Dave East Runs New York as the New King of Harlem

In the summer of 2014, rapper Nas came across a fellow East Harlem artist, Dave East after his mixtape Black Rose was released. East was signed to Nas’ label, Mass Appeal Records and the rest is history (or so we wish). Dave East has had a hard time gaining mass attention despite features with artists like Pusha T and Mack Wilds, and his 2016 XXL Freshman status. But in my opinion, Dave East is a king, an underrated lyrical genius who excels at storytelling and remixes.

Story | Sara Loretta

Image | Youtube | Dave East

Sitting with less than 40,000 subscribers on Youtube, East’s tracks are hidden away for an audience that can appreciate the fluidity of his flows. While his lyrics take a more “gangsta rap” approach, each song strategically represents the streets of East Harlem and highlights the struggles of being raised in the projects, parents doing time and the safety of the neighborhood.

Dave East’s craft is as apparent as his tattoos. He’s released two remixes and a feature over the past week and each are absolutely brilliant.

#1 – ‘Free Smoke’ is a remix of the Drake hit and showcases East and his crew on a Philadelphia block just jamming. The remix (even through a music video), the non-fluidity between the instrumental and vocals makes the track feel as if the song was created as the camera crew was filming. Lyrics like “I never claim to be a legend in this rap game, I just let the people see it” proves that the King of Harlem still understands he’s got moves to make regardless of the success he’s had (including a track on the Cleveland film, The Land, and the-Hamilton soundtrack).

I also love that Dave East stays true to his side of the hip hop spectrum. In ‘Keisha,’ East tells a story about a girl he met, hooked up with but she turned around and took everything from his phone to his gold chains. “This is for every n***a that slippin’ ‘cuz he think he rich”. Similarly to Nas, East paints the picture as clear as if you lived through the event yourself. In ‘Keisha,’ he describes everything from the room number to the number of condoms he used because “raw isn’t the way [he] gets down”.

#2 – ‘Unforgettable’ is recorded over the latest track from French Montana (which is my song of the summer) and is a mere 1:59 of sexual tension between East’s desire to get money and women. Dave East is incredibly open about his sexual encounters. While I don’t think this bad, I do think it may disallow East to grow and if he does choose to expand, it could either great or it will end up bombing.

#3 – ‘Out of Center’ surfaced on Monday night to Soundcloud and Youtube by Tory Lanez featuring Dave. I never really had Lanez on my radar and I guess I still don’t. Even though I saw him at SXSW 2016, I think Tory Lanez is forgettable. His music isn’t life changing, but he’s good to have hidden away on a playlist and hear on shuffle. This track is similar to the rest, minus East’s feature, which is also like everything else Dave East raps about – sex – which is why the two make a great pair on a track. Their vocal styles compliment the other, as East has a rough voice (probably from all the weed) and Lanez tries to have an R&B tone.

This release should definitely help propel East’s career due to the large following that Tory Lanez does have, but even if it doesn’t, the flows that Dave East laid out on this track kept him true to who he is – a sex/gangsta rapper.

Dave East’s next performance is at the 2017 Soundset Festival in St. Paul, MN on May 28th.

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