In 2000 I heard about a young Southampton lad called Craig David as he had contributed to a song for my then boyfriends group - Damage. Craig had won a competition to record the B Side (remember those kids?), to their single - the Eric Clapton hit cover ''wonderful tonight''.
A few months later Craig was the toast of the UK Garage music scene with hit after hit and live shows from Newcastle to New York. He was on front covers of magazines from Blues & Soul in the UK to the bible of hip-hop and R&B in the USA- Vibe Magazine!
Craig David with Jasmine.
Photo- Jasmine Dotiwala.
He was selling out shows all over Asia, Australia, Europe and the USA. Nothing could hold him back. But with more money comes more problems... frankly the kid clearly had burnout and needed a break. He took one for a few years and now he's back. Drake has been name checking him whilst Justin Biebers been doing Craig David karaoke.
Every day this past two months new interviews with him pop up on radio, TV and digital press. Not just your average teeny bop nostalgia music mag, but deeply cool brands like VICE, I-D Mag, NME and more.
I sat down with him this past month for my Channel 4 News Arts & Culture feature for a catch up.
CRAIG IS BACK AGAIN, COOLER THAN EVER AND LIKE AN EXCITED SCHOOL KID SAYING STUFF LIKE THIS;
''I don't feel like I've really been away, but its like you need to put the faders down, and just monitor things for a moment, but now I'm raring to go, like you almost got to calm yourself down cos you're gonna blow some speakers cos you're hitting red on the meters, I'm back in that young sixteen year old kid mode so its lovely, I love it!''
IT'S THE BIGGEST COMEBACK SINCE MARIAH CAREY!
''You never really go away cos as a song writer I've always got three minutes in me that can change my life and anyone else's ''
AMERICA LOVES CRAIG, HE SAYS THEY LOVE GRIME!
'' We have fierce emcees in this country. We've started to see the Stormzys coming through to dominate the charts. You start to see the Skeptas getting love from the Drakes and getting recognised, seeing Kanye West recognising the whole Boy Better Know crew on the Brits stage, that this is real and now the grime scene is actually being recognised as being a commercially viable asset, not just some kids on the street, its real''.
Jasmine With Craig Very Early In His Career.
Photo- Jasmine Dotiwala.
BUFF, RIPPED, 8-PACK-CRAIG WAS OUTTA CONTROL...
''There was a point where my fitness was taking over. I was losing body fat, but then questioning why I'm getting so ripped? And also when you get super duper ripped you look gaunt in the face, 20 years older, I looked sick. If you wanna wear a brown paper bag over your face then your abs are gonna look great... but people don't really go for the brown paper bag over your face walking around town with your top off thing, so I was like lets ease this back - ts okay if I have four abs, it doesn't have to be six, eight, ten, no one cares. I think it stemmed back to me being an overweight kid so one day I went to the other extreme... life is very simple when you look at it.
The overweight kid will always find a way of being that fat kid inside, trust me. When I open the fridge I will rinse everything that's in there, I still have the mentality of have the dessert before my mum made my tea and all that kind of madness, which got me fat in the first place. Now I'd experienced what its like to be super duper ripped and realised it didn't quite give you the satisfaction you wanted, because once you're at that place, a whole another fear starts to kick in from both sides... now you're fearful of losing it so it becomes more important than going out with your friends for a nice meal and socialising, so now I eat clean, train dirty, which is my little motto is balanced. When you start to realise girls don't even really care. They're like 'I actually like a guy who's got a little bit of cushion for the pushin''!
Craig David's Manager - Colin Lester with Jasmine.
Photo- Jasmine Dotiwala.
...BUT HIS MANAGER FILLED HIM IN AND HELD HIM DOWN
When my manager was saying to me, Craig, your fitness is OTT, in your face, you're looking old, I listened. ....and it is the same guy I've always been with for management. Colin Lester has been with me from day one.
15 years ago he came to my house for the first time, he was the first person to give me a record deal when everyone else was offering a development deal. Colin's is hard-core but when you know him there is a soft side trust me. He's got that business uh he don't play side, but then like he'll go all out like sixteen's at a drum and bass gig. But when it comes to knowing him the love I have for him is ridiculous cos he's held me down like a father, but at the same time I love him for it because we've been together 15-16 years and if it wasn't for him taking a risk on me then I might just have been a regular kid in Southampton.
BO SELECTA DIDN'T KILL HIM ...
''Do you know what its weird because the mainstream media betrayal of it was they quite didn't know how I felt about it, that's why it kinda lingered on for so long. At the end of the day it was no different from Spitting Image, which I used to watch on Channel 4. It was flattering. If you're having a caricature done of you, you have to be well known enough to have a impression puppet and there were loads of people that also had them too, like David Beckham, Michael Jackson... all these different guys ....so if you cant have a bit of fun with it then that's not cool.
I mean come on, I clearly embraced it cos at my Royal Albert Hall show I walked on with the puppet mask on. Meanwhile my PR was putting out stories saying that I was mad and so it became all confused. If I allow my music to get affected by that then I'm a little chief who needs to go back and sort himself out, because at the moment you come with heavy weight songs no one can trouble you. If you think of Kanye, he's like ''you know what I don't care you're still gonna buy me Yeezy Boost, and I will rock that presidential candidate angle and I will come with the hottest girl in the game and I'll shut you all down!'' and I'm just like ''yes'', this is the guy - love or hate him - and that's where I was, just don't buy into the mechanism again, don't take it all too so seriously and I knew ultimately as an artist people just wanna hear music and that's all I wanna bring''.
BUT HIS RECORD LABEL KILLED HIS JOY AND PERSPECTIVE.
''My first album had sold seven million, so for the second album my record company were looking at maybe eight million, nine million sales. It was as if they were in the willy wonka elevator and blown through the roof. So my second album ended up doing three point five million and they were like hmmpff what are we going to do, tsss its on the decline, where are we going to go? And I bought into it.
I bought in to the fact that three point five million people had gone out and bought my album, and apparently that was poor. I'm seeing albums now doing ten, twenty thousand to get to number one, or the life of a record maybe hitting two or three hundred thousand and everyone's saying yes we did it great success lets get onto the next, three point five million and I'm on a downer!?
When you're in that cycle, they tricked you. Instead of just celebrating and loving and going out, having a drink, some fun to celebrate, its ''oh I'm a bit scared cos what's my second single gonna do?''
''My new album is called Following My Intuition, because that just pretty much self explanatory, I'm in that place where I'm going with what I feel and every time I've done that, I've always made the right decision, every time that I haven't, at the time it might have seemed right but it bit me in the ass later on. That's the biggest piece of advice I'd give to any young aspiring artist, just do what you're doing.
Like Stormzy, from time you can do a freestyle and you can infiltrate the chart scene and everyone's going nuts for you, that's the way.
I've been working with some really good people like this guy called White Nerd from up in Manchester and he is that next guy who is gonna come through and bring a whole NEW feel to the whole garage scene. He's an amazing producer and he does his own work as an artist himself. Tre Jean-Marie, I've been working with him, weirdly enough he's a song writer whose father was background vocalist for my first tour, so that's a mad one, I've worked with the father and now the son, Tre is amazing, so I'm working with him. Ive also worked with Kaytranada, I've been doing some stuff with him, his stuff is amazing, a futuristic R&B....
Trust me - your boys back in town and its gonna change right now.. That's the mentality that I'm going on, let me just go out there and do it, I'm in that mode, I'm like listen I don't care, I'll come out all green and crush this whole thing down!!''
....and with that Craig David jumps up and eagerly plays us snippets of his new music
....be ready music lovers, the bassline has dropped!