Even if you haven’t heard of White Dave before, chances are you’ve listened to one of his songs.
The Bay Area-born rapper and producer has earned track placements in the critically-acclaimed films “Black Panther” and “Creed,” and is featured in the official “Inspired Album” for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which is up for best picture at this year’s Oscars.
Dave, whose birth name is Noah David Coogler, acknowledges that the placements are a combination of talent and the family business — his older brother is director Ryan Coogler, who helmed “Black Panther” and “Creed.”
“I’ve been creating music for my brother’s movies since he started making films. For me, it’s still that basic element of, I’m doing something to help my brother,” Dave tells Variety. “It doesn’t matter if it’s for a big budget film or for something he shot with a camcorder, like it’s all the same to me.”
But, Dave maintains that despite his sibling connection, he has to go through the same vetting process as everyone else for his tracks to be featured.
“I’d like people to understand that nothing is guaranteed, like everything that I do for my brother and his films, I gotta go through the process just like everyone else,” Dave says.
Dave and Ryan have been fostering their creative partnership since they were kids. When their parents deemed Dave too young to listen to rap music, Dave would sneak into the room of Ryan — who is four years older — to listen to his CDs, including “College Dropout” by Kanye West, “Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below” by Outkast and Jay-Z’s “The Black Album.” In fact, Dave says Ryan is the one who purchased him his first beat-making software, mic and recording equipment.
“I owe my music career to my older brother,” Dave says. “He laid the foundation for me to become an artist, all because of his support and his desire to want to see me do something that I’m passionate about. Because of my brother’s influence, because of his inspiration, because of his believing in me, it’s my career now, and I’m so, so, so thankful for that.”
Dave has released three albums and five EPs since 2017 — with another EP, “Porch Sessions,” out today — and has found a new passion in creating music for motion pictures. His most recent placement is the song “Appraise” on “Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album,” which also features songs by the late Nipsey Hussle, Jay-Z, A$AP Rocky, H.E.R., Polo G and more.
Over a tantalizing Hit-Boy beat, Dave delivers powerful bars about racial injustice and police brutality: “My body ache from all the stress of my ancestors/ We could influence the planet if we stand together/ I been losing sleep for awhile cuz home ain’t even safe/ Pigs really murdered Breonna in her own place.”
Dave says he wrote “Appraise” specifically inspired by “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which details the 1969 assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton by Chicago police. When watching the film — the soundtrack for which consists of ’60s doo-wop, jazz and R&B tunes — Dave was struck by how much it resonated with the present day.
“The tension, the anxiety, the stress, the rage that is displayed in that film is very similar to what we as a people are going through right now. Even though it’s a period piece, it felt current,” Dave says. “I was just having a moment where I had to process that, and I was able to capture it on the record.”
Dave recorded “Appraise” the same day he saw “Judas and the Black Messiah” for the first time, recruiting his producer friend Soundtrack to make the beat. But, Hit-Boy ended up replacing Soundtrack’s beat with something different, which Dave says gave the song a completely new feel.
“He transformed that song,” Dave says of Hit-Boy. “The lyrics, the tempo, the pacing, everything is the same as the original record. Didn’t shift a thing. But his touch production-wise is what turned it into the song that it is now.”
Though Dave let the film directly influence him when writing “Appraise,” it was a different case for “Nervous,” which was featured in “Black Panther.” When the “Black Panther” music team reached out to him for a track, Dave sent a folder of 30 different songs. “Nervous” — which Dave had recorded four months prior but never released — happened to be one of the songs he sent, and the team was immediately drawn to its hyper energy and incessant snares.
“Nervous” ended up appearing in the iconic superhero film as villain Klaue (played by Andy Serkis) pulls up to the casino before an epic fight scene.
“When it comes to superhero movies, a superhero movie is only as good as your villain,” Dave says. “I feel like Klaue was a great villain, and to have Klaue slapping my music when he pulled up to the casino, how tight is that? That for me was the icing on the cake.”
But before “Black Panther,” Dave had three placements on the soundtrack to 2015’s “Creed”: “Intolerant,” “In the Kitchen” and “Let You Know.” “Intolerant” remains Dave’s most-streamed song, with over 2.7 million plays on Spotify. Its infectious chorus boasts: “I don’t tolerate no nonsense/Bullshit intolerant,” which Dave thinks fits right in with “Creed’s” underdog storyline — and his own.
“‘Creed’ is the ultimate perseverance tale, so a song like ‘Intolerant’ kind of falls right in line, like I’m not tolerating any bullshit, I’m only here for the benefits. I’m not here for play, this isn’t for fun,” Dave says. “That was kind of my approach for ‘Intolerant,’ like I no longer tolerate people who aren’t here making my life better and my situation easier. When I was younger, I was surrounded by a lot of peers who not necessarily wanted to see me fail, but didn’t want to see me succeed. That was a record that allowed me to cut them free.”
Beyond his placement work, Dave released his annual 4/20 EP today, titled “Porch Sessions.” The five-song bundle is meant to be light-hearted, and a gift to those who celebrate. “Every 4/20 we like to give my fellow stoners and music fans a little something to listen to while they enjoy the national holiday,” Dave says.
As far as his future in film, Dave shares that he may be taking on a larger role behind the camera soon – as the writer of his own horror flick.
“The screenplay that I’m working on is stalker-horror,” Dave says. “I feel like to this day, what’s scarier than someone following you? It’s a very real fear.”
Listen to “Porch Sessions” below.