – Dave is a leader of this, once again displaying his capabilities as a prophet of Grime and the times.


To read more about the political voice of Dave, check out this article: https://the2and6collective.com/2020/01/09/the-burden-on-brexit-as-told-by-london-grime-musicians/

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