On Wednesday night (Jan. 25), Dave East brought his Harlem sensibilities to Atlanta’s Vinyl at Centerstage. Initially, he was slated to perform more than a month ago in the same venue but the show was cancelled. As soon as the show was off the venue calendar, Atlantans -- both natives and transplants -- started speculating.
People wondered if maybe the promoters feared low ticket sales. Maybe people in Atlanta wouldn’t find East’s rap style palatable enough to leave their homes mid-week. The show was eventually rescheduled of course and judging from the crowd outside of Vinyl Wednesday evening, the Mass Appeal MC is a lot more popular in the south than many were giving him credit for.
“If you don’t have a ticket and your name is not on will-call, you might as well go on home,” said one burly security guard. “I’m telling you now, so you don’t waste your time.” Concertgoers rushed, pulsing against the door. Men pushed passed petite women to catch the threshold. “See?,” said one man in the rear. “That’s how you know these people from New York. If they have tickets they’re good, but they’re still rushing. Ain’t got no patience...” The show was sold-out and some ticket-less fans that had made their way indoors were motioned to head out by the assigned police officer at the door.
Still, despite the commotion outside, the mood was light before East came out onstage. Atlanta-based Fort Knox kept the energy spirited between acts and openers Money Makin’ Nique and Johnny Cinco solidified the tone -- there would be bars dropped onstage that evening.
“Who’s in the house tonight? Is Atlanta in this muhfucka?,” Nique queried. There was a light response. “Is New York City in this muhfucka?” Of course the crowd erupted.
Not long after, East strolled out to jump into his set with the lead track on the Kairi Chanel album, “It Was Written.” His embroidered hoodie sloped over his forehead, swaying side to side as he bobbed onstage. “It was written / I’m gifted homie / Come learn something...” A select few in the front row received handshakes, but East was a man on a mission with light conversation between tracks.
“Oh, that’s me on that shirt? That’s fire...”
One young woman had her arm outstretched for a while before the rapper noticed and grabbed her hand for half a second. She shrieked. East never broke his stride, swiftly and effectively moving along. He weaved between Kairi cuts like “30 Niggaz” and “Don Pablo” to mixtape gems like his verse on Meek Mill’s “Slippin’,” and one from Fabolous’ “Summertime/Sadness.” The crowd managed to keep up with it all. There was a pop-up freestyle a capella in the middle of his set. “Ayo East! Chill...,” one man shouted gleefully from one corner of the venue.
Next, the rapper removed his shades and asked that the lights be turned off so he could dedicate his track,“Numb” to his late cousin. “Malik Carter. He the person that pushed me to start rapping and he ain’t really get to see none of this shit,” he shared, pacing back and forth. “Freaky, I miss you. You see what your boy doing ‘round this muhfucka?” He pushed through the tribute track and a little more playful conversation edged out.
“Aiight, nuff of this... Nuff of this sad shit. I need these lights back on ‘cause I’m looking for this bitch, right?” Concertgoers cried out from different sides of Vinyl. “Keshia!” “Y’all seen the video so y’all know how she look. I heard she came down south...” To the delight of his fans, East wasted no time delving into the now-familiar story: “She from Jamaica, Queens, only came to Harlem to shop / Her mother got a divorce and her father a cop...”
There was one final freestyle where he spoke on hate, envy, and visions of calling his former coach to brag about his current success. “ATL, they call me Dave East / Lately I been in suede seats...” That shine has the newcomer glowing on stage: even-tempered and reserved with a slight sense of humor, performing with the skills of an OG.