Born Craig Ashley David on May 5, 1981, in Southampton, Hamptonshire, England; son of George and Tina David. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.atlantic_records.com. Website--Craig David Official Website: http://www.craigdavid.co.uk.
Craig David was barely out of his teens when he leaped onto the British pop charts with his 2000 debut album Born to Do It. The young singer quickly parlayed his blues-tinged voice and mature appearance into worldwide success as the album went platinum, "proving you don't have to be bred in the U.S.A. to make good R&B," as Chuck Arnold noted in People magazine.
Born in Southampton, England, to racially mixed parents, David found his musical talent early in life. His father, a carpenter, also played reggae bass in a band called Ebony Rockers, a group that attained a fair amount of British success in the 1980s. The young David remained largely unaware of his father's influence until he found albums with his father's picture on them. The elder David "steered [his 12-year-old son] toward classical guitar," according to an Entertainment Weekly article by Rob Brunner. "I loved the guitar," David told Brunner, "but I wasn't really feeling these classical songs. I wanted to sing."
David began accompanying his father to local dance clubs, where deejays let the precocious teen take the microphone. David used these opportunities to talk to the audience and harmonize with the recordings. By age 14, David was a popular emcee in local dance clubs; his early stint in radio broadcasting ended abruptly, however, when the police raided the pirate radio station that employed him.
In 1997 the 16 year old met producer Mark Hill, who owned a Southampton studio and created dance tracks under the name Artful Dodger. "The first time I met him, his voice just stuck out a mile," Hill told Brunner. "It was incredible--he was just a local schoolkid." The two collaborated on a single, "What Ya Gonna Do," which was released on vinyl, a rarity. The record was a smash on the Southampton dance scene, and its popularity spread to clubs in Bristol, Manchester, and London.
"What Ya Gonna Do" helped usher in a popular British dance-music genre known as the two-step, defined by Will Hermes in another Entertainment Weekly piece as "a fizzy hybrid of drum-and-bass beats, house-music swing, and R&B melody." A 1999 Artful Dodger two-step number, "Re-Rewind (When the Crowd Say Bo Selecta)" reached number two on the United Kingdom charts. Lynda Cowell, writing for MOBO magazine online, noted that "Re-Rewind" "became nothing short of a national club anthem. From sweaty dancefloors to car stereos up and down the country, nowhere was safe from it infectious beats."
At the same time David was making his name as a lyricist, having won a nationwide songwriting contest. His prize was to pen the lyrics for the B-side to a hit record from the British group Damage. He wrote "I'm Ready," then created his first solo track, a cover of "Human," popularized in the 1980s by Human League.
In 2000 David's first solo album, Born to Do It, was released in England to good reviews and quick sales. When "Fill Me In," the album's first single, came out, David became--at 19--the youngest British male solo artist to have a number-one song. His success earned him a place among the United Kingdom's top soul artists, which include Sade, Soul II Soul, and Seal. The young singer's appeal seemed to be in a class by itself, however. "A honey-voiced crooner whose sneaky melodies tap you on the shoulder rather than smack you in the face," wrote Brunner, "David is the rare contemporary R&B singer who understands the value of subtlety." In Hermes's view, the singer's "high tenor, two parts Stevie Wonder to one R. Kelly, slides and skips over sparkling arrangements, massaging the end of each line the way he might your feet after a night of dancing on stiletto heels at a debutante ball." The performer's good looks didn't hurt his reputation either. Hermes described David in 2001 as "a gorgeous 20-year-old ... with almond eyes, cappuccino skin, a George Michael goatee, and a homeboy-meets-hellraiser hairdo."
On the strength of such singles as "Fill Me In," "Walking Away," and "7 Days," Born to Do It sold seven million units worldwide, earning multiplatinum status in more than 20 countries. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award; in his home country, David took home three MOBO awards, though controversy followed when the young phenom was shut out of the BRIT Awards. When David failed to win any of his six nominations, including Best British Male Solo Artist and Best British Newcomer, industry politics was blamed. Several luminaries of the British music scene hurried to David's side; Elton John, for one, called the young man England's best vocalist. When the debut album hit America in 2001, the "7 Days" single became a hit in February of 2002.
The success of his debut did not seem to go to David's head. "Gotta make sure the second album is okay," he said in a People interview, "or it'll be back to ... me saying, 'Mom, what did you think of this track?'" Slicker Than Your Average, David's follow-up album, was released in the United Kingdom in 2001. Graham Williams, CEO of London's Telstar Music Group, explained in a Music & Media interview that David "makes international albums and opens doors for lots of other U.K. artists." As for the American reception of Slicker Than Your Average, Williams said: "It's easier on the one hand because there's interest in him, whereas the last time we had to convince everybody that he was worth being on radio and television. This time television and radio are very receptive, but he's still got to be judged."
Among those evaluating Slicker Than Your Average was Dotmusic online critic James Poletti, who said that this harder-edged collection doesn't offer quite an accurate representation of the artist. "We all know too much about him to be convinced by attempts to turn on the R. Kelly metaphors and 'fast cars, fast women' persona he tries on here," wrote Poletti. "We've seen him at home in Southampton. With his mum." Still, the reviewer welcomed Slicker Than Your Average as "still way more consistent than your average over-long U.S. R&B release." Offering a similar view was a German music editor who told Music & Media reporter Amanda Melodini that these lyrics are "a bit more shallow ... but you don't need deep lyrics with a dance track." To C. Bottomley of VH-1, the album "is the sound of an older and wiser smoothie who has learned that fame comes with a price."
David told Bottomley how high that price could be. "With success comes a lot of jealousy," he said. "A lot of people stab you in the back. The people who said, 'We're part of the crew,' weren't with me when I really needed them. I'm not bitter. I'm 21, I've traveled the whole world; I'm having a wonderful time. But these people need to understand small little things." As for maintaining a "player" persona, David remarked that "when I talk about sex I should do it in a way that isn't vulgar." He quipped that his songs are reviewed by his mother: "She picks up on things like that on this album. On 'What's Your Flava?' I say, 'I want to taste ya,' and she's like [adopts high-pitched voice] 'Craig, what are you trying to say here?' I explain it's about ice cream flavors and then she says, 'Oh, it's all good!'"
by Susan Salter
Craig David's Career
Began performing as a deejay and emcee in Southampton, England; lyricist and performer on dance singles; collaborator with Artful Dodger on dance singles; solo artist and touring performer, 2000-; first album Born to Do It released 2001; released follow-up effort Slicker Than Your Average, featuring single "Rise and Fall" with Sting, 2002.
Craig David's Awards
MasterCard Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards, Best R&B Act, Best U.K. Single for "Fill Me In," Best U.K. Newcomer, 2000; Billboard Music Video Awards, Best Dance New Artist Clip, Best R&B New Artist Clip, 2001; MTV Europe Music Video Awards, Best R&B Act, Best U.K./Ireland Act, 2001.
- Entertainment Weekly, July 20, 2001; August 3, 2001; December 21, 2001.
- Essence, June, 2001.
- Jet, August 6, 2001.
- Music & Media, November 2, 2002; November 30, 2002.
- People, May 13, 2002; November 25, 2002; December 9, 2002.
- "Craig David," Dotmusic, http://www.dotmusic.com/artists/CraigDavid (January 7, 2003).
- Craig David Official Website, http://www.craigdavid.co.uk (January 7, 2003).
- "Craig David: The Rebirth of Slick," VH-1, http://www.vh1.com/artists/ (January 7, 2003).
- "King David," MOBO, http://www.mobo.net/ (January 7, 2003).
- "Second Cup Café: Craig David," CBS Early Show, http://www.cbsnews.com/ (January 7, 2003).