This is the sophomore album from Harlem emcee Dave East. Breaking out in 2014 off his 8th mixtape Black Rose, this resulted in the man signing a joint deal with Def Jam Recordings & even Nas’ independently owned Mass Appeal Records as well as a spot in the iconic 2016 XXL Freshman Class. However, his full-length debut Survival wouldn’t come out until 3 years later & was very disappointing in the sense that he tried appealing to a more mainstream audience that just didn’t exist. But when Westside Gunn announced that Hoffa was being produced entirely by Harry Fraud, I went into this album wondering if it was gonna be his best yet.
“The Disappearance” is a jazzy, soulful opener addressing those who’ve been asking him what’s up with the music whereas “60 for the Lawyer” is a bluesy follow-up saying he hope someone ain’t informin’ on him. “Diamonds” has a bit of a funky feel in the production & a chipmunk soul sample for Dave to say he been legit leading into him going at his competition for the bassy trap cut “Just Another Rapper”.
Meanwhile on the guitar-driven “Go Off”, we have G Herbo tagging along to snap on their nonbelievers just before the woodwind-infused “Uncle Ric” serves as a lethal prelude to his upcoming collab EP with Benny the Butcher entitled Pablo & Blanco. Things take a more atmospheric turn for him to say he’ll take a fight to pick up “The Product” prior to Jim Jones coming into the picture to talk about their accolades for the slick “Money or Power”.
“I Can Hear the Storm” is a heart-wrenching look back at his life before making it in the music industry whereas “Dolla & a Dream” brings in a glossy trap beat to talk about doing shit cats never seen. “Count It Up” with French Montana of course serves as a sumptuous ode to stacking paper, but Cruch Calhoun’s verse on “The Win” is wack as fuck despite the celebratory tone of it.
The penultimate track “Yeah I Know” with the late Kiing Shooter is a piano trap ballad about not needing any further reminders of both of them being the shit & then the album ends with “Red Fox Restaurant”, where Dave East & Curren$y come together to express gratitude for where they’re at now in luxurious fashion.
To me, this is what Survival should’ve been & quite possibly Dave’s best work yet. Westside Gunn helps him stay true to his street roots rather than trying way too hard to appeal to wider audience in terms of his lyricism & the production that Harry Fraud brings to the table. Really hope Dave continues to travel further down this road.