Dave attacks Boris Johnson in Brit awards performance: 'Our prime minister's a real racist'

Ben Beaumont-Thomas Kevin Rawlinson and Rowena Mason

South London rapper Dave has accused Boris Johnson of being a racist on stage at the 2020 Brit awards.

Performing Black, a freestyle track that charts the difficulties of black Britons and celebrates black excellence, he added a newly written final verse that began: “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 moved into a criticism of the British press’s treatment of Meghan Markle, compared with that of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge: “If you don’t want to get it, then you’re never gonna get how the news treats Kate versus how they treated Meghan.”

Responding to the prime minister being called a racist, the home secretary, Priti Patel, said it was “utter nonsense” and Johnson was “absolutely not a racist”. In a round of media interviews on Wednesday morning, she added: “Artists and entertainers say all sorts of things.”

Part of his new freestyle featured a tribute to Jack Merritt, the prison rehabilitation worker killed in the terror attack at London Bridge in November 2019. Dave had paid tribute to Merritt in the immediate aftermath of the attack, acknowledging that the pair had met.

“Rest in peace Jack Merritt, you’re my brother in arms,” he said. “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 argued against stringent punishment and appealed for rehabilitation: “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.”

Dave during his performance at the Brit awards. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Dave’s brother Christopher is currently serving a life sentence in prison for the 2010 murder of 15-year-old Sofyen Belamouadden, and Dave made reference to him when receiving his award for album of the year: “I want to say everyone who is inside doing their time and holding it down, I love you so much.”

Dave concluded his new freestyle by rapping: “Grenfell victims still need accommodation / and we still need support for the Windrush generation / reparations for the time our people spent on plantations.”

The reference to Grenfell was reminiscent of the 2018 awards, when Stormzy castigated then prime minster Theresa May over her handling of the disaster, rapping: “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?” Stormzy performed his own set at the 2020 Brits, featuring gospel, grime and Afrobeats alongside Nigerian pop star Burna Boy and massed ranks of backing dancers made up of people of colour – perhaps his own affirmation of black creativity.

Boris Johnson wasn’t the only prime minister to be referenced in the ceremony. In 2015, US rapper Tyler, the Creator was banned from entering the UK in an edict by Theresa May, then home secretary, on the grounds that his music “fosters hatred”. The order was overturned, allowing him to perform in the UK again last year. Picking up the 2020 Brit award for best international solo male, he dedicated it to “someone who I hold dear to my heart, who made it so I couldn’t come to this country five years ago, and I hope she’s at home pissed off: thank you, Theresa May.”