By: Josh Weiner
Harlem has long been a fruitful site for hip-hop, and over the past few years, Def Jam signee Dave East has done his part to get his name up there with the area’s elites. Critics and fans have certainly taken note: XXL named him one of its “Freshmen of the Year” in 2016, and The Source applauded him by writing that, “the East Coast has an artist that they can be proud of, and one worthy enough to carry the torch passed down from the legends of the culture.”
Born David Brewster, Jr. in 1988, the native New Yorker– who also has “a little Dominican in me”— shifted between Spanish Harlem, Queensbridge, and Silver Spring, MD while growing up. Basketball had a constant presence in his early life– as documented by SLAM, East played alongside Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, and others in the Amateur Athletic Union. He also attended the University of Richmond on a basketball scholarship for a year before transferring to Towson University, where he roomed with Durant’s older brother.
In time, East determined that hip-hop, not hoops, would be his actual calling. Since 2010’s Change of Plans, he has released a furious string of mixtapes and EP’s, one of the most notable of which was 2014’s Black Rose. East explains that personal tragedy fueled the dark imagery and narration of the mixtape: “I lost three of the closest people to me in three months, two to prison, one to murder. Every concept on Black Rose is based on something I’ve done with those three people. It’s straight from the heart.”
That same year, East became acquainted with veteran rapper Nas by way of the latter’s younger brother, Jungle, who had known East while growing up in Queensbridge, and was a major fan of his music. Nas has definitely approved of his brother’s endorsement– he brought East onboard to Mass Appeal Records and collaborated with him on perhaps his most prominent mainstream exposure yet: the track “Wrote My Way Out,” on 2016’s #1-selling Hamilton Mixtape.
A full-length debut is still in the works for East. But the rapper has stayed active with music lately– his two-part Paranoia mixtape series has dropped in the last nine months– and shows no signs of slowing down. Harlem ought be proud of its native son.