Craig David takes pride in being an O.G.

Before it was cool to serenade and rap, there was Craig David. Before it was possible to be in the hip-hop realm and be the proverbial ladies man while also spitting bars, there was Craig David. Before the rap game was full of half MCs half crooners (think along the lines of a Drake, Ryan Leslie, Chris Brown, etc.), there was Craig David. Simply put, UK artist Craig David has been a presence in hip-hop over the past two decades and if he’s only now getting some shine from the new generation, he’s completely cool with that.

The multi-talented artist dropped by Sway recently to chop it up with the veteran DJ/host and discussed how he’s perceived by today’s artists and if he feels slighted by their lack of knowledge about his history in the game.

“The craziest thing like which I saw in the UK starting to happen like in the last year and a half is kids, 15-16 year old kids who are coming up and saying or saying to their older brother or sister or their mum or dad, ‘have you heard of this new guy called Craig David?’ and I’m like ‘yes!’ I will be that new guy for you,” said David.

“Then their mother or father or their older brother/sister are then drawing for their Born To Do It album and saying ‘ye but [we already knew about] Craig David’…and I think the beauty of that is, for me, what I was able to do is say ‘listen, I’m okay being brand new if the first song you hear from me is the latest one…I’m cool with that. I don’t need to [say] ‘yeah in between that period of time it’s been seventeen years and this is what I’ve done.’  And to people who’ve been with me from the start, I’m grateful for you and it’s been an amazing journey but to see two generations connecting bro? It’s unbelievable man.”

However, the man from Southampton, Hampshire doesn’t just relish being perceived as good by young fans and peers alike; he enjoys earning his credibility by proving to the youngins he can still go in the booth.

“The beauty is there’s an amazing respect in the studio but I learned this from like working with young up and coming like 18 year old producers because…a couple years back I fell into it where I was like ‘okay, I’m gonna work with new artists’ and they’d come up to me and say ‘aw man, my older brother or sister used to play Fill Me In and 7 Days you were great back in the day;’ now they talk to me in the past tense so I’m like ‘okay cool put me on,’” he said.

“So they put me in the vocal booth, they play the track and I just give it like I was that seventeen year old kid again waiting for the talkback button to be pressed and I’d hear ‘ooohhh you still got it Craig! You still got it’ and at that moment you had an eighteen year old kid who’s talking about me from back in the day, now [the producer and I] we’re relevant now, I’m on [their] radar. Do that enough and all of a sudden you start to catch a wave and then you’re back on your Ps & Qs you know.”

Being able to hold his own with today’s artists is quite a feat and yet the veteran singer still looks to the new school for current inspiration when crafting his music. Listing off the likes of Khalid and Anderson .Paak, among others, as current acts who he draws from, David mentions one artist who’s a modern day trendsetter is Drake.

“Drake, he knows,” David said about Drizzy’s ability to stay relevant in both North America and the United Kingdom. “Drake having Dave on the record, playing on the Dave record and being able to turn up at XOYO, one of the small clubs there, and pop out of nowhere and everybody’s like ‘how does Drake even know about this club?!’ because he realizes that the UK now is an important part of the puzzle back into American do you know what I’m sayin?”

The full interview can be viewed below and throughout he speaks on the UK’s influence on American music, thoughts on current UK artists, seeing his old hairstyle being rocked in Nigeria, how he’s stayed relevant in the U.S. despite being a foreign artist and more.

Oh yeah, he drops a dope freestyle at the end too (here’s where it starts for those who’re interested in just that).