The south London rapper Dave, who won album of the year at the BRIT Awards for his debut album Psychodrama, used his moment in the spotlight to deliver an important message about British society.
He added a freestyle verse to his hit song "Black" – a rap that talks about race and celebrates black excellence – referencing recent events that demonstrate the ways racism is still prevalent in the UK.
In just a few seconds the 21-year-old covered the Windrush scandal and the poor treatment victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, as well as the way the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle has been hounded in the press compared to the positive coverage of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Dave also called Prime Minister Boris Johnson “a real racist” in the newly written verse – potentially referencing, among other things, a recent controversy in Downing Street over Number 10 hiring, then firing, an advisor who has previously expressed racist eugenicist views.
“It is racist, whether or not it feels racist, the truth is our Prime Minister’s a real racist / They say – ‘you should be grateful, we’re the least racist’ / I say the least racist is still racist,” he rapped.
He continued: “If you don’t want to get it, then you’re never gonna get how the news treats Kate versus how they treated Meghan.”
As news of his performance hit the headlines, the Home Secretary Priti Patel dismissed the accusation that Johnson is racist as “nonsense”, speaking on the BBC Breakfast TV show. “I know the prime minister. I’ve worked with the prime minister for a long time, for many years. He’s absolutely not a racist,” Patel said.
However Diane Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary, said that Dave’s words “clearly resonated with people”.
“I think Boris has a lot to do to convince the community that he’s not unduly negative about Black people and Muslim people,” she said, the HuffPost reported.
Dave, performing at the BRIT Awards.
Tribute to Jack Merritt
Dave, real name David Omoregie, also seized the moment to rap about prison reform and rehabilitation, paying tribute to Jack Merritt, the 25-year-old prison rehabilitation worker who was killed in the London Bridge terrorist attack in November last year.
His BRITs performance included the lyrics: "Rest in peace Jack Merritt, you’re my brother in arms. There’s tears in our eyes and love in our hearts / We never had the same background, culture, colour, or past but you devoted your life to give others a chance / And for that, I’m so taken aback because he gave us all a voice.”
He continued: “As a young black man who’s seen paper and crack / Give them tougher sentences? That’s just papering cracks / All he would want is unity, funding for communities / Equal opportunities, people under scrutiny / No more immunity, way less hatred … we want rehabilitation, that would be amazing.”
He continued: "But Grenfell victims still need accommodation / and we still need support for the Windrush generation / reparations for the time our people spent on plantations.”
Dave has previously talked about his difficult upbringing. His two older brothers are in jail, including his brother Christopher, now 26, who is serving an 18-year sentence for his part in the 2010 murder of 15-year-old Sofyen Belemouadden by a group of teens.
His father was deported when he was just four months old and his mother had to work double shifts as a nurse to support her family – encouraging Dave to study law before his music career kicked off.
His life changed at sixth form college when he started uploading tracks to YouTube, demonstrating the political commentary and vulnerability in his lyrics that has since made him a star.
Dave honoured his mum when he picked up the Mercury Music Prize last year, saying: “She’s given me my life. I literally owe everything to her and God”.