Damn homie, in High School you was the man, homie
Welcome to part 2 of the extremely unauthorised biography of Craig David. In part one we looked at the apex as our hero became the breakout star of Garage era, sold a lot of albums and was effectively ruined by Bo Selecta. Somehow I managed to turn that sentence into 2,500 words. Watch me do something similar in part two!
We will see how 2002 Craig:
Transformed into this frightening figure:
Welcome to chapter two of the Craig David Story!
“As soon as you start to veer into the lane of ‘this is the hot thing, I’ll get on this’ people are like, ‘well, that’s not really you, is it?'” – Craig David 
Even though David had become a bit of a joke due to his weekly ridicule from TV comedy Bo Selecta [2002-04], his career was by no means lost. His 2002 album Slicker Than Your Average went 2x Platinum in the UK with over 600,000 sold and over 500,000 sales in the USA.
David hasn’t featured in the US album or single charts as solo act since. While this sophomore effort sold less than his debut, Born To Do It  (which shipped 1.86 million copies), things still looked good.
David was the main target of Bo Selecta, which had a profound impact on his career and psychology; as late as 2010 he said:
“I’ve got nothing to say to Leigh [Francis, show creator]. He’s not picking up awards or anything is he?”
When word got out that David didn’t like his portrayal in the show, Francis dialed it up.
In 2003, Craig David was persuaded to appear on Bo Selecta he later described the awkward encounter:
“I was a bit dubious about appearing because I just thought he [Leigh Francis] was a bit of a prick – pardon my French – but I thought, ‘OK, I’ll roll with it’…He came over to me, really sheepish. I just told him, ‘I think you’re an absolute fool’.”
The damage had been done; David’s credibility was lost after 2003. At some point in the 2000s, he permanently moved to Miami, but he wants people to know that this had nothing to do with Bo Selecta.
“People expected me to be sad, but I’m not at all. It didn’t hurt me, but it hurt the brand.” – Craig “The fucking brand” David 
From what I can tell, David spent his time driving sports cars, meeting supermodels and lifting weights. When he wasn’t busy doing this he released his third album in 2005.
“There were moments in my career where we were making albums and, not putting on fillers exactly, but it wasn’t all the hotness that you knew you had.” – Craig David 
- Peak UK Chart position: #5 [Platinum certification]
- Mark Hill [Artful Dodger] co-wrote the majority of songs on this album, their last collaboration to date
- The first album cover to feature David without his distinctive beanie hat or goatee – thanks to Bo Selecta
This album sounds exactly what you would expect a 2005 Craig David album to sound like. With songs about:
- Clubbing ✓
- Sex ✓
- Breakups ✓
- Cheating ✓
- Lame song titles ✓ – “Do You Believe in Love?”
We see Craig David very much following the R&B trends here, the Garage days are long gone. On “My Love Don’t Stop” he adopts R. Kelly’s staccato flow. “Take ‘Em Off” is a sex song that feels like a neutered Usher / R. Kelly hybrid; David even does the one man call and response thing that Kelly loves.
The Story Goes… features few of the hip-hop elements that were present on David’s earlier work, this is primarily an ultra-soft R&B record. Likely an attempt to retake his status as the top dog in UK R&B scene from Lemar who had usurped David.
One of the most moving songs from David’s entire career is the tragic “Johnny” where he recounts his experience as a victim of bullying at school. It is full of vivid details about him crying himself to sleep and being scared of going to school. Unfortunately, the passion and emotion on this track are lacking elsewhere on the album.
By this point in the Craig David discography, the repetitive subject manner and derivative aspects are wearing thin. I mean, how many different ways can you say ‘girl I saw you dancing over there / you’re so fly’? This is a mediocre R&B album that offers little originality.
5 out of 10
The aftermath of this album marks the official point where people stopped caring about Craig David. He appeared less in popular culture and his credibility seemed lost. David was almost as well known for Bo Selecta as music; this inspired a reinvention in his image and sound.
“I just want to get on with my music and have people appreciate that I’m a talented singer-songwriter. I have called this album Trust Me because on the last album I think I was trying to please everybody. It was a mishmash of ballads and up-tempo. None of it hung together. But now I’m saying, ‘Trust me.’ I’m a 26-year-old writing songs that are age-appropriate.” – Craig David 
- Peak UK Chart position: #18
- Fraser T. Smith co-wrote 5 tracks – 4 years later he co-wrote “Set Fire to the Rain” with Adele
- 17 year old Rita Ora appears on “Awkward” – her first music release
- The first time we hear Craig David swear, he says “dick” and “shit”
Trust Me starts strong with “Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance)”, an upbeat dance song which slightly updates the instrumental from David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. David fulfils his “meeting girls clubbing” song quota, it works well as the track retains the infectious groove from the original track.
There is a fair amount of genre-bending on this project, which stumbles between funk, acoustic R&B, reggae, salsa and hip-hop. It’s a fucking mess. “She’s On Fire” is worth a listen to hear David straight up jack Damian Marley’s flow from “Welcome to Jamrock” for his closing rap.
The album also includes “This Is the Girl” featuring Kano, a lightweight UK Hip-Hop love song; the typical “song for the ladies” you find on rap albums. David’s hook is the best part of the song but it’s forgettable stuff. It was a moderate commercial success, peaking at #18 and remains Kano’s best performing single.
“Awkward”, a duet with Rita Ora is a tender soul ballad, David bumps into his ex in the street and expresses regret for letting her go. The best bit, no acoustic guitars! David had been running acoustic-backed R&B ballads into the ground for 4 straight albums, so it was nice of him to finally retire this staple.
Overall, Trust Me is a decent album, it has plenty of derivative moments, but it is an enjoyable journey. The various genres may take away from the cohesiveness, but it’s nice to hear some new ideas.
6 out of 10
To illustrate public’s feeling towards Craig David at this point, his 2008 Greatest Hits album couldn’t crack the Top 40, his lowest charting album to date.
Luckily, he had a new album of soul covers lukewarm off the presses for 2010. What could possibly go wrong? Cover albums worked so well for all the X Factor winners.
“Now the gold go to me, so minimal / I’m involved in the platinum plaques and records sold” – “Slicker Than Your Average” 
- Peak UK Chart position: #13
Signed Sealed Delivered isn’t a bad album, because it’s 90% cover songs. Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul  was a cover album, and genre-defining soul project.
Hayes re-imagined Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get to Phoenix”, turning it from a 2 minute country song into an 18 minute voyage of betrayal. Featuring a quietly chilling 8:30 spoken word/proto-rap introduction, he sets the scene while the melody trickles in; the next 10 minutes builds to an enormous climax with explosive drums and blaring horns. Pretty much laying the blueprint for the soul loverman persona right there.
On the other hand, Signed Sealed Delivered is an album of karaoke covers of soul tracks. While there is something to be said for keeping the songs as they were originally intended, David offers nothing to keep you from playing the original versions instead.
3 out of 10
Let’s move on.
The next six years of Craig David’s career were barren – it was his longest streak without an album. While some of his career struggles were due to Bo Selecta, the reality is David’s music stopped being good after 2002. He didn’t give people much reason to care.
In 2013, David’s publishing company Bootyman Music closed and he shared the horrifying image on social media.
Craig David’s comeback was only possible due to the recent wave of 90s R&B nostalgia. Just this year we have had rehashes of “Let’s Talk About Sex”, “The Girl is Mine” and “Fast Car”. Reliving the 90s is very much in vogue, look at Bruno Mars’ new album; even “Return of the Mack” has gotten a tropical house remix.
Craig David rode this crest of nostalgia to restore his cultural relevance. His comeback began in September 2015 when he appeared on live BBC Radio 1Xtra with Kurupt FM. Freestlying over the instrumental from Justin Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now”, David rapped bridge from “Fill Me In” before spitting two fiery verses. The marriage of old and new school made the video a viral smash, and currently has 3.5 million views on Facebook.
This session led to a collaboration with grime MC Big Narstie, “When the Bassline Drops”, which marked David’s first entry in the UK top 10 in 8 years. David returns to his Garage roots and adopts a fast paced singing flow with a confidence we haven’t heard in years.
“Nothing Like This”, his next single, followed in March 2016 and was produced by Blonde; like the previous effort it achieved Gold certification. This Deep House track was important because it showed that David wasn’t just going to relive the Garage days and could branch into other genres.
David used Summer 2016 to build upon this public goodwill and he laid a well-received feature appearance on Kaytranada’s debut album and released two further singles. He made a major appearance at several music festivals, further connecting with his target audience.
All laying the groundwork for David’s September 2016 comeback album, Following My Intuition.
“Following My Intuition is the best Craig David album since Born To Do It because he is following his intuition rather than the trends.” – Jack Kavanagh [just now]
- Peak UK Chart position: #1! [First number one album since his debut]
- Has the most guests of any Craig David album – including, Sigala, Big Narstie and Blonde
- “All We Needed” was chosen as the official Children in Need single
Blatant fan service is rife on Following My Intuition, most notably “16”, the studio version of the “Where Are Ü Now” freestyle. It’s placed four songs into the album, which is pretty fucking early to start reliving the classics. Other tracks also have snippets of old songs, like the refrain from “Rewind” which pops up on “When the Bassline Drops”.
“Couldn’t Be Mine” name-checks Drake, which is jarring because I can’t picture Craig David doing 2016 things. I expect his free time involves playing Snake II and watching porn on dialup internet.
David works with some of the hottest producers around to give this album a modern feel – Kaytranada, TMS and Harwell are all involved. A smart choice: David is a good, not great musician and heavily depends on good production.
Following My Intuition’s style is primarily R&B, with a few dance and Future Garage tracks thrown in. This plays to David’s strengths, and doesn’t try anything too daring. Slower songs like “All We Needed” benefit from this and the singer is able to emotionally connect to his audience. Usually, his ballads come across as dreary, but on this album he hits more than he misses.
The quality dips in the second half and at 50 minutes long, the album feels bloated. As usual, David’s fast paced songs keep the listener’s interest for some of the spottier moments of the project.
Regardless, this is by far Craig David’s best album since Born To Do It. On a personal note, after two months solid of rinsing his discography this and his debut are the only albums I can stand listening to any more.
7 out of 10
To wrap things up, it is nice to have Craig David back in the world. His two best albums are the ones where he worked with the hottest producers of the day. At only 34 years of age and with the chance of future great production, there is every chance he will see a sustained resurgence.
It will be interesting to see how the next album fares, as David won’t be able to recycle his old material so much. That sort of thing can only work on a comeback album like Following My Intuition, but as we saw on Slicker Than Your Average, Craig David loves recycling old material.
Craig David is likely the only person enjoying life in 2016; since September he has won the Mobo Award for Male Artist of the Year, turned on the London Christmas Lights and recorded the charity single for Children in Need.
Personally, I suspect Craig David will continue to be a fixture of popular culture for the foreseeable future. Following My Intuition is a good enough album to warrant this attention rather than a nostalgic love for Garage. After a long time in the wilderness, the British public have seemingly welcomed David back into their hearts.
Culture Hash Craig David Album Ranks
- Born to Do It 8/10
- Following My Intuition 7/10
- Slicker Than Your Average 6/10
- Trust Me 6/10
- The Story Goes… 5/10
- Signed Sealed Delivered 3/10
A sincere thank you to everyone who manage to make to the end of our two part Craig David special. This concludes Culture Hash’s Garage month, I hope you enjoyed reading.
Let us know in the comments what you’d like us to cover next.