Reviewed by Thomas Herron
A lot of rappers, including J. Cole and Logic, among others, have cited a Nas cosign as a turning point in their career. A Nas cosign has gained reputability in that he rarely has endorsed an average artist. Well Dave East got more than an endorsement and represents Nas’s own label, Mass Appeal Records.
East is a Harlem native and his music focuses on his storytelling ability and street life, in the mold of rappers like the LOX, Pusha T and Biggie himself.
Though it seems only the extremely passionate rap heads are into Dave East despite a feature as an XXL Freshman, his content has a versatility that reflects all of the modern subgenres of hip hop.
East’s 11th mixtape, Karma 2 sequels his album Karma dropped in 2017, and it seems the rapper picks up right where he left off on the DJ Holiday produced project.
Despite the length of the album, at an astonishing 19 songs during a time where short albums seem to be the direction of the industry, East delivers an extremely cohesive LP where the sound of each track builds off the one before it.
East and Holiday compliment each other well throughout the entire project as the simple gritty production can match East’s street storytelling style, though the production varies in a beautiful construction where some songs feed off of the beat. It feels as much a DJ Holiday album as it does a Dave East because the two feed off of each other, with some tracks sounding like Holiday produced a beat to compliment East’s flow such as “No Stylist,” and other times East manipulates his flow to match intensive production on songs like “Nobu.”
East has the rare ability to provide quality content with depth despite his OG style, providing a story of his own life yet still offering relativity to listeners who are unfamiliar with East’s past lifestyle all while mastering a complete and original sound, such as on “Day Dreamin” featuring Floyd Miles and “Levelin Up” featuring an impressive Fabolous verse in which he using a number of basketball references to fit into the thesis of his verse.
“Imagine” is a great example of East’s originality and individualized pride, opening with “I ain’t tryna rhyme like Nas and I don’t rhyme like Jigga, and they know that.”
East has the versatility to keep his content the same but in doing so offers a complete picture of street life, with hard-hitting bangers like “Traumatized,” flow-centric tracks that reflect the origin of the energy East puts into his music like “Highly Anticipated,” as well as more relaxed beats focusing on his storytelling like on “Day Dreamin.”
Holiday’s production and East’s verses are at their best on “I Dont Understand It,” producing an original sounding track through the use of a sort of electric sounding production to compliment East’s lyrical ability.
The only weaknesses on the album are far from detrimental but evident. Though the album is cohesive, 19 songs simply makes it hard to filter through. East walks the line between cohesive and repetitive on this project and that can be dangerous as some listeners won’t look for the differences between tracks so closely and at first listen, some tracks could easily be cut.
Though it may be a cliche, artists who make music about life and stay true to themselves and their roots are the only ones that have any sort of staying power and long-term relevance, and East proves he’s figured that out on this album where his focus is to tell his own stories while making an attention grabbing and pleasant sound.