It’s 2010 in Miami and GMTV are filming an interview in a gleaming white penthouse that belies money, not taste. The type of white where the Stenway Baby Grand and $30,000 sofa melt into each other, the colour of a lunatic asylum.
The penthouse belongs to Craig David, the RnB, ex-sensation who sold 7.5 million copies of his debut album ‘Born to do it’, turned Garage into a legitimate, bankable commodity and sported a chinstrap of a caliber that hasn’t been witnessed before or since, before being turned into a living, breathing meme before memes were born, thanks to Keith Lemon and his character in Bo Selecta.
Now holed up in a hip hop fantasy, looking out onto the shallow waters of Miami Beach, Craig welcomes us to his crib, but MTV aren’t filming, it’s a 5 minute segment for morning television.
Craig appears distracted; he stumbles over his words, talks about his kitchen and tries to convince us that he uses the glistening monstrosity of a piano to write music.
‘This is a really light, bright room that I can get inspired by,’ he pleads to the camera. Come on Craig, it’s 2010, not 2001, you haven’t had a hit for nearly half a decade, I can see it in your eyes.
Black and white prints of pneumatic pinups adorn the walls of Craig’s palace in exile, a 13-year-old’s dreamland, but Craig is 29.
The camera pans through hollow wardrobes of generic streetwear and hightop trainers, into a home studio where we meet Carl, Craig’s ‘hitmaker’ who samples a stale track laced with desperation.
We move to the balcony, the perfect spot for a name drop. Craig gushes about all the musicians and artists in Miami: Enrique Iglesias, Puff Daddy. He tells us that Nelly and Lenny Kravitz are always round, ‘loads of different celebrities,’ he says, a sad smile stretched across his face.
Then it’s talk of a Jacuzzi, talk of inspiration, music again and then Craig’s in a Ferrari, drifting down Ocean Drive in a luxury Italian prison and all the while you’re thinking, ‘Is this happiness, Craig?’ ‘Is this what you truly wanted when you were young and hungry on a Southampton estate, Craig? Banished to high-end purgatory by a bloke from Leeds? Cursed to spend your days drifting through a filmset, surrounded by empty materials and emptier hangers-on? People telling you that a hit is just around the corner, that you just need to get back in the white studio and it will all happen, that next Seven Days or Summer Jam. There has to be more than this, Craig.
The interview ends and for most, that would be that, a good run, a fall from grace and then a life in denial; pretending that you’re going to crack America until the money dries up, the sofa becomes DFS and the only phone calls come from Polytechnic Student Unions that want an ironic 00’s act to satisfy the whims of drunken children.
But most people aren’t Craig David, because fast forward to 2015 and what’s this? It’s Craig in the Radio 1 xtra booth, those silky, caramel vocals drifting out into the airwaves. He’s singing ‘Fill me in’ as cool kids crowd round, filming the action on iPhones. What are they doing? What’s Craig doing on a late night rap show?
And then the chorus from summer’s biggest hit ‘Where r u now’ gets mixed in and the beat drops and you can see Craig smile, truly smile; the lost years in white linen exile forgotten about in one beautiful blend of sound. No more lonely evenings in Miami; no more tasteless gourmet dinners surrounded by ghosts. You’re back Craig, you’re back!
Now Craig’s hitting it big and is at the forefront of the grime and garage renaissance. He’s playing in Barcelona and Amsterdam. He has a show in London in March 2016; can you get tickets? Absolutely not, they’re sold out. He's making new music and has an album out next year.
You have to wonder if Leigh Francis, aka Keith Lemon, the creator of Bo Selecta and orchestrator of Craig’s initial demise is watching closely.
How does it feel to see Southampton’s finest return to relevance, while you languish in the fetid swamp of ITV2, Leigh? How does it feel to be cemented as a caricature with a hand injury? Still poking fun at Fearne Cotton, Leigh? That’s fresh.
Buddha once wrote: ‘There are three things that cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.’
You tried to hide in Miami, Craig, but truth prevails and you’re back. I’m sorry it took so long.
Words by Finlay Renwick.
Craig's new single: 'When the bassline drops' ft Big Narstie is out now.