This post marks the second and final leg of my get familiar with Dave East mission [btw, th’fuck happened to Clinton Sparks?!]. The first stop, his Straight Outta Harlem mixtape, had some high points but was so unfocused that it ended up getting a mediocre score. Now, with about a year’s worth of added experience, let’s see how Dave did on his latest mixtape, Hate Me Now…
Welp, it’s better, at least. It feels like Dave is settling into a style, so there are fewer weird experiments like that horrible 24 Hours song from his last tape. Unfortunately, Dave’s chosen style is decidedly average New York drug rap. While he’s a pretty good rapper, his skills aren’t so spectacular that they can elevate this tired style into anything interesting. The rhymes aren’t focused on any story or specific topic, nor do they have any lyricism worth writing home about. Dave actually has an interesting life story, having started with dreams of playing basketball professionally but moving on to drugs then hip-hop after being kicked out of Towson University (which is in the Baltimore area, small world huh?) But instead of communicating that story, he focuses on drugs for almost all of these 20 tracks.
This being a Gangsta Grillz mixtape, complete with the random shoutings from DJ Drama, that topical focus makes sense, but it makes for a really monotonous mixtape. As you might guess, the most interesting songs are the ones about the other parts of Dave’s life, but these songs are very few and even they leave a lot to be desired. Give it To Her is about wanting a woman that everyone else wants, but it lacks a cohesive story and Rico Love’s hook is nowhere near as compelling as his other work, especially his feature on Big KRIT’s Pay Attention.
Forbes List is an inventory of Dave’s dreams of success, but his stale list-rapping is completely manhandled by Nas’ featured verse, which doesn’t say much more but is written with the lyrical flourishes necessary to make such an overdone theme listenable.
This all may be disappointing, but at least it makes sense, given my theory that Dave may not really care about being a great rapper. What’s perplexing are songs like It’s Time, where Dave seizes a repeat-myself-on-every-fucking-line while using autotune style straight from The South, and makes it sound even worse than usual:
I hit me a lick (hit me a lick)
Went straight to the bando (straight to the bando)
It’s lit like a candle (lit like a candle)
Let you and your man know (you and your man know)
A New York rapper saying “bando” feels weird to me, but the dogged simplicity of these rhymes and the verses they come from are what really makes my brain melt. It’s like Dave shut his skills completely down for this failed experiment.
A few songs like KD and I Can’t Complain mostly work, even with the latter’s characteristically meh Pusha T verse, but they aren’t nearly good enough to make Hate Me Now at all recommendable. Maybe Dave is saving all his compelling music for his real album, but I’m becoming more and more certain that he doesn’t have any to give.