My introduction to Dave B came by way of Sango, the producer who, in 2016, gave the young artist the greatest co-sign a producer can conceivably give an artist: an entire collaborative project. The album, Tomorrow, was undeniably raw, but teeming with potential, filled with colorful songs like "Do Not Disturb," showcasing the Seattle emcee's natural ear for inventive flows and melody.
Since the release of Tomorrow, Dave has continued grinding, releasing several follow-ups, including an album named Pearl in 2017, and several one-off releases that, unfortunately, have failed to garner a significant buzz.
Fortunately, the release of his latest album, BLEU, has rewarded my continued faith in the 27-year-old. Thoughtful and voluminous, BLEU is an album that, above all else, captures the anxieties of mid-20s living.
“I got no answer for that. I got no answer for that. I got no answer for that.” —Dave B
Hearing Dave B chant this refrain on album standout "Grownish," it occurs to me I’m not exactly luxuriating in an excess of answers myself. Overwhelmingly, this is the defining condition of your mid-20s. As you gradually arrive at the realization that this decade may not live up to its advertised reputation as the greatest 10 years of your life, you question some of your previously held beliefs, reducing your entire worldview to a generalized feeling of uncertainty.
In that vein, Dave B kicks off BLEU with “Peace,” a song that sounds downright triumphant until it eventually pulls the rug out from under your feet with lyrics like, “I want to just fuck off forever, sometimes this shit gets so draining.” The rest of the album is molded similarly, juxtaposing this loose theme of mid-20s tension against cheerful production, soulful crooning, and dynamic flows.
The uncertainty Dave B ruminates on isn’t always as existential as it is on “Grownish” and “Peace.” As is so often the case, these burdening existential quandaries can easily connect to those in his personal life, like the prototypical millennial romance he ponders on “CPU LUV” or the questions of personal responsibility he mulls over on “Feb 6 (Interlude).”
Unfortunately, rather than presenting a clear artistic statement, BLEU becomes muddled by a series of stream of conscious lyrics that occasionally lack focus. Taking nothing away from the rhymes themselves—which call to mind the artfully constructed schemes of Chance The Rapper or Aminé—there are various moments throughout BLEU where more lyrical premeditation would have been desirable.
Conversely, as if Dave B deliberately produced the album to overcorrect this fault, the opposite predicament occasionally plagues the compositional backdrop, characterized by a certain aesthetic sameness that feels monotonous after a few listens.
These minor caveats aside, BLEU marks an artistic step forward for Dave B. Whether this artistic growth will translate to more mainstream recognition remains to be seen, but I have a feeling I know what the artist himself would say if I were to ask him this question directly: “I got no answer for that.”
Standout Track: “Grownish”
Best Bar: “Before you judge me, hope you get to know me / I’m hard of hearing, you’re going to have to show me”
Favorite Moment: The beat switch on the second half of “Peace.”