22 (Deluxe)

Craig David

22 (Deluxe)

When Craig David dropped his debut album, Born to Do It, in August 2000, the teenaged former pirate-radio DJ was already the source of one of the biggest hits the year prior: “Re-Rewind” with UKG duo Artful Dodger. Arriving at his eighth studio album, 22, David’s run now spans four decades. “I have to be able to strip all of my accolades away and get back to basics,” he tells Apple Music. “The same way an unknown kid from Southampton was able to hold his journey and have such an influence in the garage scene blowing up all those years ago. It’s when I embrace that rawness, I find that the magic happens.” For his first album since 2018’s The Time Is Now, the onetime poster boy for the deep-rooted diversity of UK garage adds in the details to properly lean into his legacy. Across handpicked guests, David interpolates his favorite ’90s R&B cut—from Jon B. on album opener “Teardrops”—lands a long-awaited pairing with MNEK (“Who You Are”), and holds space for the brightest of UK R&B’s next gen, including R ’n’ Drill pioneer Isong (“21”) and trap prince Nippa (“G Love”). “That’s just garage in a nutshell,” he says. “It’s always been about making music outside of the box. Whenever I write, or when I make a new album, Born to Do It is the standard, the gold seal. And even if [that time] was this huge blur that took things from zero to 100, I’m always grateful because it always keeps me in check. Read on for David’s track-by-track insights. “Teardrops” “This is a sequel to [2000 single] ‘Walking Away,’ on a 2022-style garage record. It’s about the difficult moment of a relationship when the right thing to do is to step away. But now, you’re both outside in the pouring rain, with teardrops falling. The heart wants to stay, but your head says, ‘Move on, or you’ll be going around in circles for the rest of your life.’” “DNA” (Craig David & Galantis) “I’ve always listened to that feeling inside of me that tells me when a melody is hitting and the lyrics are connecting. I can see myself performing the song before it’s even finished. And when this song came to me via my A&R, Barry [Burt], that feeling came to me again. It’s about how we’re all intrinsically connected, and some things are beyond reason, like meeting someone—a friend, a soulmate—and instantly feeling a connection. I’ve always had such respect for Galantis from afar, seeing the way they navigate the field of artists they work with.” “Who You Are” (Craig David & MNEK) “When you look at Uzo [MNEK], his penmanship and the songs he’s written, across the board, in such a short amount of time, you know his future’s so bright. He had a huge moment [in 2020] with Joel Corry on ‘Head & Heart,’ and this track came about just after that success. In our session, he sang out this melody to me, like it was nothing, then he went off to a session right after. The great thing with MNEK is he’ll have four or five sessions in one day and pattern them so nicely, he’ll end up with five cuts.” “G Love” (feat. Nippa) “I stepped out to the Blxst gig in London on a spontaneous vibe and ended up meeting Nippa there. In this moment of us praising each other, it felt like the stars had aligned. We got in the studio soon after, and when I played him this song, the smile on my man’s face was like Christmas came early! It’s just amazing to play a part with this new wave of R&B coming through. Having him on this track brings his fans into my world and brings mine to his. It’s a 50-50 marriage, and I can’t think of a nicer artist with all the talent to go on and be that guy.” “21” (feat. Isong) “This song is the sister version to ‘G Love.’ Once I’d finished that song with [British producer and songwriter] Mike Brainchild, another new artist I really wanted to get working with was Isong. So, here we have it: another record with a new R&B artist with the swag of the new school, fused with the rhythm and groove of rap classics, like you’d hear from Nate Dogg or Biggie. That ‘throw your hands in the air’ house-party feel.” “Give It All Up” “What I love about this song, again, is the hybrid of R&B and garage. Red Triangle [British production duo Rick Parkhouse and George Tizzard] really understood what I was trying to achieve with this because there’s a real sweet spot where you can hold the [2000 solo debut single] ‘Fill Me In’ half-time verse, or chorus. That’s a certain style—to go half-time on the song, make it R&B, and then pick it up and add some drums. Now you’ve got a garage beat going on. We got that down perfectly.” “Back to Basics” (feat. GRACEY) “On ‘Give It All Up,’ I say, ‘Let’s take this back to basics’ to close the track. So, naturally, the two songs are in the same world. Yes, we’re in an era where you can make your own playlist and, yes, you can pick the songs and listen in any way you want. I’m cool to this fact. I’ve grown with the times, but all I can do is at least present [the music] in the way that I feel you should hear it, with nothing that jars you out of your zone. I hope people feel that, but at the same time, I’m not so precious. If you want, just flip it and play back to front.” “My Heart’s Been Waiting for You” (feat. Duvall) “This is a rule of thumb for the whole album: Mike Brainchild will play a tune, or some chords, and I’ll get on the mic. In this two-, three-minute window, I’m not invested in the song or the chords. I’m not really in anything. I’m just a channel for the melodies that need to come out of my mouth. That’s exactly how we made this song, and it’s ended up being remixed and produced again here by Duvall.” “What More Could I Ask For?” (feat. Wretch 32) “Wretch 32 wears his heart on his sleeve. He understands how to talk on things close to his heart, and he’s articulate enough to have it connect, with melody and with swag. The most beautiful thing with him, which I found out in the studio, is that he can really sing. I’m pretty sure people won’t know that. He's so poetic on this song—how he comes through and grabs the sentiment of it all. It’s a very conscious, present tune, with a bit of a summer-BBQ bounce to it.” “Obvious” (feat. Muni Long) “Muni Long came through correct when she sent me her part for this and knocked me for six! I broke down the idea of the song: ‘I’m in a rocky relationship, with [my partner] going off, trying to make me feel jealous.’ She came back with, ‘I’m not trying to make you jealous. It’s done. You’re a narcissist, and I’m not coming back.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, where’d that one come from? This is a safe space here, and I was feeling attacked.’ But then, when I listened to it again, I actually loved it. Yes, she’s speaking for the women out there—she’s speaking her truth and makes the song legit.” “Gold” “You don’t have to be vulgar when talking about sex. Even when I made [2000 single] ‘7 Days,’ I’m saying, ‘Making love,’ and I was 17 when I wrote it. I think that’s predominantly down to growing up with my mum, knowing that she’s going to be hearing these songs, so I’ve always held that we can talk about this in a different way. So, when you’re ‘hitting that gold,’ in a tantric way, it’s actually a much greater, deeper bond between two people, as opposed to just having a quick moment.” “Maybe” “After Wretch had left the studio, I was there with Mike Brainchild. He started playing some wicked guitar chords and then grabbed one of the SM58 mics, brought in a stool, and it got all Tracy Chapman in the studio for a second, acoustic style. And as I started singing this melody over it, I knew, ‘This is one of those that we’ve got to go in and cut tonight.’ And one of the poignant lines of it is me realizing, however it goes down, when I do have children, as the male figure in my child’s life, I will show up.”

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