The king of storytelling rap makes his album debut with “Survival.”
HONORABLE MENTION. THEY WANNA KILL YOU Every single rapper needs to have a song produced by DJ Premier in their catalog; for Dave East, “They Wanna Kill You” is his. “They Wanna Kill You” is so f**king mean, you would think it was a Nigerian mother (Relax, I’m Nigerian, I’m just joking)! For starters, the track is powered by this hard-hitting/old-school instrumental that never lets up in street vibes (Kudos to DJ Premier). Over this instrumental, Dave raps effortlessly about his come-up, love for money, and success as a drug-dealer. On some real s**t, I love the tenacity Dave raps with on this song. Not only does he hurl out his bars feverishly on his verses to it, but his lyrical content comes across as both riveting and frank, too.
5. WHAT’S GOIN ON
“What’s Goin On” feels like a track you would hear on Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” album. Not only does it feature this mafioso-like instrumental that oozes of trumpet-play, but on the song, you also get a soulful hook by the same random ass R&B singer from “Feelin’ It” (S**t, I’m guessing that’s her).
Dave East and Fabolous trade verses on “What’s Goin On,” each spewing out street-certified rhetoric about bossing up, selling drugs, f**king with groupies that are nosy, and living life lavishly. While Dave relies on this muddy style of rapping on his verse, Fab swags his way to the finish line on his, effortlessly dishing out punchlines and double entendres like they were can goods.
Can we please stop sleeping on Fabolous? That n***a is way too nice!
“Penthouse” is one of those smooth tracks that features a melodic, yet carefree hook by a R&B singer (J. Black), and grungy bars by a n***a that really gets it in rapping-wise (Dave East).
“Penthouse” is definitely a celebratory track, as on it, Dave talks about basking in all of the things fame has brought him these last couple of years:
Projects to the penthouse (Penthouse)
Success what we been ’bout (Uh)
We just tryna win now (Win)
[?] in back of that Benz now (Uh)
Let’s play ball if we spin out (Play ball)
You fall, see what your friends ’bout (Uh)
Stand tall and poke your chin out
Drink ’til it’s Cris’ you piss out
I feel the vibes, they pissed now (Pissed)
It’s lobster, steak, and shrimp now (Woo)
You know what I love about “Penthouse?” It’s so f**king easygoing! Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if both J and Dave were sitting down with a group of bad b*tches around them while they were laying down their verses to the song.
“Baby” probably won’t get much love from folks, but in my opinion, the track is hotter than fish grease! On it, Dave East gushes over this chick he’s f**king with that has a bangin’ ass body, loyal mentality, and freaky habits.
What I love about “Baby” is that it has a soulful hook, a vibrant instrumental, and bars by Dave that are as relentless as a hungry n***a from the hood that wants a chicken sandwich to eat for lunch.
If Dave East were to tell me that “OG” was made on a beach somewhere in Cabo, I would believe it! With the track being powered by this silky smooth instrumental, East, The Dream and Rick Ross get sleekly devious, rapping/singing about pleasing a woman that is taken, spending money brainlessly, and embracing a hood rich lifestyle.
I know this sounds weird, but something about “OG” sounds exclusive as s**t, to me. It almost feels like those with bookoo money are the only ones that can relate to it… Well, I don’t have bookoo money, so I felt slightly left out listening to it.
1. THE MARATHON CONTINUES
“The Marathon Continues” is a heartwarming tribute to Nipsey Hussle. On it, Dave East talks about the influence Hussle had on his life, and how it’s hard for him to cope with the nifty businessman’s death. While the track boasts this emotional instrumental that will damn-there evoke tears out of you, Dave raps pretty composed on his verses, piecing his words together masterfully. It’s almost like he finished grieving, and is now ready to truly speak out about the demise of his close friend.
Snoop Dogg has a quick little outro on “The Marathon Continues,” and as expected, what he says on it will pierce through your soul (No need to tell you what he said, just listen to it).
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know Nipsey personally, but his death still bothers the s**t out of me.
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. THEY WANNA KILL YOU (4.5/5)
2. PENTHOUSE (4.5/5)
3. GODFATHER 4 (4/5)
4. NEED A SIGN (4.5/5)
5. ON MY WAY TO SCHOOL (4/5)
6. SEVENTEEN (3.5/5)
7. MAMA I MADE IT (4/5)
8. OG (4.5/5)
9. WHAT’S GOIN ON (4.5/5)
10. BABY (4.5/5)
11. ALONE (4.5/5)
12. EVERYDAY (4/5)
13. DEVIL EYES (3.5/5)
14. NIGHT SHIFT (4/5)
15. WANNA BE A G (3.5/5)
16. ME AND MINES (4.5/5)
17. DADDY KNOWS (4.5/5)
18. WHAT YOU MAD AT (4/5)
19. ON SIGHT (3.5/5)
20. THE MARATHON CONTINUES (5/5)
I’m going to get straight to the point with “Survival:” It’s hot as s**t! Despite it being Dave East’s first official album, he comes across as polished on it, as he blesses us with every kind of hit a rapper is capable of making.
So when I said, “Dave East blessed us with every kind of hit a rapper is capable of making in “Survival,” what did I mean by that? Well, throughout the album, you get old school tracks like “They Wanna Kill You,” mafioso tracks like “What’s Goin’ On,” trap tracks like “Everyday,” mushy tracks like “Alone,” and soulful tracks like “Need A Sign.” Amazingly, Dave East never changes who he is on any of the tracks I just mentioned; instead, he comes across as the same ole hood n***a he’s been from day 1.
You know what I love about Dave East? Musically, he stays in his pocket. Throughout “Survival,” Dave raps hard, not gimmicky. That doesn’t mean he’s boring or uninteresting on the album, what that means is he rather woo you with his words than entertain you with his vocals.
Dave East might be the solidest rapper in the game right now. In “Survival,” his punchlines are solid (They are really clever, but not as clever as Fabolous’ punchlines), his lyrics are solid (They are riveting, but not as riveting as Meek Mill’s lyrics), his aurora on the mic is solid (He’s flamboyant, but not as flamboyant as Da Baby is on the mic), and his wordplay is solid (His wordplay is impressive, but not as impressive as Eminem’s wordplay is). I know, you think I’m being a harsh critic of Dave East, but in reality, for a rapper to be able to be solid in each department I mentioned is actually rare. Think about it, we don’t call Fabolous riveting lyrically, Meek Mill clever when it comes to punchlines, DaBaby great when it comes to wordplay, or Big Sean flamboyant, right? (Dave East is solid in every department)
I love the topics Dave East tackles in “Survival!” Not only does he talk about his rough come-up a few times on the album, but he also talks about how much influence his parents had on him growing up, his street ties, his current luxurious living conditions, and his love for all kinds of trifling women. As I stated earlier, Dave touches on each topic I mentioned with the same mentality — one that is brash, raw, and at times, troublesome.
The production on “Survival” is outstanding! I enjoyed everything from the old school Illmatic-like beats to the new school trap beats. I can tell when it came to picking out instrumentals, Dave only wanted s**t that had a shot at touching every part of a listener’s soul.
Though Dave East had a lot of f**king features on “Survival,” I enjoyed nearly every one of them! To be more specific, I thought Nas played a great big brother to Dave on “Godfather IV,” The Dream and Rick Ross made “OG” sound like a legendary song, Jacquees put up a phenomenal singing performance on “Alone,” and Fabolous had an excellent verse on “What’s Goin’ On.” I also thought Gunna and Lil Baby added some well-needed trap flavor to their respective songs, while E-40 and Mozzy brought authentic bay area vibes to “Devil Eyes.”
There were so many songs I thought were fire on “Survival,” I can see the top 5 songs I picked up top changing every week. It’s evident that Dave East put his blood, sweat and tears into this album, because every bar/beat/feature/sentiment you hear on it sounds high-quality and meaningful. I know, you have your all-time favorite rap albums already set in stone, but just for me, try to at least give this one a shot at knocking off one of the albums you think are sacred (Ps. This album reminds me of “The Documentary” by The Game; in album I think is sacred).
Quincy is the creator of Ratings Game Music. He loves writing about music, taking long walks on beaches, and spaghetti that fights him back.