When we found out Dave East would be in Los Angeles, CA for a weekend, we immediately arranged plans to interview the Harlem-bred rapper who had one of the craziest mixtapes of 2014. The 25 year old artist released Black Rose earlier this year and proved that the east coast is not done yet with influencing the rap game. East raps effortlessly on Black Rose and tells stories about himself, his homies, and his surroundings, which have all molded him into the artist he is today. Read our exclusive interview below.
Evangeline: When did you start rapping?
Dave: I started rapping seriously in 2010/2011. I would really have to say I started taking it seriously in the summer of 2010.
When I was 15 or 16 I was playing basketball; but I always was writing and into rap, watching videos, and all that. Basketball was my main priority and music was natural.
Evangeline: What’s the state of hip-hop like in Harlem/NY area?
Dave: Man, NY in general is wide open musically. There’s no real NY sound right now and everybody sounds like somebody else. Especially Harlem, my town is super open.
Evangeline: Since we’re in LA it’s only proper to ask what do you think about West Coast hip-hop right now?
Dave: The West Coast is poppin off right now – YG, Nipsey, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick…Everyone is doing their own thing and I like it.
Evangeline: Black Rose was on every respected and relevant site when it dropped. What was the concept behind Black Rose’s intensity and content?
Dave: I was just going through a lot. I lost one of my cousins right before the tape was put out. One of my cousins got murdered – like a close cousin that I grew up with. Close friends were going to jail and there was a lot of pain going on through my whole recording process. That’s where my energy came from. The title fit. I just feel like I was coming out of a lot of bullshit.
Evangeline: In light of that, do you find yourself listening to your project more or less at this point?
Dave: Even more. It sounds even harder now. It was dope when I was making it but now I can sit and really zone out to it.
Evangeline: How do you think Black Rose was received in comparison to previous projects?
Dave: I feel like it was the most well received tape out of all of them. Every record was fire and there are enough joints on there to where each person that might’ve been a fan before, has a favorite record on there now. It’s just all personal – that’s the first tape I really let people into my life. I talk about my dad, my brother, my mother…I’m talking about a lot of people that I never really talked about on the previous tape.
Evangeline: How did the Harlem culture and your neighborhood influence your music?
Dave: It inspired it 100%. Everything I talk about comes from Harlem, how I grew up, or what myself or a family member was doing. Just growing up in uptown was crazy. Just being in the streets everyday and coming outside my building really inspired me to talk how I’m talking now. I never really have a problem coming up with something or writing a record. I got mad shit in my head of just day-to-day life so I can easily talk about this topic or that topic. I just need the beat.
Evangeline: I know it’s extremely hard for a lot of artists to choose favorites from their project but what were some of your favorite cuts from Black Rose?
Dave: Really the personal ones like Free Charlie. That’s me talking to my young boy – He’s like 21 and just got sentenced to 7 years for robbery. The Around Here record too. Some of them joints were hard to write so those were my favorites.
Evangeline: How would you describe your sound from the outside looking in?
Dave: It’s gritty but it’s smooth. It’s like an ill mix of a lot. Some songs I’m turnt up on, sometimes I’m laid back and talking. It’s an ill combination of Harlem to me. When you hear me I feel like I bring you to Eastside Harlem.
Evangeline: What’s lacking in the rap game right now in your opinion?
Dave: People being themselves – just the authenticity of it. I feel like everybody is trying to jump on a wave. Me personally, I really don’t care about the club. I’ll make a club joint for sure but that’s not my only focus. I’m trying to put my story out about what’s going on in my life or my homies life. I feel like all of the greats let you know their story. You know about Biggie’s homeboys, Jay’s homeboys – you probably didn’t know them from anywhere else in the world – but because those rappers were talking about them, people knew about them. That’s what’s lacking. Nobody wants to talk about themselves, their people, or their own life.
Evangeline: So would you consider yourself a conscious rapper?
Dave: I would say I am but I wouldn’t say I’m a revolutionary rapper who’s trying to change people’s minds. I rap about what I’ve seen and experienced and people just relate.
Evangeline: Who are a few people you want to collaborate with?
Dave: I want to work with J. Cole, Kendrick, and a few more. But I want to work with producers more than the artists really. Hitboy, Alchemist, and a lot of other different ones.
Evangeline: How do you feel about your artist development process and the timing of an album release in your career?
Dave: I honestly just want my creative control to always be there. I don’t want to jump into a situation and someone is like “Alright this is what we’re doing right now”. That’s how artists lose themselves and end up doing something completely different than what they wanted. Like I said I just want to keep my creative control. Personally you won’t really hear an album from me for another year or two. Black Rose was like an introduction for people to listen to me. My debut album though, I don’t see it for another year or two.
Evangeline: What can we expect from Dave East in the near future?
Dave: A lot of visuals from the Black Rose project. I got the Broke visual out now, probably doing Hangover next. Also, a lot more features and a lot more work until I formulate the plan for the next project.
Evangeline: Before we end, what do you want your fans to know most about you?
Dave: I’m a loyal dude. I speak my mind. If I don’t like you, I don’t like you and I’ll let you know I don’t like you – that’s just me. And I’m passionate about what I do. I always put in 150%. I’m a positive dude despite having grown up around a lot of negative shit.
Stream Black Rose
Photography by @Jus10henryphoto