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Max Kelly

Culture Deputy - Travel

The Album of the Year winner takes down Britain's leaders in his Brit awards performance, providing a scathing rebuke against their recent actions.

In what has been described as one of the “most important performances in the history of the Brits”, rising star Dave addressed some of the biggest problems and architects of these issues at this year's Brit Awards.

At times, the Brit awards have been critiqued for being a little bland and prudent, but this year’s iteration was far from it. There were scintillating performances from a myriad of Britain’s most popular artists, including Harry Styles, Lewis Capaldi and Stormzy, however, the artist that stood out the most was Dave. After winning Album of the Year for his magnificent debut album Psychodrama, the 21-year-old showed courage, passion and articulation to take on some of the biggest problems in British society. In a newly-added verse to his single Black, the grime artist called out Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the opening lines of his performance; “the truth is our prime minister’s a real racist.” One of the central messages of the verse was that there is a growing culture of denying the extent of racism in the country and that things that are explicitly racist are played down, ignored or categorised as things “that don’t feel racist.” Boris Johnson, for example, has a history of deeply offensive statements, using troubling language such as “picannanies” to describe Africans, and claiming they have “watermelon smiles”. However, it seems that Johnson, for the most part, can get away with these archaic slurs and a worrying number of people have justified these comments as part of his bumbling, entertaining persona. The truth is that there is a lack of accountability that could, and in many cases has, led to normalizing or at least passive acceptance of these backwards views. 

This is why it is so important that black artists like Dave and Stormzy speak out and continue to hold those in positions of power accountable for their actions. Stormzy, famously, called out then prime-minister Theresa May’s handling of the rehousing of the Grenfell fire victims, asking “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?” Three years on, unfortunately, the victims of this tragedy are still asking this same question. This is why it is so important that the issues have a voice and are brought to the forefront in emotional and passionate ways on the biggest stages. 

Aside from the Prime Minister, Dave also rebuked the treatment of Meghan Markle by the British press and the hypocrisy and disparity between the way her and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton are viewed and treated. Dave also paid tribute to Jack Merritt, a Cambridge student who was killed in the London Bridge terrorist attack last November. Dave had paid tribute to the 25-year-old, who had been described as a “champion of underdogs everywhere” after his tragic death, calling him the “best guy”. The artist also gave his support to the “Windrush generation”, the name given to the nearly half-million people who emigrated from the Caribbean after severe labour shortages after the second world war, a large number of which were wrongly detained, denied legal rights and in 83 cases wrongly deported by the Home Office. 

Dave, with his startling performance, again showed that he will not be silenced or that he will not conform to being an “exceptional darling” of Britain. His words were extremely refreshing in these times of growing division.



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