EMGWorld sheds light on the underground's 'Beast of the East'
New York once held hip-hop in the palm of its hand like a basketball. Rarely would you see hip-hop being passed to any other region or artists that didn't come from the hardwood of New York. Over the past few years that same ball has rolled away from the East and has kept a steady bounce in the South. Considered an 'old soul with a breath of fresh air,' Dave East is ready to make his presence known and help bring New York back to the forefront of hip-hop.
Location: New York, NY
Latest Mixtape: "Don't Sleep" hosted by DJ Radio (released through datpiff.com)
EMGWorld: What inspired you to pick up the microphone? What was it that made you say "I don't want to just listen to music, I want to make my own."
Dave East: I'd say my friends. I was always freestyling on the block and people were telling me I sounded different. I never took it serious until people started telling me, "Yo you really need to do this. You sound right." The input I was constantly getting from other people let me know I was headed in the right direction with it.
EMGWorld: How long have you been grinding as an artist in music?
DE: Not even a full two years. My first mixtape [Change of Plans] dropped in Summer 2010. That first mixtape was hosted by DJ Ill Will and DJ Rockstar. Before that I was playing basketball. Since that first mixtape I've been on the music heavy.
EMGWorld: Digital distribution is giving light to new and seasoned artists. How frequently do you release digital mixtapes and albums?
DE: I've put out four mixtapes to date through datpiff.com and hotnewhiphop.com. A bunch of blog sites picked up on them. The EP I'm working on now is expected to be released in early Summer. I'm in the works to drop that one through iTunes.
EMGWorld: Why did you title your most recent mixtape "Don't Sleep?"
DE: I named it that because I felt that it was a strong title. At the time it just really fit everything I been doing. Like I really DON'T SLEEP because I'm up all night grinding and making music. The title is basically saying "don't sleep on me."
"I don't want to compare myself to any artist from the 90's because they are legends in hip-hop. I feel like I'm bringing that same energy." - Dave East, EMGWorld's 'Industry Ready'
EMGWorld: How strong would you say your connection is with your hometown fan base?
DE: I think its strong. New York is kinda wide open right now. The people in New York don't really have a specific camp they're drawn to like how they once had Roc-a-Fella and Ruff Ryders. It's a few individual artists that are doing their thing but I feel like the New York scene is wide open right now. The feedback I'm getting from every borough is nuthin' but love so I'd say my hometown base is strong.
EMGWorld: What would you say it takes for New York to really own hip-hop again the way it did in the 90's?
DE: [Unity]. If you think about it, all of those artists down South either now or at some point were all cool. Like they all worked with each other and came together as one. In New York, everybody do they own thing. There's not a lot of collabing. I feel like there's alot more individuals in New York that's just trying to do them. They not really supporting or pushing other people. I think that has alot to do with it. New York just needs to go HARDER. We got alot of fire that just needs to be heard. I'm not knocking the people in New York that are being heard, but that's not all New York has to offer. A lot of these dudes just not being heard.
EMGWorld: Are you also performing heavily at shows and showcases?
DE: Definitely. I headlined a show at North Carolina A&T out in North Carolina. I'm doing a show in the Bronx on April 18th. I also performed at Webster Hall. Just a bunch of different places out here in Brooklyn. I'm definitely getting out there this Summer and doing shows because the music is out there.
EMGWorld: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
DE: Those artists from the 90's. Biggie, 2Pac, Big L, Big Pun, Raekwon, Nas, The Firm, etc. I was a huge fan of Mase and Cam'ron, especially with them being from Harlem. Just that whole 90's era really made me fall in love with hip-hop because I could relate to all of those artists.
EMGWorld: The song P.O.E.T definitely has that ol' school vibe to it. Nobody's ever flipped that "Make It Last" sample by Con Funkshon quite like you. What gave you the idea to craft that track together?
DE: It's crazy you mentioned that record because P.O.E.T is probably my favorite song on the Don't Sleep mixtape. I grew up around nothing but music. My parents played a lot of ol' school music like Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire so I got an older soul for someone that's just 23. As soon as I heard the Con Funkshon sample I knew that was my sound. I consider myself an "old soul with a breath of fresh air."
"Just that whole 90's era really made me fall in love with hip-hop because I could relate to all of those artists." - Dave East, EMGWorld's 'Industry Ready'
EMGWorld: Which producers out there are you working with?
DE: I have a good three or four producers that all have my sound, but they all sound different. SkipOnDaBeat, whose from Chicago. My boy Max Dollas, whose from D.C. There's also E. Jones, whose out in North Carolina. E. Jones is apart of 9th Wonder's production team. I'm really proud of the sound we're creating with the music.
EMGWorld: What radio stations have shown love to your music?
DE: Alot so far. The Sirius Satellite stations definitely show a lot of love. You can catch me on Shade 45 every week on the DJ Kay Slay show. Shout out to DJ Radio, who plays my music every Wednesday and Sunday. Shout out to DJ Skee, who spins my music on Hip-Hop Nation. There's a few smaller radio stations out there showing support down in Florida and DC. A station in Chicago also played one of my records. So the buzz has definitely been picking up.
EMGWorld: Have any major labels taken notice of the movement you’ve created off of your mixtape releases?
DE: I've spoken to a few, but I don't really want to get into the exact names. They're talking to me but nothing is in stone. Having them reach out let's me know they're noticing my progress. I think its a good look especially since I've only been doing this for such a short period of time and without a major cosigner.
EMGWorld: Creating exposure and promotions are now left heavily on the shoulders of the artist. Would you say a major label could offer more than what you’re already doing as a company?
DE: A label can offer the real exposure. They help you get out there the way you need to be out. Everything I'm doing is through me and my homeboys. We're on the street doing what we're doing. When a [major] label is behind you there really putting you in the light so everything you're doing can be seen and backed in the right way. You're in a position to open up shows and things. The opportunities to do features are right there because you're bumping elbows with artists who might be on the label. Those artists might be more EAGER to work with you knowing you have a major label behind you.
EMGWorld: Very few acts are able to make noise in a major way without having a co-signer. Kanye co-signed for Big Sean. Lil Wayne co-signed for Nicki Minaj. How does this affect your grind as an independent artist?
DE: It keeps me hungry and on my game everyday because I see that I can do the same things without a co-signer. It makes me grind even HARDER knowing that I don't have a Lil' Wayne or a Kanye out here saying, "Dave East is the next up."
EMGWorld: What's your main focus as an independent artist knowing you don't have that major artist giving you that stamp of approval or co-signing your music?
DE: I don't have that co-signer now so it makes me focus on my own sound and creating my fan base on my own. I'm focused on creating and keeping my fan base because that co-sign only lasts so long. Wayne and Kanye might co-sign them, but those artists still have to put out records and do their own thing. Me coming out the gate without that co-sign makes me a lil hungrier and focused on my own sound.
EMGWorld: What would you say is the biggest challenge of being an independent artist?
DE: The hardest part of being independent is that its harder to get your music out there when you don't have that major label or co-signer. I can't just call up 2Chainz or someone else out there that's hot right now to do a feature. I can't reach out to people that'll really make [my] stuff take off. I have to work from the ground up and work with what I got. I feel like that's the hardest challenge of being independent. You're coming from the BOTTOM so you're dealing with other people that's at the bottom. You have to figure out who to deal with and not to deal with.
EMGWorld: What would you say you’re bringing to the table that other mainstream artists aren’t?
DE: I'd say that I'm not basing what I'm doing off of what the industry thinks is hot right now. I'm not that type of dude that's just following a formula, like if strip club songs are the songs to make right now. I speak on what I live everyday or what my homie or family is living through. I'm speaking for people that are around me. I feel like I'm bringing a sound that ain't been around for awhile.
EMGWorld: So you'd say you're re-introducing a sound back to the music world?
DE: [Yeah] I'd say I'm bringing back something. I don't want to compare myself to any artist from the 90's because they are all legends in hip-hop, but I feel like I'm bringing that same energy. I'm actually talking about something in my lyrics. Like you can actually 'REWIND' me. Alot of these dudes you'll listen to their record and want to go straight to the hook. I'm into the punch lines and making you think. I'm into that because I grew up on Jay-Z, Nas and all of those clever type artists who made you think. I'd say I'm bringing that back to hip-hop.
EMGWorld: Is there any one artist outside of your camp that you would like to collaborate on a track with?
DE: Personally, I'd have to say Style P or Jadakiss. One of those two. Just because I know how that track would go. The track would be CRAZY! There's a lot of artists that I would work with, but if I could choose it would definitely be one of those two. Like if I could, I'd call them up right now and say let's hit the studio.
EMGWorld: What inspired the concept behind your video for "Take a Flight?"
DE: Just the beat. Shout out to my producer SkipOnDaBeat from Chicago, who sent me that beat. The beat just had that feel to it. I went out to California to do some recording and I got that same vibe at the airport. I wrote the song on the flight going out to Cali. That's why I named it 'Take a Flight.' I linked up with my man GRIZZ LEE, who shot the video. He came up with a lot of the ideas for it.
"My parents played a lot of ol' school music like Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire so I got an older soul for someone that's just 23." - Dave East, EMGWorld's 'Industry Ready'
EMGWorld: What advice would you give to another independent artist out there who wants to make music but has yet to do it?
DE: I feel like the music making just has to be in you. Like a lot of people might say "Yo I'm bout to start rapping." You have to take it serious and make your stuff nice, just like you would at anything else.
EMGWorld: How can producers out there send beats to you?
EMGWorld: Where can fans connect with you?
Be on the lookout for the Summer release of Dave East's new mixtape 'No Regrets' on iTunes.
"I'm not knocking the people in New York that are being heard, but that's not all New York has to offer." - Dave East, EMGWorld's 'Industry Ready'