Black Dave is feeling good. It’s really that simple. Taking up space while creating more of it, the nonconformist musician, producer, rapper, visual artist, anime and streetwear enthusiast, and web3 innovator unapologetically thinks outside the box. He’d rather break them all open.
Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Black Dave grew up skateboarding and playing soccer. “I lived around a ton of white people, and the reason that people call me Black Dave is literally because I was THE Black Dave.” Matter-of-fact about the moniker’s origin, Black Dave sounds unbothered when reflecting on the term’s genesis. “Cell phones were coming out when I was in middle school so my friends would get a call and be like, ‘Hey, who are you with?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, I'm with Black Dave, who skateboards from our English class… Oh, I'm with Black Dave, who plays soccer on my team,’ They always used Black to describe me because I was the only Black one. And then everyone just kept shortening it to Black Dave. Like six of my friends think that they named me Black Dave.”
Black Dave proudly adopted the name on his own terms, but his journey hasn’t always been met with innocent intent going on to mention run-ins with the KKK and having to avoid neo-Nazis at punk shows as a teenager. “The first band I played in was called Extremist Whitey with my friends. It was a political punk band,” says Black Dave. “What's funny about the band name is it was me, two white kids, and a Jewish kid.” The irony isn’t lost on him.
Casual and upbeat, occasionally cut off by spotty wifi–a typical occurrence, he says, on the outskirts of Charleston where he’s currently based–he takes it in stride recounting his first musical experiences playing bass and singing in punk and hardcore bands in high school. “There were skinhead kids at punk shows and I'd be like, ‘I'm Black, I shouldn't fuck with these people.’”
By 2006 he started learning music production after starting a band called Robo Reptar. Learning to program on fruity loops, now known as FL Studio, he played synthesized guitars and performed vocals live. Naturally collaborative, Black Dave has the innate talent of bringing people together. Initially beginning as a two-member band, Robo Reptar had seven members by the time they broke up. “We had like two keyboard players, a drummer, three guitarists–it was an obnoxious amount of people,” Black Dave laughs.
As his musical journey evolved, so did his passion for anime and video games–a theme he started integrating into his sound early on. “Even back then I was writing music about Pokemon battles and stuff like that–anime and video game inspired music. One of the songs from Robo Reptar takes the victory music from Final Fantasy, and then adds a jazzy guitar solo looped over it. Stuff like that has always been interesting to me.”
After high school he started listening to rap music and becoming increasingly enamored with streetwear and sneaker culture. “I got into rapping in the early 2010s making beats on SoundCloud, and that kind of helped me find how I wanted to make music,” says Black Dave. “I'm a mix of rap music, anime, streetwear, and sneaker culture. The past couple of years, I've just been making music that combines all of those influences.”
“Feel Good,” Black Dave’s sucker punch of a contribution to HIGH FREQUENCY Volume 1, is the perfect cocktail of his eclectic influences. Combining his background in rock, rap, anime and video games, the in-your-face trap meets nu metal rocketship takes its listener on an unforgettable trip to the future where genre-mixing is taken to new extremes. Atmospheric video game-like synths create an otherworldly playground where Black Dave masterfully embeds trap beats, metal guitars, PlayStation sound effects (including a sample from “Metal Gear Solid”), a death growl breakdown, and deliciously braggadocious lyrics. “I like to make music about being awesome. And comparing that to anime and video games,” says Black Dave. “I’m not someone who writes particularly emotional music or story driven music. I'm just like, ‘Hey, guys! I'm awesome. I have a great time, I hope you have a great time.”
Supercharged with invincible-level confidence channeled by his anime alter ego, “Feel Good” is not only fun–it’s spicy. During the breakdown Black Dave yell-sings: “This is so fucking crazy. No one has my sound. No one has my style. No one’s doing what the fuck I’m doing. And when you guys pop up in a few years trying to bite my shit remember this fucking song!”
Black Dave is staking his claim. As he should. “In a couple years, everybody's gonna be making it,” he says referring to the intentionally jarring mix of genres. “And just remember that I was here doing it first.” But bragging rights aside, his unique take on the mix is in service of a larger narrative. “We're moving towards this genre mix, especially for Black artists. There are a lot of Black artists who came up listening to nu metal and watching anime who have people that they look up to through that whole wave. Rico Nasty, for instance. She yells and screams and it's really heavy in a way, and there are a lot of Black content creators that are sort of cut from the same cloth. A lot of times I'm trying to reach those people.”
He also makes a point to highlight the significance and intentional use of the N-word throughout the song. “I think saying words that only Black people can say in those moments is really important, because I feel like in heavy music and screaming music it's normally white dudes, you know?”
In service of kicking down barriers and deconstructing stereotypes, “Feel Good” is an extension of the work Black Dave’s been doing for years to create space where it didn’t exist before. “I really want to inspire people to be like, ‘Look I came from all these weird, stereotypically not Black backgrounds. And I can do this,” says Black Dave. “I think about the people who inspire me like Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Virgil Abloh. They were all outside of the ‘Black’ stereotype. I want to continue that story.”
Also a proud representative of rap music, Black Dave is constantly advocating for Black artists across genres. Previously focused on the local scene, Black Dave orchestrated recurring shows spotlighting South Carolina-based artists before the pandemic. Due to racial discrimination he experienced while doing so, Black Dave shifted his strategy, eventually leading him to web3. “When you live in a small market, you see the ceiling quickly,” says Black Dave. “Racism is something that's definitely present in Charleston. We would throw shows and they would use coded language to not have rap music, and not have events that bring a bunch of Black people. I used to throw rap shows every month at this one bar in downtown Charleston. I played the first of every month for maybe two years. I would have five new rappers, or R&B singers, from South Carolina. At one point, they canceled a show on me three days before. They were like, ‘So we're gonna switch to focus on live music. We're not going to have your show this month.’ What they really meant was, ‘We don't want a bunch of Black people here.’ Because the next week they had DJs and I was like, ‘I thought you guys were switching to live music?’ These DJs are playing rap music, but they're just white DJs. So that's a testament to the infrastructure of Charleston and how it holds rap music down. So in 2020, I decided to focus on the internet.”
Taking his energy online, he started a Twitch, put out a three song EP each month, and released a new beat in his beat store every day in 2020. He then joined Clubhouse and immediately built a network and an audience energized by the palpable presence of the Atlanta rap music community on the platform. After taking a “How to make a NFT in five days” class he minted his first visual collection and began onboarding others to web3. He became a founding member of the first NFT club on Clubhouse and started a Discord where he now has over 300 members. In 2021, he began dropping music NFTs on Catalog and Sound and began experimenting with governance tokens and unlockable content. He now has approximately 200 collectors and has recently launched an artist token.
“The Black Dave Token is designed for me to have mental and creative space to get ideas out,” says Black Dave. “In 2023, the strategy's gonna shift a little bit to try and partner with marketplaces, platforms, DAOs, communities, etc. and then if they want to work on stuff together, they'll buy Black Dave Tokens as an entry point. I'm aiming for transparency and am really interested in finding ways that people who believe in me can support me because it's been a lot harder for me to monetize my music than my ideas.”
In addition to working on new music, Black Dave currently juggles a list of projects building, advising, and innovating in web3. He spends his time working with the non-profit Kindred Hearts, building the website for a Black think tank, writing the Water & Music newsletter, working as the engineer for his longtime friend Matt Monday’s NFT album Koodos, and making weekly anime recommendations in Friends with Benefits–all while keeping up with his collectors and investigating new ideas. “I spend a lot of time researching, trying to find new ways to do things, having a lot of conversations with people and organizations, developers, etc. And I have a few music projects that I'm working on,” says Black Dave. “I live on the edge—I'm either gonna get everything done or I'm gonna get nothing done,” he laughs.
A true multi-hyphenate, this is the norm for Black Dave. He’s always had more than one iron in the fire, and it sounds like he always will. “I used to work at the store in Charleston and kids would come in and be like, ‘Yo, Dave, what are you doing? What's your latest project?’ I used to run a clothing brand. They'd be like, ‘What's up with that?’ I started this blog, ‘Oh, what's up with that?’ I used to throw shows, ‘Oh, what's up with the shows?’ Kids would come in and be so inspired by all the shit I was doing. I was DJing. I was recording music. I was playing shows in bands. So kids would come in super inspired. In the end, that's really my thing—how do I inspire people? That’s the goal.”
Collect Music NFTs from HIGH FREQUENCY Volume 1. “Feel Good” is the second track to be released from NOISE, for HIGH FREQUENCY Volume 1. There will be 25 editions of “Feel Good” available for 0.05 ETH on Sound.
HIGH FREQUENCY Volume 1 is a compilation album curated by NOISE, with 16 tracks released over the course of 16 weeks on Sound. The album features new songs from artists we believe represent the values of web3 and whose work will be essential to every music NFT collector’s set in the future.
Collect and add HIGH FREQUENCY writing NFTs to your digital library. There are 10 editions of this article available for 0.01 ETH on Mirror.
Article by Wallace Morgan for HIGH FREQUENCY, NOISE’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe for more.