When Drew Dave conceptualized his latest collection of hip-hop instrumentals, Solitude, back in April, he wanted to release it during the first week of June. At that point in the spring, the biggest news was still the pandemic, and not the Minneapolis police’s killing of George Floyd.
By the time June arrived, the 31-year-old Clinton, Maryland, beatmaker backed off his plans. It didn’t feel right to promote a beat tape when the nation was erupting in protest.
“I became emotionally and mentally drained,” he says. “The pandemic had already affected me, rendering me unemployed. It just became too much. Even right here in D.C., it was heartbreaking. I was involved in a couple days of protests down Lafayette [Square], and honestly I’m just emotionally fucked up over everything. I’m a Black man who’s had several unpleasant encounters with law enforcement. I have a Black son. I’m just fed up, and I feel broken.”
As he continued to process those emotions, he sought the advice of close friends, and decided to release Solitude today, on Juneteenth.
“Hopefully it can be a tool to uplift,” says the Alexandria, Virginia, native. “Because we need that at this moment.”
Despite the retreat implied by the title, the tracks are sturdy and outgoing. Their 1990s-influenced thump is built for collecting thoughts, for working through things one day at a time. A lot of Drew Dave’s contemporaries—search Bandcamp for “beat tape,” and you’ll see dozens—are more inclined to imitate hip-hop landmarks than to expand upon them, but he separates himself with subtle creativity and unwavering instincts for fleshing out a groove. Songs like “KeepOn(Escape),” “Solitude(KeenMind)” and “Nostalgic” chop up jazzy samples in vibrant ways, and hazier tracks like “Peaceful(Demands)” and “MajicOneOh2” never sink too far into the couch.
His two previous projects, the beat tape Focused from early April and his early January collaboration with D.C. rapper Uptown XO, Culture Over Corporate, are noticeably thicker with snare-drum-driven energy. As quarantine began, though, Drew Dave found himself reflecting on his own nature as “almost a borderline recluse.” Later came the realization that even when a protest is over, social distancing is still very much in effect.
“I tend to be anti-social, and a homebody,” he says. “Before the pandemic, if I wasn’t going to work, then I was at home making beats, and spending time with my girl and my son. So the title just so happened to coincide with how I am naturally, and the current state of the country.”