Dave East Praises Influential Rappers and Upbringing on ‘Paranoia 2’

Celebrated for his 90s-era rap style and conscious hip-hop content, rapper Dave East is an enigma in today’s complex rap industry. His ability to speak on the rawness of street life is something the game hasn’t seen much of lately – in an internet age where all it takes is one catchy hit to make it big. Though East picked up on the cold, New York street life of Biggie and Nas, his transference of said storytelling comes through even more viscerally in 2018. Though the struggles may have stayed the same, on “Paranoia 2,” out Jan. 19, East covers the album in modern tint.

In the most apparent callback on his new project, the jazzy-noir “What Made Me” gives praise to the rappers who influenced him. Any early-millennial rap fan will find this tune a gold mine of nostalgia as East references Noriega, Fobolous, Jada Kiss, Styles P, Mary J. Blige, Irv Gotti, Mase, Big Pun and 50 Cent among others. He credits each artist with providing his young mind a new perspective, whether that be the Spanish viewpoint of Big Pun or N.O.R.E.’s eccentric productions with Pharrell. Nas is also mentioned in the chorus (“Nas made me want a QB chain”) as a throwback to their shared upbringing in the Queensbridge projects in New York. Nas’ voice also made an appearance in East’s pre-album short film entitled “The Hated.” The gorgeously shot video features the supposedly true story of drug dealers who get busted by the police leading to high drama, and snitching, amongst the crew.

East’s pension for collaboration is not at the core of this album, but its certainly noteworthy. On “Woke Up” he and Tory Lanez wax on the one thing East never had growing up, money. The theme tosses back to the streets, but is told through a modern trap beat. “I’m from the bottom where we gon’ get money regardless/I’m no regular artist,” he explains over Tory’s hazy falsetto chorus. T.I. takes on a basic beat to help East rap on their frustrations with women who show them affection only for one thing, you guessed it, money.

Not every theme on “P2” is as material as these tracks, however. “Prosper” uses acronyms to describe his upbringing, the struggles before he made it, and how he works day in and day out to give his daughter has an easier route to success.  “Thank You” too ruminates on the hard times, “Nowadays I pull up in the Range, I remember hoppin’ that train/I think God for the pain that got a n—- all up in the game.” At this point it’s no secret that East had a rough past, and to his credit, he’s using his music as cathartic platform for his then struggles.

It’s the combination of catchy hooks built for radio and his surgical precision as a lyricist that make East truly enigmatic in the modern era. These days, rappers tend to choose one side or the other. “P2” continues what 2017’s “Paranoia: A True Story” did, which was to exemplify the common struggles of a tattered upbringing in the projects with radio-ready production as the canvas. East has said that these two mixtapes are the precursor to his “real debut-debut.” Until then, fans can indulge in the raw, thoughtful perspective that is “P2.”

P2” is available Jan. 19 on Apple Music.