Sounds Like: Riding with your friend through the streets of Harlem and listening to him spit truth
For Fans of: Nas, Jadakiss, Joe Budden's Mood Muzik series
Why You Should Pay Attention: Rap fans are long familiar with this Harlem MC, thanks to his association with Nas – who signed Dave East to Mass Appeal Records in 2014 – and mixtapes such as 2016's Kairi Chanel, which features cameos from 2 Chainz, Beanie Sigel and Cam'ron. The lyrical-minded street rapper has since signed to Def Jam and is releasing his first official EP, Paranoia. "It's about a lot of different feelings as far as who I can trust, and what's best for me, and my surroundings," he says. It's the culmination of a slow yet steady rise that began in 2010 when Dave Brewster shifted to music after a youth spent playing AAU and college ball with future NBA stars like Kevin Durant – and a six-month prison sentence for selling drugs after he dropped out of Towson University. His unusual life story and its mix of raw talent, star-crossed moments, street hustle and social consciousness animate his music.
He Says: With Dave East, Young M.A, French Montana, Cardi B, Joey Bada$$ and A$AP Mob making noise, it seems like New York's vibrant rap scene is back in the conversation. "The scene has changed a little bit, but it's still New York. I don't think there's a particular type of New York artist. You all bring what you bring to the table with whatever you grew up with," says East. He doesn't think the city needs a unifying sound like it had in the Nineties and early Aughts. "I think it's healthy. I just think it's bringing energy back to New York regardless of what it is. … Now, with these new artists with these big records, I feel like it's bringing more attention. It's shining more light back to New York City."
Hear for Yourself: On "Slow Down" with Jazzy Amira, Dave East gives advice to young'uns on the block on how make a way out of the projects: "If that trap slow, get a job/Buy some nice shoes and hit them parties downtown where them wild niggas cannot get inside." Mosi Reeves