Craig David, a hitmaker since 2000, is still getting audiences dancing

Author: Editors Desk, Chris Kelly Source: The Washington Post
May 8, 2024 at 10:42
Craig David. (Edward Cooke)
Craig David. (Edward Cooke)

The British singer/songwriter/DJ will perform at Warner Theatre on May 16.

An engagement prompt that occasionally makes the rounds on social media asks users to pick just one classic album from 2000. In a grid next to Sade and Toni Braxton albums are iconic offerings and cover art like a sleepy-eyed Erykah Badu framed on the cover of “Mama’s Gun” and D’Angelo and his abs on “Voodoo.” There’s also one with a young man in a knit hat, eyes closed and vibing out, presumably to the album within.

If you know, you know: That one is “Born to Do It,” the debut record by Craig David, a British singer-songwriter known for slinky jams like “Fill Me In” and “7 Days.” Before the album’s release, he had sung on a few dance records but was plying his trade as a DJ — buying records, making mixtapes, playing gigs — when his career suddenly went “zero to 100.”

“I was just pinching myself at shows,” David recalls over Zoom. “A few months before, I was putting on events for an under-18 gig with my friends to then doing three nights at Wembley Arena, sold out.”

Unlike the neo-soul favored by Badu, D’Angelo and the rest of the class of 2000, David’s music seamlessly blended R&B melodies with the shuffling, syncopated rhythms of U.K. garage — a particularly durable strain of dance music that has influenced a range of artists, including Disclosure, Charli XCX and Kelela.

David remembers first hearing U.K. garage when he’d be DJing the same venue as scene-leading duo Artful Dodger. He would pop into their sets and hear remixes of R&B hits like K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” and Jaheim’s “Just In Case” remixed into crowd-moving dance tunes — a dynamic he loved.

Slow jams allow you to melodically get the message across,” he explains. “Because of the tempo, it allows you to breathe and it allows you to flex, which is beautiful. But the garage allowed it to become dance without interfering with those important parts as a songwriter.

David has continued to flex his songwriting and vocal chops, and has released seven other albums full of R&B jams. He’s also kept his ear to the ground, going viral by mashing up “Fill Me In” and “Where Are U Now,” a 2015 hit by Skrillex, Diplo and Justin Bieber, and collaborating with next-generation talents like Kaytranada and GoldLink.

Audiences can expect to hear all the hits from David’s quarter-century career on the “7 Days Commitment” tour — his first U.S. outing with a live band in nearly two decades, which culminates in D.C. — delivered just as they remember hearing them on the album.

I’m a purist in that sense. I’ll always bring something new because I’m singing it live, but I know how important a certain ad-lib is on a song,” he says, breaking out in a few “ooo yeahs” and “ay-yeahs” on the call. “As a DJ, the mentality is: I know what you need.”

May 16 at Warner Theatre, 513 13th St NW. 8 p.m. $59-$182.

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