Dave East, aka David Brewster, Jr. isn’t moving sideways — he’s moving north, straight to the top.

He is a 29-year-old father with a work ethic that can only be assembled in a man who knows any day could be his daughter’s last. After an impressive record in the fall of last year, many thought Paranoia: A True Story was a measure of East’s ceiling. Smothered in soul and jazz influences, P2 — or Paranoia 2 — returns the spotlight to the talent embedded in the East Coast.

It’s not New York music if it doesn’t divide you into one of two groups: the ones who hear the music and want to drop everything and head to NYC and the ones who remember why they wouldn’t last a day in the city.

East’s ability to tell a story makes him superior to most artists. Rappers are always expected to showcase the bars that energize a crowd, or mumble over a beat that carries the artists’ workload at a concert. East raps for himself, not the DJ on the radio.

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East has tales to tell about close friends, like “Corey.” The outgoing ad-lib gives us a sense of what the rapper deals with among his peers and friends while his status in the music industry continues to rise. “Temptations calling your name will turn you to David Ruffin.” The ex-friend referred to as “Corey” views Dave in the same light as the “Temptations” saw “David Ruffin” – egoistic.

The reality is Dave is simply chasing his passions in his life. Corey’s inability to follow his own passions and witnessing someone close to him achieve that success ultimately propagates his envy. 

The slick delivery doesn’t falter when the second half of the album goes for a grittier gravitas. The Atlanta icon T.I. changes his flow for a calm, rapid delivery of unoriginal references to his distaste of certain women on the degrading track “Annoying.”

East goes in to experiences with women that left him controlling his anger. “Saved her number under ‘Man-eater’ and I ain’t get her from the ‘Gram neither.” East may be wary of social media, but he is still an introvert. The East Coast rapper analyzes his interactions among those in his personal life at such a high level, that he can translate his own visual depictions to lyrics the common man can comprehend.

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When a legend remerges as a feature, I always ensure I give it the attention it was designed to secure. Lloyd Banks crawled back into the studio with an eyebrow-raising series of cadences on the second verse of “Violent.” Alas, the beat is from DMX’s rejected instrumentals collection, making this a song unworthy of your attention until Lloyd rasps with less than a minute left of the nearly four minute song. “Keep up being competitive now it feels like the effort’s gone, you should know I got a star in the ghetto, watch what you stepping on.”

Bars like those frustrate listeners like myself, as they could be better enjoyed over a beat that doesn’t sound so robotic and childish. Had the mature and professional nature of the first dozen songs been in the background for Lloyd, the song might be attracting more ears.

You have to recognize what is at stake in the rap game. Sheer popularity creates a saturation in the genre. Artists that work under the original standards of being understood and sending a message are at odds with those who are appeasing prepubescent teens with simple taste.

Dave East isn’t the last of a dying breed, but he is in a herd of endangered species. P2 may not have one individual song that blows you away, but the journey will leave you with your jaw descended. 

Rating: 4/5