Could Dave's We're All Alone In This Together be 2021's best hip-hop album?
We knew the UK rapper had it in him, but the follow-up to 2019's Psychodrama is a sure-fire winner.
In the lead up to Dave's second album, all questions were about whether the UK rapper could eclipse his decade-defining debut album Psychodrama. Released in 2019, Psychodrama was a breakthrough moment not just for the then-overlooked rapper but also for the next generation of UK hip-hop and Grime as a whole, empowering a future armed by a visionary whose debut album won both the Mercury Prize and the BRIT Awards' coveted Album of the Year slot, being the first act since the Arctic Monkeys in 2007 to do so.
In the time since Psychodrama, the answers surrounding Dave's second album (and whether it could possibly eclipse his debut), began to become answered. Every single move the rapper has made in the last two years has seen him reach new heights, whether it's collaborations with chart-topping pop heavyweights or executive producing the latest album by Fredo, another cross-over moment for UK hip-hop and a level-up by one of the scene's most notorious and pioneering names.
Now, comes the arrival of Dave's second album We're All Alone In This Together, and is it as good as his debut album? One that defined an entire new generation of British music, and one that aided in the evolution of an entire hip-hop movement? We're going to need a little more time to compare the two and think about it, but one thing is abundantly clear by the time you play through We're All Alone In This Together: that it's one of the year's best hip-hop albums (if not the best so far), and considering the strengths of rap music in 2021, it's a big, yet deserving call to make.
Across the course of 12 songs and a complete hour, We're All Alone In This Together descends into the depths of its creator and the skillset and prowess that Dave arms himself with, finishing as a worthy successor to an album that littered decade-end lists despite its release in the period's final moments. It's an album that encapsulates everything there is to Dave; from the complex lyricism and reflection that's carved through his vocals, right through to the shuttering production that surrounds it, and the precise guest collaborators that further his vision, rather than crowd it in an attempt of success and cross-over fame.
Every moment feels intricately placed with exact purpose and meaning; the final result being a complex but powerful triumph that proves that Psychodrama wasn't just a one-off fluke - not that anyone was saying that it was - but that its creator is someone at the hallmark of hip-hop and the strengths the genre is capable of, when used by someone that is somewhat of an expert of the trade.
From the second We're All Alone In This Together begins, Dave seeks out to prove his point. The album sweeps between club-ready peaks and darker, gloomier moments, capturing the versatility and multifacetedness of Dave, as well as how he communicates that through his work. Take the album's leading single Clash, for example, which captures the energy of a headline duo - Dave and Stormzy - that even just one track later, is deepened into a reflective bout of electronica and hip-hop, observing the world around Dave and the festival billing-worthy list of collaborators that sneak into the single's credits: Ghetts, Giggs, Fredo, Meekz, James Blake and Mount Kimbie amongst them.
It's a contrast that feels like the heralding moment of We're All Alone In This Together, as Dave veers amongst the largest of sounds to those that wallow with its intimacy and the picture-painting lyricism that has become so definitive of Dave's evolution. The Wizkid-assisted System was another pre-release single that felt indebted to the energy of hip-hop performance, but songs either side of it are amongst the most solemn Dave has ever created; Three Rivers, for example, telling the experiences of UK immigrants amongst floating keys that would usually find a home in pop's most graceful moments.
Regardless of which sound Dave attempts, however, he's capable of making it his own - and We're All Alone In This Together is a testament to that. The album teeters with backdrops of afrobeats, drill, trap, indie and electronica; the expert production team - led by James Blake - ensuring that every one of Dave's lyrics are supported by a production that either uplifts them or adds to the chaos of them, depending on the route Dave explores within the song. Every moment is as good as the last - right down to the final song - and as Dave continues to explore the evolution that's long defined his career thus far, it's clear that the doors of his future are open with boundless avenues ahead.
We're All Alone In This Together presents many of these avenues, regardless of whether they're ones new to the rapper or ones that made an entrance on Psychodrama two years ago. Some of them - like the call-and-response duet of Law of Attraction, featuring 2021 breakthrough Snoh Aalegra - are pathways that can assure Dave's continued success in sounds he's not often found within, while others - like Clash - show how the sounds consistent with Dave's discography have evolved, even in the space of just a few years.
There's a lot of that evolution from Dave on this album, and while Psychodrama seemed like the rapper hitting a deservingly praised peak, We're All Alone In This Together proves that there are plenty more peaks to come; that the rapper is a voice of a generation, rather than a voice of a capsule of time.
We're All Alone In This Together proves that Dave is the one, and while rap music has strived throughout 2021 thanks to big-hitters like Tyler The Creator, We're All Alone In This Together feels like its most victorious moment thus far - one that will no doubt establish itself in the hip-hop canon with an emphasis just as strong as its predecessor.