Dave East isn’t the second coming of Nas. Nor is he the hackneyed 90’s New York revivalist many have painted him as. He doesn’t want to be.

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The 27-year-old Harlem denizen, real name David Brewster, is the manifestation of growing up in New York City at the epicenter of many pivotal and historic Hip Hop movements. He’s not a replica or following a blueprint of eras past: he’s the harbinger of a new era altogether.

That’s not to say Dave isn’t a student of the culture. What many consider to be his “90s New York sound” derives from being fully immersed in Hip Hop at the height of the “mixtape era” during the meteoric rise of The Diplomats, D-Block and G-Unit in the early 2000s. Dave East’s music is the clearest depiction of what New York rap could’ve, or even should’ve, sounded like if it hadn’t lost its identity.


The 6’5″ former collegiate swingman initially had hoop dreams, playing Division 1 basketball for the University of Richmond and then Towson University. It was at Towson, in 2010, where East first began testing his pen. One particular friend was in contact with DJ Ill Will—known for hosting mixtapes for Lil Wayne, Meek Mill and more—and arranged East to send a few freestyles. Ill Will was instantly sold. “He sent back a whole email like, ‘I want to host your mixtape, I ain’t heard this sound in a while,'” East recalls. “He went crazy!”

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Shortly after releasing the mixtape (the aptly-named Change of Plans), Dave’s hoop dreams were deflated when he did a six-month stint in jail for a gun possession charge. He lost his scholarship from Towson and was expelled. While incarcerated he learned the teachings of Islam, which he believes furnished him with the discipline he’d been missing.

An evolved East returned to New York, residing with his late aunt in the Ravenswood housing projects. It was there he met Nas’ younger brother, Jungle. Meanwhile in L.A., Nas had been becoming a fan of East’s music on his own, which ultimately landed the Harlem upstart a deal with Nas’ fledging Mass Appeal label.

Dave’s latest project Hate Me Now dropped last October, at perhaps the most crucial point in his career. The 20-track opus was a follow up to his well-received Black Rose mixtape, which garnered him the most attention he’d seen in his career“They didn’t hear me for real, for real until Black Rose,” he explains. Boasting features from many Hip Hop luminaries: Pusha T, Jadakiss, Styles P and of course Nas, as well as several rising stars: Mack Wilds and Tray Pizzy, the 20-track journey of Hate Me Now maintains a fluid pace. The set signaled East’s usurp of New York City airwaves, one of the most contentious for an up and comer. The project is Dave East at his best, a combination of self-conflicted and self-confident, cathartic raps, delivered with verve and visceral flow. And this is just the beginning.

-Khari Clarke (@KingClarkeIII)