Black At The Brits

Political statements are made every year during awards season and at this year’s Brits it was no different, but 21-year-old Dave’s performance was more stirring than most. 

The Brits only recently began inviting grime artists to the awards show as guests and performers as a long overdue mistake that excluded a major UK music genre. But this year rapper Dave won the most prestigious award of the night, British Album of the Year, for his record PSYCHODRAMA. 

Ever since attending The Brits, grime artists particularly have been unafraid of making political statements. Last week Dave added to this long list but has been dubbed, “the most important performance in the history of the Brits”. 

For me, there are many reasons as to why Dave’s performance was so important. Firstly, his song choice. The fact that he chose to perform Black, on its own, is significant. Artists usually choose to perform a medley of songs and take the opportunity to show off as much of their content as possible. The songs Location, Streatham and Disaster, all top ten singles from his new album, PSYCHODRAMA, seemed like the more obvious choices for his performance, especially as Location remains his most popular song on Spotify.

But Dave chose to perform Black. He performed a stripped back version of the song with minimal stage and sound production. He started rapping alone onstage whilst playing a piano that projected visuals throughout. At one point a snake wrapped itself around a Brit award, perhaps a subtle jab at the exclusion of black artists from the awards show for so many years. 

The song itself is full of descriptions of the race-relations problem in the UK today. Dave listed countless examples of how prejudice and discrimination continue to manifest themselves in British culture and life. The last verse was written specially for the Brits and was full of political statements. Dave called the prime minister “a real racist”, a day after Downing Street failed to denounce the views of an adviser who supports eugenics and implied black people were mentally inferior. Dave also criticised the media’s treatment of Meghan Markle, compared to that of Kate Middleton. He also pointed out that “Grenfell victims still need accommodation” and called for more support for the Windrush generation. He ended the verse with a call for “reparations for the time our people spent on plantations”. 

Even Dave’s creative directors, who had watched the rapper in rehearsals, described how the performance moved them. Amber Rimell told the Guardian that people were stunned: “There wasn’t a huge cheer at the end… [The audience] couldn’t believe what they saw.”

The fact that Dave chose this song and decided to add an extra verse to it, specifically for his Brits performance, is important. He chose to spend his few minutes on stage talking about a real issue in the most authentic way, clearly angry at the current state of race-relations today. It was a resonant performance – Dave’s words should be remembered.

Image: The Independent