The classic debate of ‘second album syndrome’ can hit any artist, even if their first record didn’t receive the same universal acclaim that Dave enjoyed with Psychodrama, his hugely successful debut LP.
The 2019 thematic album saw Dave speak intermittently to a therapist throughout the record, a plot that would end up winning the Mercury Prize and take home the prestigious ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Brit Awards – cementing Dave as a household name in the process. On his debut, Dave attempted to deal with underlying issues that stem from his brother being sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010, and, with that journey in mind, his personal problems haven’t disappeared on his newest effort, the brilliant We’re All Alone Together.
While the rapper’s life has changed considerably over the last two years, if you expected Dave to flex about his newfound wealth, then you’d be spectacularly wrong. In the opening track, ‘We’re All Alone’, he calms any lingering lyrical fears from the offset. Dave details that life with fame isn’t all it is cracked up to be in the very first verse, rapping: “What’s the point of bein’ rich when your family ain’t? It’s like flyin’ first class on a crashin’ plane”.
Those two lines epitomise the theme that transcends the entirety of We’re All Alone Together as Dave dissects the troubles that continue to surround him. Santan never relies on any other artist to carry a track and, while there are only a handful of collaborations on the album, when he does get British rap royalty like Stormzy, Ghetts, and Giggs involved, it feels like a celebration of their joint rise to the top.
‘In The Fire’ is a euphoric victory lap for the London scene as Dave enlists verses from Fredo, Meekz, Ghetts, and Giggs. Rather than carrying concerns that somebody else will take their spot, each artist continuously supports one another in tandem. Even though Giggs and Ghetts are Dave’s elders, We’re All Alone Together confirms the 23-year-old’s position as king of the table.
As the album continues, Dave switches up the emotions as he decries the government’s abhorrent treatment of the Windrush generation on ‘Three Rivers’. Santan’s emotional intelligence is his finest asset, and he manages to swim deep under the surface where others can’t even see, let alone articulate.
Throughout his collection of tracks, Dave eloquently points a mirror up to society’s failings, not just in Britain but the world over. While he may be a millionaire rapper, Dave can’t help but get worn down by the murky societal outside his four walls. With this thematic message, James Blake’s production technique gives the beats a sombre feel and one that suits Dave’s flow to the ground.
The record’s highlight is the penultimate track, ‘Heart Attack’, a ten-minute piece of theatre that opens with the deafening rings of ambulance sirens and a horrifying news report about London’s knife crime epidemic.
‘Heart Attack’ is where Dave asserts himself into a league of his own, and he discusses knife crime in a heartbreakingly nuanced fashion while taking an unfiltered reflection on his traumatic upbringing. The track distressingly finishes with audio of his mother crying, which is agonising to hear.
We’re All Alone Together is an album in the purest sense and a worthy sequel to Psychodrama. Dave is an intuitive three-dimensional storyteller with countless layers to him as both an artist, and a person, which he lets unravel across the record.
It was challenging to argue against Dave being the most skilful rapper in Britain after Psychodrama, but We’re All Alone Together makes this task impossible and confirms his place at the throne.