Talking to Craig David feels surreal. He carries the spirit of a new artist; green and just happy to be in the room. With VIBE’s Feb. 2002 issue in front of us, featuring himself, Usher, Faith Evans and Blu Cantrell on the cover, we’re reminded of just how far–and low–the singer has been.
David’s music journey started in his late teens with the arrival of his debut album, Born To Do It (2000). It helped form his signature garage and R&B sound, as well as the now-classic throwback jams “Fill Me In” and “Seven Days.” David was a fave in his homeland and lovers of R&B in the states, with his sophomore album, Slicker Than Your Average (2002).
But David, whose roots are planted in DJ’ing, producing and songwriting, hit a creative block. The industry machine was in dire need for the singer to recreate the magic his previous projects possessed, leaving him feeling more like a robot and less like an artist. It also didn’t help that a UK comedian toted blackface for a good minute, mocking David’s artistry.
After the release of several directionless projects, the singer continued to play to his other strengths. Fast forward to 2015 in Miami, where David would host parties in his apartment–room TS5. His mixes (and at times performances) were always appreciated, so he decided to upload a few to SoundCloud, where they blew up. The quiet return to music eventually led him to team up with acts like Big Narstie and Kaytranada, giving him a new sound and following. His journey in dance music was welcomed with big arms. 2016’s Following My Intuition hit number one on the UK charts and placed him on worldwide platforms like Tomorrowland, V Festival, and the Glastonbury Festival.
With his cheery smile hitting each ear, David is ready to play tunes from new album, The Time Is Now. The project features ingredients from his journey; a strong presence of garage, afrobeats, and actual bridges to make any R&B fan swoon. Tracks like “Magic,” “Brand New” and “Talk To Me” carry an essence missing from the layered genre today. There’s no midnight emo madness here, just flirtatious lyrics and melodies praising women for being who they are.
“This album is me going back to those days of simple storytelling and waving the flag for UK R&B,” David says. “In a time when there’s so much going on and people get bombarded with negativity, that form of escapism through music is important. It’s like I need to make a record so you can say you know you get that blissful feeling again. Because if you haven’t heard anything from me, and the last tune you heard was ‘Seven Days,’ then I need to make sure the next one sounds great. That’s what I think of my fans that’ve been with me want.”
It’s why his album holds the theme of love and more importantly, enjoying the moments in front of us. “If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that life can change in a moment and you’ve gotta make the most of it,” he said. “When you live for this moment it makes everything make sense, it’s like an ‘ah-ha’ moment, it’s about positively empowering people with music.”
“I’ve realized now, it’s not about chart positions, or how many records you sell. It’s about having a time stamp in people’s lives.”
His positive demeanor continues while speaking about R&B’s bright future. “I personally feel like this era of R&B is so ripe,” he explains while caping for The Time Is Now collaborators like UK songbird Elle Mai and rapper GoldLink. “We’re all taking the essence from all the melodies and all the storytelling of singers like Joe and R. Kelly. Those melodies and storytelling with 2018 production will have 16, 17-year-old kids like, ‘What is that?'”
His track with Mai, “Talk To Me, Pt. II,” was an organic paring given how much social media is a norm in our lives. “Talk about natural, I literally did a video on Instagram playing her songs before we did a session, I tagged her in it and said, ‘Ugh, this is sick!’ She writes back and the next thing I know we’re in the studio together,” he recalled. “I love the fact that I can see the new wave of where it’s going and she’s it.”
As we continue to jam out to the album, David’s smile hasn’t left his face. While there’s been moments in his career where he was left in the shadows, he’s more than ready for what’s ahead. “Genuinely, I feel like I’m in the place where I made Born To Do It because I’m not thinking about what’s being played on radio and trying to be reactive,” he said. “Just in the same way my life was flipped upside down all those years ago, I’m genuinely so grateful to be standing here today doing what I love the most.”
Stream The Time Is Now below.