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.
Dave East is a 31 year old rapper from Harlem, New York who first caught my attention as a part of the 2016 XXL Freshman Class. This earned him a contract with Mass Appeal Records/Def Jam Recordings & now after 3 years of mixtapes leading up, Dave is finally fulfilling fans’ hopes for his full-length debut.
The opener “They Wanna Kill You” talks about being glad that he never got shelved over a bland Swizz Beatz instrumental then the next song “Penthouse” talks about making it over an uneventful beat. The track “Godfather IV” with Nas sees the 2 trading verses over a classy DJ Green Lantern instrumental while the song “Need a Sign” talks about people acting cool with him now that Dave’s famous over a somber instrumental from araabMUZIK.
The track “On My Way 2 School” reflects on his time in school over a moody instrumental while the song “17” looks back at his adolescence over a woozy trap beat from Timbaland. The track “Mama I Made It” needs no further explanation over an orchestral instrumental while the song “OG” with Rick Ross gets sensual over a luxurious instrumental.
The track “What’s Goin’ On?” with Fabolous sees the 2 spitting charismatic bars over a synth-funk instrumental while the song “Baby” talks about his ride or die woman over a soul sample-inflicted trap beat. The track “Alone” is a trite reiteration of JoDeCi’s “Feenin’” while the song “Everyday” with Gunna sees the 2 talking about their new lifestyles over a dime a dozen trap beat.
The track “Devil Eyes” with E-40 & Mozzy sees the 3 talks about the life in the streets over a grim instrumental while the song “Night Shift” with Lil Baby sees the 2 flexing over a vibrant Murda Beatz instrumental. The track “Wanna Be a G” with Max B finds the 2 talking about a kid who wants to gangbang over slow yet rhythmic instrumental while the song “Me & Mines” talks a homie of his over a jazzy beat.
The track “Daddy Knows” is a touching tribute to his daughter Kairi with a neo-soul flavored instrumental while the song “What You Mad At?” finds Dave angrily going at his haters over a churchy sample that later switches up into a tense boom bap beat. The penultimate track “On Sight” is a decent club banger & then the closer “The Marathon Continues” of course pays tribute to Nipsey Hu$$le over a boom bap beat with some keys.
As much as I love Dave, this was just decent. He’s definitely still a great lyricist, but it’s longer than it needed to be & a bit too focus-grouped for me. Nonetheless, he’s earned the right to make it as far as he has & I hope the album’s gonna do well on the charts.