Hip-Hop Wired: Your Twitter account was verified not too long ago. Who is Dave East today, compared to say 5 years ago?
Dave East: A totally different person. I’m just more mature. Five years ago, I was a basketball player, on a college program in school, playing ball. I was a totally different person.
Hip-Hop Wired: Oh, word.
Dave East: Yea, just in the last five years, I’ve been through so much leading up to this point, it’s been like a movie. I’m the same, but I’ve grown so much.
Hip-Hop Wired: Who were you playing ball for?
Dave East: I went to the University of Richmond in Virginia for a year, then I came back to New York and transferred to Calstone in Baltimore.
Hip-Hop Wired: Ah, that explains the twang.
Dave East: Yea, yea [laughs].
Hip-Hop Wired: Are you signed to a major label?
Dave East: Nope.
Hip-Hop Wired: Do you want to be signed to a major label?
Dave East: Honestly, if it makes sense for me, then yea. If they see my vision, what my team is trying to do, what I’m actually trying to portray and put out, then I’m all for it. The machine wouldn’t hurt. But, if I can’t get somebody that can see my vision and still let me keep my creative process, than I don’t really want to do that.
Hip-Hop Wired: The Black Rose listening was thoroughly solid. You were so passionate about the music. Which song on the tape means the most to you and why?
Dave East: “Around Here,” produced by Sunny Dukes and “Free Charlie,” produced by Marvino Beats. Those two records really hit home. I had two of my closest family members, both incarcerated in the same month this year. One was sentence to seven years, while the other to five. And these were people I was around everyday, did everything with. We slept in the same place, shared clothes, all of that. Those two records really hit home with me. I wouldn’t have been able to put out Black Rose if those two individuals hadn’t been with me throughout so much of it. They were heavily involved. They’re not rappers, but they do what they do in the streets. And, unfortunately, they got caught up right before the tape came out. But I keep in touch, we talk a lot. I’ve been able to tell them about the tape and how the streets is receiving it, the feedback and cosigns I’m getting from it.
Hip-Hop Wired: That’s awesome, man… What’s the concept behind the title Black Rose?
Dave East: The name came from where I’m from. Coming from East Harlem, that’s the hood over there. That’s not 42nd Street. It’s different over there. I feel like I’m a rose coming from within a dark environment, a black cloud if you will.
Every city, every state, there’s a hood. The street games, the dope, the shootouts, the fights, the murders, that friend going to jail –– that’s not just a East Harlem story, that’s a worldwide, something everyone can relate to type thing. Even kids just trying to get out the hood and go to college, get away from things that the average kid in suburban, America don’t got to go through. That’s what inspired the title.
Hip-Hop Wired: What does it mean to be from Harlem? Do you feel like you’re carrying the torch for the native MCs who came before you?
Dave East: Definitely. It’s a honor to come from the same streets that Malcolm X walked on. During that whole Black, Harlem Renaissance, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday era –– not even getting into the rap artists we’re used to. But those people walked the same streets, they came through them same blocks. That energy itself is crazy. But to say that I can carry on the torch for Big L, Cam’ron or Jim Jones –– what they did for Harlem, I hold near and dear to my heart. I definitely feel honored for you to even have that as a question for me.
It’s super dope that I can touch on it. I got family members that were involved with some of those people in the Renaissance. My father was going to meetings involved. All of that is already embedded in me, so it’s just dope that people can finally check out what I have to say.