Craig David is the pretty boy cross over success of the UK Garage scene. His smooth R&B scored him a series of huge hits in the UK with tracks from Born to do it, his debut album. Hated by some as the figure-head for the UK Garage scene that has been hijacked by record companies for the chart success David has battled through the criticism to travel to the US and become one of the few British artists of recent years to make an impact in the States.

Born Craig Ashley David on May 5, 1981 David grew up on the Holyrood estate in Southampton. He grew up listening to R&B and soul music like Terrence Trent D'Arby and Stevie Wonder. At the age of fourteen he got a spot DJing on a local pirate radio station, PCRS 106.5FM. From here he progressed to a weekly spot at a local club, Juice, that his Dad's musical connections helped him to get. However David's big break came in 1996 when he won a national song writing competition at the age of fifteen, His song, I'm Ready, was recorded by Damage and used as a B side to their hit cover of Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight. The song drew the attention of Mark Hill, half of the UK Garage duo, Artful Dodger.

David went along to Hill's studio and they hit it off. The result, released in late 1999, was Rewind, a massive hit originally credited to Artful Dodger that later appeared on David's debut album. The track was a breakthrough single for both David and the UK Garage scene and he followed it up with the solo release, Fill Me In. In October David released his debut album, Born to do it. It sold 255,000 copies in its first week, more than any other debut for a UK artist. In total it sold over seven million copies worldwide reaching number one pretty much everywhere except the US where it made it to eleven on the Billboard chart. Singles continued to flow out of the album at regular intervals in the UK for most of 2000 and early 2001 whilst David himself steeled himself for his attack on the US. Throughout 2001 he toured the US promoting his album and singles and in July 2001 a special US version of Born to do it was released. It featured a couple of extra tracks which were remixes designed to temper the tracks to American ears. During his time in the US David managed to collect an impressive cast of celebrity fans, including Missy Elliot, P Diddy and Beyoncé Knowles.

In the first part of 2002 all was quiet of the David front as he worked on his new album with Mark Hill and UK production duo, The Ignorants. In early November the record was deemed ready and David relaunched himself into the public eye with the single What's your flava?. The track only managed to make it to number eight and it dropped back out of the charts after a few weeks. The album, Slicker than your average, is having similar problems at the moment falling back to 34 in the albums chart but I am sure that with further promotion and a big hit David will pull it back.

Craig David is above all an amazingly talented artist and musician. His vocal ability is stunning and he can compete with any R&B singer. However he can also rap, as he demonstrates on Slicker than your average and on his live performances. I wasn't a huge fan of Craig David until I saw him of Jools Holland's New Year's Eve Hootenanny. His performance combined his vocal talent, his rapping and he even picked up a guitar for a while as well. David is one of those rare artists who is not constrained by genres but slides around dropping bombshells of tracks into different musical worlds. Once you get past the cockiness of David's lady's man lyrics the music can really be appreciated. Slicker than your average is a much better example of the artist that David can be than the poppy R&B stylings of Born to do it.

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Born to do it, 2000

"Three albums down the line we could be hearing a good Craig David album, rather than this mediocre debut" -
"The album features an effortless presentation of limber and carefully articulated vocal talents by the singer that seamlessly glide through the polished collage of songs" - AMG
  1. Fill me in
  2. Can't be messing 'round
  3. Rendezvous
  4. 7 days
  5. Follow me
  6. Last night
  7. Walking away
  8. Time to party
  9. Booty man
  10. Once in a lifetime
  11. You know what
  12. Rewind

The massive sales are slightly deceptive, it is on the whole rather mediocre. Some songs stand out but it is all very similar and the promise of Rewind and Fill Me In isn't fulfilled as we are simply given ten R&B ballads. It is not difficult to see why David came under fire for betraying the UK Garage scene and of not really being from the streets. Tracks like 7 Days, whilst a huge hit, do not stand out from much of the other pop fare around. When he allows himself to let go and take a more aggressive and edgy attitude to song writing and production he should be able to really come up with the goods.

Slicker than your average, 2002

"It's a relief to watch Craig David trading in his clean-cut pop styling for a much more urban edge, rife with old school R&B and hip-hop style" -
"Leave it to a Brit to cut the Yanks at their own game" -
  1. Slicker Than Your Average
  2. What's Your Flava?
  3. Fast Cars
  4. Hidden Agenda
  5. Eenie Meenie
  6. You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til the Well Runs Dry)
  7. Rise & Fall feat. Sting
  8. Personal
  9. Hands Up In The Air
  10. 2 Steps Back
  11. Spanish
  12. What's Changed
  13. World Filled With Love

It's here, Craig David has taken the jump from poppy R&B hit manufacturer to an innovative and varied artist. What's Your Flava?, the lead single, has a heavy bass sound that signifies much of the dub influences UK hip hop scene whilst the title track sees a top quality hook along with a beat that suits itself to both the R&B and rap verses, the only disconcerting thing is that the rap verse sounds eerily like Eminem. There is something here for the Garage scene as well. Eenie Meenie has a electronica base which combines well with a upbeat Garage beat for the chorus. We see more vocal skipping and jumping from David but the focus of the track is the rap from Messiah Bolical which is in true Garage style. A more mainstream garage track is present in 2 Steps Back, a guaranteed single release. A cynic might see the amount of rap in the album as simply pandering to the rap centric American market. Spanish is a track which is undoubtedly designed for American release using American slang, a spanish guitar hook and an American rapper (Duke) on the track. The highlight of the album is the appearance of Sting on Rise & Fall, a track that samples Sting's 1993 hit, Shape of my Heart.

Craig David fulfils all the hype and all the promise that he showed when he first broke on to the UK music scene. Think you don't like Craig David, think he is a tiresome garage artist, think he is a boring R&B crooner only selling records to teenage girls, think again. He may be slicker than your average but at heart he is a stunning artist producing innovative beats and tracks that are driving forward the cross over R&B scene.