It doesn't take a genius to note the correlation between Bo' Selecta!'s rubbery slur against Craig David and his continual battle to regain the credibility that he had when he debuted in 2000. Of course, other factors like his pseudo-playboy image, speculation about his relationships, losing out on a Brit Award and his dabblings in cheesy pop balladry have weighed in over the years - but not so heavily when you consider how R&B men like Daniel Bedingfield and Lemar have done the same thing, to less withering scorn.
Damage control came when the singer appeared on the show in 2003 for the last episode of Bo' Selecta! David relishes telling the story and his racy, occasionally staccato and nasally posh tone goes up a gear, as if he's been hoping to get it off his chest for a while.
"I was a bit dubious about appearing because I just thought he [Leigh Francis] was a bit of a prick - pardon my French - but I thought, 'OK, I'll roll with it', because everyone was saying that this would be the right way to bounce from it.
"He came over to me, really sheepish. I just told him, 'I think you're an absolute fool'." He smiles. "Then he sort of said, 'Well, I apologise for the negative attention you've had around the whole thing'." I went: 'No, you're trying to be two-faced about the whole thing, because your show is continuing; I'm still the butt of the joke. What are you apologising for? Furthermore, if I can give you any words of advice, it's that if you really wanted to become a respected comedian, take a leaf out of the book of someone like Ricky Gervais... or like the Billy Connollys and the Eddie Izzards and the Russell Brands and the Peter Kays. I slammed him. He had nowhere to go."
David might have crossed that hurdle, but there's still the issue of record sales. His debut album, Born to Do It, sold a mighty 7.5 million copies, thanks to the lead singles "Fill Me In" and "Seven Days". But the follow-up, Slicker than Your Average, sold fewer, and by the time the third album, The Story Goes..., came around, he pushed less than two million records.
David is used to being questioned about those dwindling numbers. "When you have a lot of success and you get detached from something you originally started from, people feel like they're losing a bit of ownership of you. I've realised I can't be that 18-year-old that burst onto the scene."
For that reason, his new album, Trust Me, is his coming of age. Taking cues from Motown (he samples The Stylistics hit "You Are Everything" on "Kinda Girl for Me") as well as R&B, Latin, reggae and his trademark MC-ing, his fourth album has every intention of re-establishing him among the music-buying public.
Then there's the collaboration with the grime prince Kano, which he hopes will reconnect him with the urban community that he feels deserted him after he hit the mainstream.
"I think the one thing that I've found through the whole journey of my career - and it's been like a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs in a way - is that I've got to this album and I just wanted to make an album that I found represented my age."
In an office at his record label, David leans back on the leather couch, looking especially grown up - no more beanies, no more stencilled goatees. His build is broader, and he's hairless. He has also suddenly developed a penchant for wearing sunglasses - everywhere. But he realises that it's silly at times, and whips off his pair before the interview begins. He later jokes: "What is up with that, when people have got glasses on [in nightclubs]? It's dark, like proper, proper dark - but that's what I realised when I came on stage and performed with them on at Ronnie Scott's. I thought it was cool, really - then again, perhaps not."
David has a peculiar personality. On the one hand, there's the side of him that makes smirky references to his pad in Miami and his worldwide successes ("13 million record sales around the world! People have gone out and bought my albums!"). Even so, he manages not to come off as too arrogant. At the recent stint at Ronnie Scott's in London, he was able to turn a silent lounge crowd into a lively bunch of revellers. He admits a habit of doing everything to the extreme.
"I have a very excessive personality in everything I do," he admits. "If it's music, I'm locked in. If it's training, I'm locked in. If it's me sitting down, eating chocolate, I'm locked in. But that's why I thank God I never got involved in drugs, because if I did, I'd hammer it so much, it'd just be game over for me."
Born in Southampton to a Jewish-English mother and Grenadian father, David was bullied at school. "The greatest thing is that I can now give it back in other ways. So I'm like, a weight issue is never a problem because you can always lose that - but I'll go at things you can never change, like I'll say, 'extensive plastic surgery is the only you can change these things about you, my friend! So let me blast you with this!' Aw, we can give back, as much as you wanna give!"
You get the impression that those memories are still raw, and that they have motivated his drive for success. At the age of 15, he won a competition to write a song for the R&B band Damage, but his breakthrough came in 1999, when he appeared on the Artful Dodger single "Rewind". Since then, there have been tough times, quite apart from the public dissing and fluctuating popularity. A few years ago, his grandmother passed away, a friend of his manager was diagnosed with cancer, and he broke up with his long-term girlfriend Roxy Ingram, a model.
The most poignant moments of his album reveal the trivialities most men endure when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. But unfortunately for David, it's much harder when you're a celebrity who's accustomed to being surrounded by a regular bevy of groupies wherever he goes. "You do get to meet models along the way, and you do get to meet very beautiful women, but after a while you get to a point where you've met enough models where nothing more is going on up there," he says, pointing to his head.
So is he ready to settle down? "I've been ready for a relationship from back in the day," he muses. "But to be honest, I think, when I write my songs, people think they're about many relationships and they're all over the place. I think it's with the association of the song 'Seven Days'. I've been in about the same two or three long-term relationships. It's like, I wasn't doing all of that stuff the song says. In my mum's council house?" He gives a contemptuous look. "Relationship-wise, I can't be Craig David the musician and Craig David the person who's just a normal guy. He's one. I come with the successes of my album."
David is pretty cheerful these days and he's visibility excited about his latest outing. But his number one priority is setting the record straight with the people who've struggled to figure him out over the last few years. "There's always going to be the misconceptions," he says. "You think you come across like you are, and to be honest, if there was like a camera on me 24/7, and you could do a reality show on me without me realising the cameras were there, people would realise I'm very chilled, down-to-earth and very relaxed.
"I feel I just want to be me. And it's so much easier [than before]. I jump up with so much energy now, it's just nonsense. Hopefully by the virtue of me just realising where I'm at, and my music obviously being the most important thing, I hope people get a little bit more insight into me. But I just want people to enjoy the music."
The album 'Trust Me' is out on 12 November on Warner Music