Interview: the | Dave Ellis

Nov 02 2020

UK rapper the | Dave Ellis has recorded a new song called 'Come Closer', which is a personal, semi-autobiographical track that tackles the challenges of racism. Louder Than The Music spoke with Dave about his hope for this song, and why he thinks of his music as poetry in rap.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

“I started writing songs and poetry from the age of 17. I was involved in a number of Hip Hop and R&B bands in the 90s before becoming a follower of Jesus. It was at this time that I started to write songs about real life issues that real people were facing on a day-to-day basis, whether they were Christian or not as I believe God is just as concerned about the everyday struggle of those that don’t know him as well as those that do.”

Tell us about your new song 'Come Closer' and what the inspiration behind it was?

“The brutal killing of George Floyd, earlier this year had such a profound impact on me. A friend shared the 8.46 video on a WhatsApp group and I remember, whilst watching it feeling numb. Another friend then shared an American video call the $100 Race.”

“This video demonstrates, privilege, class and social inequality amongst students. I’d seen this video before, but on the day that I’d watched the inhumane treatment of George Floyd it had much more significance. It hit me like a tonne of bricks, and although this was set in America, it highlighted some of the disadvantages I’ve faced throughout my life growing up in England - the things that I had just accepted as normal. For example, as I say in the rap, my mother would often tell me ‘you’ve got to work harder than the white man’. It became her mantra and at the time, I thought it was just mum being mum, but I realised whilst watching the $100 Race, that had been my reality. This is just one example - there are many. This realisation brought me to tears. It felt like my soul was crying and the tears were a physical manifestation of the visceral pain I was feeling, having reconnected to trauma from my past. ‘Come Closer’ was birthed out of this pain.”

With the Black Lives Matter movement in the news so much at the moment, do you think we are turning a corner when it comes to tackling racism?

“I certainly hope so, the truth is we’ve been here, as a nation, many times before. The shooting of Cherry Groce in the 80s and the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence in the 90s. These unfortunate and distressing events happen and they somehow fade into the ether, whilst racism, structural racism in particular, continues to thrive undetected. I think if we as a nation and as individuals are courageous enough to accept this reality and the reality of our past, and if we are prepared to listen, reflect and change - then there is hope that we can turn a corner when it comes to issues of race and equality. My hope is ‘Come Closer’ will contribute to us turning the corner and that it will engender a conversation about race and equality that leads to lasting change”.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

“That’s a great question, as I’ve never really thought about it. I think I would describe my style as poetry in rap. For me, rap is an artistic expression, often communicating deep feeling and emotion - It’s my way of telling a story, taking the listeners on a journey and connecting them with the deeper meaning.
My biggest influences are ‘conscious rappers’ from back in the day. Rapper’s such as Nas, Biggie and KRS - ONE. There are a number of rappers past and present that have influenced my style and flow. Most recently, I’ve really been inspired by rappers such as Joyner Lucas and Logic (his earlier stuff in particular) and the legend known as Andy Mineo.”

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

“I would love to work with either Andy Mineo or Joyner Lucas. Andy because he is undoubtedly a very talented and creative artist that shares very similar Christian values to myself and Joyner Lucas as I admire his ability to address taboo subjects in his music that many artist don’t address. I love his song ‘I’m not racist!’ It’s so real and raw - yet honest.”

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

“To be honest, if one person has been impacted positively through my music - that is success! Being creative makes me come alive and it’s always a privilege if I can inspire others along the way. ”

What is your favorite album of all time?

“Oooh - another great question. Of all time… it would have to be… believe it or not, Mary J Blige’s, My Life. Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death a close second (I think…). Actually, Andy Mineo’s ‘Uncomfortable’ in my opinion, is an absolute classic!”

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

“All I Need” by the | Dave Ellis (released 2021)”.

What else does the next year hold for you?

“The plan is to release my album and, depending on COVID restrictions, I’d love to perform it live. The album has almost entirely been written during lockdown and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. There are also a few more music videos planned and possibly a few collaborations too.”

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