BY TOBY PORTER
Rapper Dave has won the 2019 Mercury Prize for an album which laid bare the anger and agony of his brother’s murder conviction.
The 21-year-old from Streatham hugged his mum, an NHS nurse, before walking on stage to collect the award at the Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday.
The award recognises the best British album of the past year – Psychodrama entered the UK charts at number one in March and has sold more than 120,000 copies.
Mercury Prize judge Annie Mac said the album “showed remarkable levels of musicianship” as well as “true artistry, courage and honesty”.
Dave, who initially called himself Santan Dave but whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie, said as he took to the stage: “I did not expect this. I’m lost for words.”
After the ceremony he said backstage: “This is surreal, a massive honour. I’m glad I’ve been able to repay the faith that people have put into me.”
He went on to dedicate the award to his family and friends, including his older brother, Christopher, who is serving a life sentence for the 2010 murder, committed when he was 16, of 15-year-old Sofyen Ghailan – a dedication which drew outrage from the victim’s mother.
Psychodrama was inspired by the therapy Christopher is receiving in prison, to help with rehabilitation, as Dave talks about his anger at his brother’s actions – but also about domestic abuse and depression.
One of his previous 11 singles and two EPs caught the attention of rap superstar Drake and the two collaborated on the Netflix drama Top Boy, in which Dave plays a drug dealer.
Dave told Vice in 2016: “I’ve always had a different ear for music. I really enjoy Lana Del Rey and Pink Floyd are amazing.
I like soundtracks. I love Hans Zimmer – the score for The Dark Knight Rises is one of my favourites. I also like Man of Steel, Inception, and Interstellar.
“I’ve always listened to different styles of music to make sure I’m balanced. I feel like if you only listen to your type of music you can never go outside of it.”
Dave, who has passed grade seven on piano, was due to start studying for a degree when his music started to take off in 2017.
He said: “When it gets to that time to tell your mum that you’re not going to university, which has been her grand plan for you for the past 18 years, all of a sudden 700,000 YouTube views mean absolutely nothing.
“That’s not a currency she recognises. She’s given me my life. I literally owe everything to her and God. So to have her here, and to have her experience this, is surreal.
“She’s just been screaming. She’s gone crazy.
“It’s not easy to make your mum feel like she’s got something to scream and shout about.”
The lead single off the album, which Dave performed on Thursday night, focuses on the perception of black people in Britain.
“Black is pain, black is joy, black is evident,” he raps. “It’s working twice as hard as the people you know you’re better than.”
It provoked complaints from some listeners when played on Radio 1 – they said it was “racist against white people”.
Annie Mac said at the time: “If you are genuinely offended by the idea of a man talking about the colour of his skin and how it has shaped his identity, then that is a problem for you.”
The album ends with the track Drama, which features an audio track from Christopher, currently in serving a life sentence for his part in a fatal rush-hour stabbing of 15-year-old Sofyen Ghailan at Victoria railway station on March 25, 2010.
Dave describes Christopher on the album as “the only person I ever idolised” and reveals how appalled and let down he felt, rapping: “Never had a father and I needed you to be a figure”.
The rapper said: “This is all his story. His Psychodrama inspired this. This album’s always been dedicated to him, so to see it translate is something I can’t put into words.”
Naima Ghailan, the mother of the murder victim, said it was “disgusting” Dave got an award for the song featuring her son’s killer.
She told Sky News: “In this sad society now, killers are seen as heroes. He [Christopher] will probably get an award too when he comes out of prison.
“Whatever I say isn’t going to change anything. I lost my son for ever, nothing will bring him back.
“The only people who listen to that crap are people under the influence of drugs and alcohol. No one in their right mind listens to them sort of songs.”
A total of 15 people, all from South London, were convicted over the attack – four for murder and five for manslaughter. Four were jailed for manslaughter and two for conspiracy to commit grevious bodily harm.
Sofyen, who was described by his family as “not into gangs or guns” and wanted to become a pilot, had nine stab wounds to his body.
One of the knives used was found in Christopher Omoregie’s bag.
During the sentencing, judge Christopher Moss QC said of Dave’s brother he was one of the “principals in the attack” which the judge described as “ferocious and merciless”.
Christopher Omoregie was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm in 2012. He was sentenced to a minimum term of 18 years.