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25 February 2019


by Alice May

Dave: “Black” - 3 mins 48s

Just as Childish Gambino restyled the protest song in his powerful, category-defying track 'This Is America', so British rapper Dave has delivered his own about the black experience. And it is astonishing.

Not yet 21, his lyrics have a complexity and eloquence far beyond his years without sacrificing the raw energy and urgency of youth. They hold up a mirror to our culture, and it finds us sorely lacking. As in the US, British schools only nominally teach the brutality of its history towards others; more widely we don't bother understanding black culture, contemporary or otherwise. After all, ignorance makes it easier to condemn and vilify. We are afraid of what we don't know, and we like to have a scapegoat. A black sheep.

The ripples of our past and our prejudice continue to affect black people in Britain today. Liverpool's slave trade history is still visible in its street names - Gildart, Rodney, Tarleton. Among the stone carvings of dolphins on the facade of the port of Liverpool building are carvings of slave ships.

The execrable Black and White Minstrel Show only ended a couple of years before 1980. Robertson's only 'retired' the gollywog icon in 2002. Then there's the issue of the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University. Plus we still have "plantation" brands like Uncle Ben's, with its image of the smiling black butler presumably serving the civilised whites with rice dishes made on the back of slave labour.

Every day black people have to navigate such echoes and reminders that the white Europeans they live among generally regard themselves as superior. It's a depressing situation, and depressingly pedestrian in its ubiquity.

As Dave says, the result is that for people like him it means "workin' twice as hard as the people you know you're better than / 'Cause you need to do double what they do so you can level them".

Nathan James Tetty's accompanying video is as inextricably woven into 'Black' as Hiro Murai's video is for Childish Gambino's track. He brings the lyrics vividly to life in his images of black identity across Manchester, London and Lagos; featuring an ensemble cast of icons including fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, science and diversity pioneer Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, actor Damson Idris, and rapper Stormzy.

Its grace, its dignity and its passion makes us fall silent as we're reminded that despite everything, these are people whose spirit is ultimately indomitable in the face of inherited bigotry and racism. Shame on the rest of us.

Film Production: Rattling Stick Ⓟ Ⓦ / DirtyWork Ⓟ Ⓦ
Director: Nathan James Tettey Ⓦ / Edem Wornoo / Dave
Producer: Kelly Spacey
Executive Producer: Emma Wellbelove
Cinematographer: Rik Burnell
Steadicam Operator: Grant Sandy-Phillips
Editor: Chris Wilson @ Stitch Ⓟ Ⓦ
Colourist: Alex Gregory @ The Mill Ⓟ Ⓦ
Thanks To: David Wright / Joe Wheatley / Michael Hobdell / Jack Carter / Julian Higgs @ Marshall Street Editors Ⓟ Ⓦ

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.