Throwback Thursday: Craig David 'Born To Do It'

15 years on Jimmy Coultas discovers Craig David's debut album is something of a genre leading guilty pleasure.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 4th May 2016.
Originally published: 17th Sep 2015

Image: Craig David

It's a good time to be Craig David. The once derided pop star has slowly but surely become more and more feted in the wider music scene (the Guardian have asked if there's a Craig David revival), down in part to his clubnight TS5 reaffirming the talent of one of the UK's most prominent vocallists of the twenty first century.

TS5 initially started as an exclusive party in David's Miami penthouse where he would mix up a blend of bashment, R&B, soul and UK garage, but the sets were picked up for broadcast by Kiss FM, their success leading to a deal with Capital Xtra every Sunday evening. 

 

This is what I live for. Thank you BBC Radio 1Xtra MistaJam KuruptFM and all the crew who came through. https://youtu.be/uPdPpetOSJ8 #SixtyMinutesLive

Posted by Craig David on Friday, 11 September 2015


TS5 at Bestival last weekend was an absolute roadblock, whilst both London dates for the concept sold out in a matter of minutes. Still unsure he's still got it? The above session with Mistajam, flanked by the magnetic charisma of Big Narstie and the tongue in cheek UK revivalism of the Kurupt FM crew, proves the Southampton vocalist still retains an abundance of talent.

Of course a dalliance with another comedian pretty much coloured David's reputation as his pop career seemingly slowed in the middle of the last decade, but it's worthwhile just remembering how highly regarded he was when his debut Born To Do It (stream below on Spotify) dropped in 2000.

The UK were first introduced to him when he sang on Artful Dodger's 'Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta)', a top two record which helped ingrain UK garage more in the conciousness of the masses.

It had been powering the club scene for a while, rivalled only by house (with which it shared a similar musical characteristic) and trance (which it clearly didn't) as the dominant forces for what we danced to. But this was the first star driven record to really connect with a wider audience; the 18 year old David a genuine pop star in the making.

His own singles followed a few months after, the first of which being Born To Do It's opener 'Fill Me In', a delectable slab of super slick UKG flavoured mid tempo R&B. '7 Days' soon followed, it's perfectly of its time refrain immortalising the idea of "chilling on Sunday" across the nation. Both made number one, and both are still fantastic pop records.

The years have been kind to the rest of the LP too. Whilst two other singles hit the top four, there's plenty of songs that have aged well elsewhere on the release, with David's mellow blend of saccharine pop, US R&B and garage surprisingly warm to listen to 15 years on.

'Time To Party' combines DJ Quik esque licks with soaring strings and a feel good vibe - plus a nod to Busta Rhymes' classic 'Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See'. 'Last Night' also works well in merging Artful Dodger's production nous with the R&B template of Timbaland and Missy Elliot which dominated the charts at the time.

Despite very much sounding like an album recorded in 2000 it's not actually overly dated, and David's delivery throughout is likeable - even if he did open himself up to parody a little easily. It is definitely too syrupy at times with the slow jams and ballads as well, with 'Key To My Heart' a jarring moment far too many people will have got fingered to in the back of a Vauxhall Nova. 

What's most telling though about Born To Do It is the legacy it's had. The album ended up selling over 8 million records worldwide and was even voted second in the greatest albums of all time poll by MTV in 2009. That in itself is a ridiculous amount of over praise which will have probably hindered the public perception, but David undoubtedly helped shift the direction of popular music in this country. 

British soul and R&B wasn't a new thing by any stretch, and the nineties had Beverly Knight, Omar, Shola Ama and more all bringing a UK twist to the stateside sound. With the exception of Kele Le Roc though garage only had an impact in the remixes, but David took those dancefloor roots and fused a new lustrous radio friendly template.

The ripple effect went everywhere as he helped popularise UKG to new levels. The same year The Dreem Team had a show on BBC Radio One and soon became household names, and David helped pave the way for the likes of MS Dynamite and So Solid Crew to similarly top the charts.

Even the likes of The Streets (a previous Throwback Thursday incumbent) and Dizzee Rascal and the grime movement owe a degree of debt to David's chart pioneering moves. There's also a slew of producers like Wookie, Zed Bias and MJ Cole who benefited from the nation's ears warming to 2 step beats, the latter's 'Sincere' (above) hit the top ten after being re-released two years after it was a club smash in 2000.

Garage was in the doldrums for a long time as a genre, but the blossoming of first dubstep and bass music helped reappraise this very British form of dance music to the status it deserves. The snowball effect saw a second wave of chart acts influenced by the sound forcing their way through, Disclosure, Rudimental and Gorgon City all clearly influenced by the glossy sheen David and The Artful Dodger perfected.

Any true lover of dance music can't help but love DJ EZ's deserved ascent to DJ deity status, someone else to benefit from garage becoming vogue again. But it's also a positive to now see a man many associated with a rubber face and our kes finally being re-positioned as a trailblazer in his scene. His debut title pretty much sums up a man oozing with talent; he was born to do it.

Craig David's TS5 showcase will come to Blackpool Rocks on Saturday 19th December. Head here for Blackpool Rocks tickets.

Like this? Try A love affair with DJ EZ.