PAUSE Meets: Dave East

By November 11, 2019Featured, Features, Music

Dave East

Talks music, style and legacy.

Project Coordinator and Editor: Rhys Marcus Jay // @rhysmarcusjay
Photographer: Zekaria Al-Bolstani // @zek.snaps
Assistant Photographer: Nicholas // @nickm2m
BTS Photographer: Karan Teli // @karanteli24
Videographer: Noah Sapon // @nwuh
Interviewer: Lynn Moyo // @meliimoet
Talent: Dave East // @daveeast

Rising from Harlem…

Hailing from Harlem in NYC, Dave East’s exposure to power of good style was an early one. A decade or so later, a five thousand strong trainer collection and a penchant for donning a drip ensemble – the sartorial flair has clearly rubbed off. From his first EP Change of Plans to cosigning with Nas, the rise has been one of talent fueled by hard graft – what’s next? PAUSE sat down with Dave for a catch up.

Jacket: 3 Paradis

Welcome to London. I hear this is your first time in the city. How are you finding it so far?

I love it. It’s the only city I’ve been to that reminds me of New York.

Really? What about London reminds you of New York?

Just the vibe, people sleeping on the streets. It just gives me that Manhattan feeling. A lot of places you got to, they feel foreign, like out of here, with the accent and all of that, you know you’re foreign but as far as the vibe it feels and looks like an older city. Like in New York, you get an old city vibe like the shit has been here forever and London feels like it’s been here forever.

How has travelling affected your music? You’re here in London now, but you were just in Switzerland for a festival before coming here.

Yeah I had a festival out there, but I’ve actually got my first tour, 12 dates, in December. First stop is London then Dubai, Portugal, a few places that I’ve never been before so I’m looking forward to that. But it was good to come here now to kind of peep it already so I’ll have more to look forward to when I come back.

Obviously you’ve doing shows in the US, and just played a festival in Switzerland. What’s your favourite song to perform on stage?

Favourite song to perform? Probably Powder, a song where I talk about my daughter and just where my life is at now, just certain things I can’t do no more and stuff like that. Powder is on Paranoia 2.

And on the next album?

No that’s my mixtape, the next album is Survival. That’s my debut album that’s about to come, all those other shits is EP’s. People just say oh that’s his album but they’re just EP’s.

You’ve always said there’s a story behind everything you do. And personally, for me, I think you’re one the last great storytellers in rap music currently. Do you think the art of storytelling is still as prevalent as it once was before, or are we just past that now and people don’t really want to hear it anymore?

Well that depends on who you’re talking to. I feel like each era and each generation had its turn up music and it’s real music. Even in the 90s but people just don’t mention it, like ONYX wasn’t no super lyricist, they was loud and you’ve got that now. You’ve got dudes who just make turn up music, and usually, that’s just aggressive or full of energy.

My favourite shit was always Biggie, always Styles P, always Big Pun, Jay, Nas, like the dudes that was telling the story so when it came down to me saying I was going to be a rapper, once I decided that I was going to do this rap shit I said I could either chase the trends or the waves of what was going on each year, and I’ll be out here a chicken with my head cut off or I could talk about my own life in ways in that all the greats talked about they lives. And that’s what made me get more into the story. Because mad real shit happened in my life that I feel like it’s also happened to other people in other cities or countries, you know what I’m saying? Because just because you’re from somewhere else doesn’t mean you’re not going through the exact same thing, so I said, you know what if I can make it little more personal and make it a little more about me then more people probably going to relate to it.

Coat: Astrid Anderson, Joggers: Cole Buxton, Trainers: Nike

(cont.) It might not be a number one radio record or it might not be the one that gets me super larger than life but the ones that feel it, they gon’ always feel it. Their gonna tattoo it, and all that type of shit you know, so that’s the lane I chose, to be unique and talk about me and mines, and what’s going on in my life and try to mirror it. You know, I was inspired by all those dudes I just mentioned, so any bits and pieces of what they did, anything I could learn from them, to be relevant and still be strong in my career.

They’re legends.

Yeah, they’ve been in the game for twenty plus years man, that don’t happen everyday. You get a lot of people who come out and get hot for like three-four years, then you don’t ever hear from then again, you don’t see them no more or nothing, you just hope made they made their money but I want to be around for a minute.

The work I’ve put, I don’t feel like it was worth three to five years of relevancy. Like Nah, I went through too much bullshit to get to where I’m at for this to burn out quickly, so it’s like I got to be able to keep my product sharp.

Having mentioned those New York greats, Biggie, Pun, Nas and Hov, as well as being a New Yorker yourself, do you believe, like the popular saying, that New York is the place where dreams are made?

I think dreams are made everywhere man, it’s just up to you and your mind because you could come to New York and them dreams can go wrong, quick. I feel like it’s definitely a place that if you’re on your shit, like if you’re about it and you aspire anything, fashion, music or whatever it may be, New York has it. But I feel like it’s probably the same here in London, it’s up to the person and how you use your environment to your benefit.

I know a million people that rap in New York, like a million people that are NICE, will out rap a lot of people but it’s like, what do you do different, what have you brought to the table that somebody else from New York hasn’t brought, you know what I’m saying? How are you working these people, like all the labels in the city, how are you working them? Are you showing your face? Are you in the right venues? It’s still about who you know so being in New York I feel like just creates the hustle, you wake up and go outside and everybody is at it, you see motherfuckers all day long on the train, cabs, so it makes you, unless you just a lazy person, it makes you be like okay, let me get on my shit. There’s people outside all night, all morning, by the time I come out the studio at 6 or 7 in the morning the city is already packed. It’s busy so that just becomes my fuel.

Because it’s so busy?

Yes. Because there’s some places you go and you just instantly get into a relaxed mood. Like when I go to LA or I go to Miami, soon as I get there I feel like i’m on vacation, even though I might be working and have things to do, the place just gives you a vacay feel. But when i’m home in New York, I’m nah, we gotta get to it. I’m always getting to it, so I feel like that’s what New York does.

I wouldn’t call it the place of dreams, I feel like wherever you’re dreaming at, you should make it work there. You know what I mean, because in New York there’s alot of obstacles there too. As much as it’s good, it’s hard. It’s cold in New York and if you aint prepared for that cold then you can’t be outside. New York is somewhere that’ll focus you up and focus you up quick.

Speaking of getting to work. Album coming out soon? How’s that process going?

Yup, Survival man, I just turnt it in, Def Jam got so it’s ready to go. I started recording about a year ago, I started about September last year, well I started getting in the zone of it, like choosing beats, choosing topics. Me and my A&R Stevo, we was going back and forth on album titles but maybe around the end of December, top of January we agreed on Survival.

What made you land on that title?

It’s my life man, I feel like, I’m 31 and a lot of my friends never seen 30 or they spent 30 in a jail cell so I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing. Surviving through it all, the good the bad, whatever, it’s been a survival. I feel like the average person could relate to that, that dude that’s got to get up and get to work every day, in his mind, he’s surviving, he’s doing what he’s got to do to survive. A mum taking care of her kids by herself, she’s doing what she’s got to do to survive so I just thought it was like a life stamp of a name, like you know how all the illest albums, got THAT name – Illmatic, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, so I was like I need a name that’s going to stand out, well at least to me. They can take it how they take it but I know what survival means to me, and I feel like everybody has their own survival story so that’s why I named it that.

Hoody: Off White @ Browns Fashion, Jeans: Fiorucci, Trainers: Nike

Moving away from music into fashion. Are you a sneakerhead?

I’m an OD sneakerhead, I buy sneakers every day. I just came from the Nike store.

How many pairs would you say you own?

In total? I don’t know, like, maybe, three to five thousand. I’ve got mad shoes, I be giving shoes away, I give away like a hundred shoes. I go through sneakers. Like right now in my crib I might like between two thousand five hundred to three thousand sneakers.

That’s a lot of shoes man. If you had to wear two pairs of shoes for the rest of your life. What would you get?

For the rest of my life? Two pairs? Ah man. I’d get all-white ones,

You call them up-towns right?

Yeah, up-towns. Either the low or the high, never the mids, we don’t do the mids. And a fresh pair of butta’s, the Timbs. That way I know I’m good in the streets whether it’s hot or it’s cold. With those two shoes for the rest of my life, I don’t need no Jordans, because you can’t wear Jordans with everything, but I can do the all-whites with everything.

Where would you say you get your fashion inspiration?

Me? Harlem. Not no particular person, but Harlem. People you’ve never heard of, people you’ll never see, people that have died and they won’t make no movies about, shit like that. I grew up around dudes that would get up in the morning and go buy they outfit. This is how they start their day, wake up in the morning, leave the house in a wife-beater, ball shorts, socks and sandals and go to the store to cop their fit for the day. Put the clothes, whatever they had on put that shit in a bag, throw that shit away and rock brand new everything, sock, t-shirt, hats then go to the cookout or whatever. Right, then leave whatever event they was at, and go back to the store to get a brand new fit for the night, throw all that other shit away. Everyday.

Okay, that’s crazy.

Yeah, I grew up around that. So I’m fresh at all times, fresh white tee, fresh sneakers. I just have to be crispy. You got a crease in your shit? Your shit scuffed? Throw that shit away, get some new ones, what you doing? Them shits is like $70, get you another pair. Rap just helped me live like that, you know what I’m saying? My mum wasn’t doing that shit, you get one pair of sneakers and you better toothbrush them shits forever. But growing up I was seeing the flyest people, flyest of the fly.

Everyone’s got their favourite outfit that they’ve worn to award shows or events but what’s one outfit that you think back on and think, ‘what was I doing?’

An outfit that I regret wearing? I don’t do bad outfits man, I don’t do bad ones really. Have I ever had a bad outfit? I don’t really do that, everywhere I pull up, I pull up cool. I’m always with drip.

So we know about your music and fashion, but you’re also playing Wu-Tang’s Method Man in an upcoming biopic?

Yeah, the Wu-Tang biopic that’ll be on Hulu on September 4th.

How’s that coming along?

We just wrapped the first season, and that was super fun.

What was it like playing Meth? He’s such an icon and legend in the hip-hop arena.

That was dope. I can’t really describe because I was excited that I’m even going to be portraying this man because I’ve been idolizing Meth forever. He always was the illest to me man out of Wu. I don’t know, it was a process, like the whole acting thing. It’s different to music because of the whole timing thing that goes into it.

You know with that rap everything is in-out, photoshoot in, boom boom boom, and then we’re out but with acting it’s like okay, now do that forty more times, do that thirty more times. So it was just more patience that I had to throw in my repertoire. But it was dope man, to be able to vibe with Meth, to be able to vibe with RZA who was on set like every day and really being able to do my homework on him and them as a group, and really focus in on them.

I was YouTubing old interviews, watching his performances from Source Awards, these awards and that awards, and it really helped me portray it better because Meth was mad vibrant and that’s naturally me. I play all day long, people who know me know I play all day, I have my moods but normally I’m playful, and when you think acting you think you got to be serious, but to portray Meth I had to be me, I had to be silly because that’s how Meth was.

There was a few times in the day where I might have to, you know, get serious, get my Denzel on you know, but other than that it was super dope because we’re so much alike, we’ve got a lot of the same energy and vibe so it wasn’t really like I was trying to portray Jim Carrey or something, I was playing Meth. Not taking anything away from him but it was like oh okay, I’m very familiar with your life, I’m very familiar with your style and lingo and your whole vibe so it just took me having to sit with him and him giving me his blessing, telling me “oh sit like this” or “move like this,” not even that but him telling be you; “I know they gave you this role for a reason don’t just try to be Method Man but be you and just keep me at the back of your mind,” and when I got to sit back and watch it, I had the chin strap, hair napped and all that, they took all the tattoos off, It was dope.

I can’t wait for the world to see it because I feel like that was something I really put the time in and that was real. You got to remember I’m a rapper, I’m not an actor, I mean I act but, you know. But that was a super dope experience, super fun.

Listen To Dave East’s “Survival” Album Now.

Behind the scenes…

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