Singer and songwriter Osei "Osei the Seventh" David is always thinking many moves ahead – a habit that is a reflection of one of his favourite sayings, "Chess, not checkers."
"I don't play chess, but I understand how they think. Any move I make, I say, 'Is chess, not checkers.' When I am working it is detailed."
It is this knack for planning and his eye for detail, combined with his relentless nature that has led to his pop single, Café Deluxe, receiving half a million streams and being featured in the life simulation video game, The Sims 4.
Café Deluxe, an upbeat pop song about a man in a café pouring out his struggles to a coffee cup, was released on February 17, 2021 and David told Newsday it got more than ten million plays on Tik Tok and surpassed half a million streams on Spotify. It also has more than 180,000 views on YouTube.
"I started to develop new fans and people became interested. And I was able to achieve a base of goals for the long-term."
His label contacted the team at video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA), known for sports games like FIFA and NBA Live as well as Battlefield, Need for Speed and Star Wars titles, about his single.
"EA really loved me and my sound."
They expressed interest in featuring Café Deluxe The Sims 4, specifically the latest expansion pack, Cottage Living. David said the developers included a handful of songs for players to listen to in-game while driving with the radio on, and Café Deluxe was selected as one of them.
"I felt a sense of great accomplishment."
The 23-year-old singer and songwriter told Newsday his musical ability and competitive spirit can be traced back to his childhood.
Originally from San Juan, David said he was an accomplished sportsman, winning national titles in basketball (Super 10 Under-15 championships) and shot-put (Under-15). He also won awards in swimming, played football for years with his secondary school, St George's College, Barataria, and spent a short time in the National Super League.
He said this competitive nature drove him to sign up for a calypso competition at his primary school, St Joseph Boys' RC. He wrote a song, sang it and placed third in the competition. In form three he gravitated to theatre arts and one of his teachers advised that if he worked on becoming an all-around performer he could try to get into the New York Film Academy. While at this point he did not consider himself a singer, he began entering competitions.
In 2012 he entered Junior Soca Monarch (JSM) for the first time, but did not make it past the preliminary stage. Though he was not very interested in that competition, his competitive nature drove him to try again and again.
"I didn't feel comfortable being a loser."
Each year he would return to JSM and each year he would place higher. The last year he participated was 2017 and he placed second, losing to four-time champion Sergio Camejo.
Top of the pops
But instead of following the soca path, David developed a taste for pop music.
"I matched my ambitions with what I was seeing globally: Julia Michaels, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez. I liked their hunger and ambition. And they had big achievements globally."
David began writing pop music and drawing inspiration from icons in various fields.
"(Top Formula One driver) Lewis Hamilton, Drake, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan. They have huge ambitions in their respective fields and are all miles ahead in their field. And they have a shared discipline and determination and focus on being 'ruthless.'"
Another of his inspirations is the book Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover, which inspired him when he looks at role models.
"I made up my mind to go for it – 'it' being the top of my industry. Going for a Grammy award, top ten of the Billboard (Hot 100). It is not just fun or a hobby. Whether it takes five or ten years. I will be a staple on Billboard."
David said he took about three years to focus on creating his music without releasing any, and people familiar with his earlier soca work thought he had stopped making music altogether.
"I was really going to the studio alone and getting better.
"The music was of a quality that could compete with the biggest acts and match my ambition."
Welcome to Café Deluxe
When he was satisfied with the level of his music, David began speaking with label executives abroad and started receiving different offers from North America and Europe. He left TT in early 2019 to "get a glimpse of the world and experience the music industry." He spent a lot of time in New York and London.
While travelling, he received an offer from Los Angeles-based music management entertainment company Three Six Zero, which manages Calvin Harris, Louis Tomlinson from One Direction, Will Smith and the Smith family, and Jason Statham, among others. Three Six Zero had just started a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment, and David was signed to both at the end of 2019.
With a record deal secured, he began to get ready to release his first single,
"I was trying to impress myself as a writer and a creative. I was so new to the genre, but I had been listening to it a long time. I was aware I wanted to create a level of emotional awareness and address a topic that people do not necessarily talk about.
"I was trying to make people feel with this song. And I created it in a coy way where it is so intricate and detailed. I took an inanimate object and gave it life (even though) it would not understand the feelings and what I am talking about. The words are dark and moody and edgy, but the production is happy."
The song was produced by TT producer David Sheppard, who David said had supported him from his "early soca days."
He began working with Three Six Zero and Sony to release Café Deluxe as his first single in 2020 but then "covid shut down the world."
He returned to Trinidad and used the downtime to do some preparations for the release.
"The things I am doing now and the situations over the last few years are things I dreamt about and I spent every living moment thinking about. Now it's happening I am like, 'Wow.' It felt surreal. I really got this."
He is currently pushing Café Deluxe and building it out, and has lined up his second single and other songs for release and planning for a five or six-track EP. He also plans to be a part of a tour next year across North America or Europe and has received interest from European promoters.
David said there is, however, a double side to his recent success.
"I've gotten here, but I still want to do so much more. I've digested it already. I want more. I want to go on and achieve more."
He said he is not one to dwell too much on celebrations, though he takes time to enjoy the moment.
"A lot of people miss out on moments. They tie happiness to success and money and then realise they are still unhappy. They don't sit and really enjoy the moments from where they come from and where they are. They are so caught up in going forward. Sometimes you have to live in the moment."
He said one of his goals is to do something that children can look up to and be a legacy act. He also wants to create music that allows people to feel things: "Make deeper stuff. Understand real life and show that people go through things, and don't shy away from what they might face.
"It is real. Everyone has to deal with it."