The NYC rapper continues his run as one of the most underrated and underappreciated lyricists in the game, handing his cult following another project that does more than satisfy.

Dave East feels like a throwback artist, someone you’d expect as one of the front men of Bad Boy Records or going bar for bar with NY legends like Nas and Jay Z. But for that exact reason, Dave East feels like the chosen one from NYC. Unlike the “next big” artist from the east coast, whom seemingly went without any cosigns, Dave East has been championed by legends from New York such as Nas all the way to rubbing shoulders with and making records with long beach legend Snoop Dogg, the doggfather of rap.

As we are in the midst of the social media era of rap, East feels like he has succeeded despite social media. Dave East seems as if he is the chosen one by the OG’s and rap purists, but is looked past by the younger generation that seem to gravitate toward more “digestible” music.

Despite all of the barriers that seem to be restraining East from mainstream attention, he seems to be one of the hardest working rappers as he drops his 2nd project in the first half of 2018 with Karma 2, the follow up to his 2017 mixtape Karma. The upcoming project features 19 tracks with production handled by the rising star Murda Beatz, Weezy and The Beat Menace, among others. Guest verses on the tape range from rap legend Fabolous, to newer acts such as BlocBoy JB,Gunna, Lil Durk,Trouble and Don Q.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Dave East raps circles around 95% of rappers today on this 19 track long project. With almost twenty records to showcase his skills as a lyricist, he displays the dark, gritty lyricism and content that is similar to the rap game that comes out of NY. Giving it his own “eastmix” flavour, he adds a new level to the east coast rap scene while still staying true to his roots.

Throughout Karma 2, East shows every layer of his eastmix skill set that makes him the premiere lyricist hailing out of the new generation of NYC rappers, (honorable mention goes to Joey Bada$$). The opening track “NOBU” was the perfect opening to listeners unaware of who he is, mixing his lyrical prowess with a new trap flare. East then shows his top-tier storytelling skills on songs such as “I Dont Understand It” and “Going On”, then bringing a certain level of intensity with “Traumatized”, that is by far the highpoint of the project.

With a long album usually comes plenty of filler, while it can sometimes be highly effective other times it takes away from the strong points of an album. As much as East seemingly loves long tracklists (excluding his EP Black Rose, his usual range is from 13-24 tracks), I feel as if the album could have been more effective and fluid with a shorter tracklist.

Karma 2 is a collection of songs that were directly made for throwback rap fans. East carries a certain level of bravado in his voice that paints a picture as if he was in the basement of his boy’s crib spitting these bars and using his platform as his street mans diary. But what comes with the territory of making music solely for the streets, is that as a project it shows little to no potential of commercial success, but it’s clear that’s the furthest thing East had in mind mixing this project up.

After multiple listens, one thing is for sure, East knows where he succeeds as an artists and he is adamant on not testing or pushing his boundaries. This in itself is a blessing and a curse, as a 19 track long project that seemingly uses the same BPM, flow, voice, on every track gets stale but is by no means a poor outing. East seems to be pressed against the barrier keeping him from superstardom, wondering and clamoring why he hasn’t broken the proverbial glass ceiling. East would undoubtedly be a star in a previous era of hiphop, but in today’s state of rap we have artists that are more than willing to be experimental in their efforts . It’s borderline impossible for a rapper to be extremely “safe” in their records and pop as a headliner/face of the genre. Whether we like it or not, when we look up and see the artists at the top of the food chain such as Kendrick, J Cole, Kanye West and Drake, some of these artist may not be the most lyrical but they are by far the most versatile artist in the game. Someone that Dave East’s career projectory seems to be trending towards is another New York MC in Jadakiss. Both artist have extremely unique voices, can bar a song to death, but both seem all too comfortable in their pocket. In no way am I saying that being Jadakiss is a bad thing, but Dave East has a special ingredient that not a lot of pure MC’s have – charisma.

Karma 2 does exactly what it needed to do, feed East’s cult following with another project and as a fan of East, this will definitely be in my rotation. But as an analyst and ordered to be an unbias opinion, the project does have it’s flaws. Karma 2, more than any of his projects since signing to Def Jam show that Dave East is one-dimensional as an artist (note: not as an MC), and I could see how this project could alienate rap fans looking for another MC to rock with.

Grade: 6/10

Best Tracks: Nobu, I Don’t Understand It, Going On, Traumatized.

Wost Tracks: Us,Highly Anticipated, This Summer.

Ananth Para
paramana@mcmaster.ca

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