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Welcome to THE PLAYLIST, where HeadStuff staff and friends siphon through exciting art to craft essential listening experiences you didn’t know you needed. In this instalment, Dean Van Nguyen wants you to remember Craig David in a whole new light.
My best description for the look on Alan Bennett’s face would be to evoke the memory of Colonel Kurtz’s gut-wrenchingly poignant final scene in Apocalypse Now. “The horror! The horror!”
I was in Headstuff HQ with our founder-overlord and, apparently, I’d said something dumb. Waiting to record the most recent episode of NO ENCORE, I told Alan how much I dig one of the artists we’d be discussing, Craig David. I love his music. And not in an ironic, retro, “he was there for me during my teens y’know” kind of way. For me, Craig still goes hard as fuck!
This wouldn’t have been a shocking stance to take in 2002. HeadStuff’s top boy wouldn’t have given the kind of look that said, “You’re here to talk about music?” when Craig’s second album Slicker Than Your Average dropped and he was the hottest young artist in the UK. But his subsequent records just didn’t stack up. David got big into physical fitness, regularly posting pics to Instagram with pseudo-philosophical captions. And there was the Leigh Francis impression, which the talentless fool ran into the ground, pulling a huge chunk of the singer’s cool with it.
Craig’s early music is now just twisted metal in his collapsed reputation. That’s what Alan saw. But maybe he just hadn’t listened to the albums close enough. ‘What’s Your Flavour’ was cool, but did he know about ‘Eenie Meanie’ and ‘Slicker Than Your Average’, two more tracks produced by beatmaking duo The Ignorants? Sometimes called the British Neptunes, for me, they were the UK’s early ‘00s answer to Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.
Maybe Alan hadn’t heard ‘Personal’, Craig’s take on the greased-up ‘90s R&B slow jam. Maybe he hadn’t heard the all the worthy remixes for his early singles. Maybe Alan didn’t know Craig once nicked the melody to Willy Wonka & The Chocalate Factory’s “The Candy Man Can” and flipped it into ‘Booty Man’. RIP Gene Wilder.
Excluding his most recent song, the insipid club number ‘Ain’t Giving Up’ (which I trashed on the podcast), Craig’s recent output has been solid. Still just 35 years old, there’s time for him to finally rewind back to his peak years. For now, I present his career to date, recontexualised by his best deep album cuts and the odd guest spot and rarity I could summon from Spotify in a CD-R-length mix, as the old gods intended.
So if you didn’t know, now you’ve been filled in.