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Murkage Dave

In Focus

⚠️Content warning: at the artist’s request, racial slurs within this piece have been left uncensored in a manner that some readers may find uncomfortable⚠️


Hi. I’m Murkage Dave, a singer-songwriter from East London. A lot of people who work in music think of me as a nigger. 

Growing up my parents were into soul. I was into UK Garage. Craig David was my idol. I learned classical piano from the age of 5. 

In the 00s I got into Bloc Party, then subsequently bands like Joy Division and Gang of Four. Moved to Manchester. Started a band. Thought we were edgy. Looking back we probably sounded more like Maroon 5. 

The first proper music industry thing I did was being in the choir for the Gorillaz’ Demon Days live film. Met Damon Albarn & Shaun Ryder. Slow danced with Neneh Cherry at the afterparty. 

Not long after this DJ EZ put the Sunship remix of one of my songs on his latest Pure Garage compilation. All of my cousins got it for Christmas, it was a vibe. 

After this I ran a rave called ‘The Murkage Club’, from around the time of the dubstep explosion through to both the deep house and grime revivals that followed. People started calling me Murkage Dave. 

I Met Mike Skinner. We flirted for a bit. Moved back to London and started a club night with him called Tonga. Became a solo artist and released seminal works. 

I don’t give a shit about genres these days but for anyone ever asking, I sing pop songs. Not bubblegum pop, but proper grown-up pop songs that are able to cut through to people because of all the things I’ve done before. 

However when the time comes to promote these pop songs to new audiences I find that I’m constantly introduced to these audiences, against my will, as a rapper. Whether by journalists, podcasters, or ‘algorithms’ on streaming services. 

I used to laugh it off. These mugs haven’t done their research. But actually it’s me who’s the mug when my music is getting pushed to people who want to hear gun talk on Spotify. Or when I can’t get on the right festivals and support slots because bookers think that my nigger music isn’t gonna fit. 

Obviously, I love rap. So logically it’s gonna influence my sound in some way. I also love indie, soul music, house music, everything man; I take inspiration from it all. And I’ve got love for my caucasian counterparts too, but it is sometimes hard to see them get given so much more grace, or even hailed as genius, for doing the same exact thing. 

I’m a big fan of acts like Jockstrap, The 1975 and Self Esteem because of how they blend elements of traditional songwriting with hip-hop production, electronica, gospel and whatever else, to create something new. They do it, they get critical acclaim and Mercury award nominations. I do it and I get called nigger. 

Perhaps I’m gassed. Maybe I rate myself too highly. But it’s not just me going through it. This is the experience of an entire generation of black musicians right now, making great pop music but constantly finding themselves ghettoised under the umbrella of ‘street music’. A lot of the chats I’ve had with my peers will have to stay in those back rooms for now, but Young Fathers, FKA Twigs and more recently Rachel Chinouriri have all gone on record saying similar things. 

Last year I did a song with Caroline Polachek called ‘Awful Things’, I share more artistic DNA with her than any rapper I’ve ever worked with, but somehow with her I kept getting asked how this totally ‘random’ collaboration came about. To the slow ones at the back, or should I say the gatekeepers, it’s probably because I’m not a nigger. None of us are. It isn’t the 1950s anymore, so stop segregating music. And instead go listen to my album ‘The City Needs… Part Deux’, and have a great day. 

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Murkage Dave

Words by Murkage Dave

Photography by Jordan Curtis Hughes

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