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Dave East on his bond with Nipsey Hussle, meeting L.A. Crips, Nas, his ‘Karma’ series and more

In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and the crew give a warm welcome to Harlem rapper Dave East, one of the most promising new artists to emerge out of New York City in recent memory.

Dave East and Nipsey Hussle Getty

Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.

In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and the crew give a warm welcome to Harlem rapper Dave East, one of the most promising new artists to emerge out of New York City in recent memory. Spending his formative years on the east side, East’s prodigious skill in basketball earned him roster spots alongside NBA stars like Kevin Durant, Micheal Beasley, and Jeff Green, as well as a basketball scholarship to Towson University. After maxing out his chances at making the NBA himself, East turned his attention to rapping, slowly, but surely earning a buzz with a string of independently released mixtapes.

Catching the attention of Nas and Mass Appeal Records, who inked him to a deal in 2014, the ballplayer turned spitter made a big splash with critically acclaimed projects Hate Me Now and Kairi Chanel, the latter of which marked his debut on Def Jam Records. Since then, East has continued to shine with his Karma mixtape series, a collaborative project with Styles P, and his major label debut album, Survival. With Karma 3 out on Friday (Aug. 14), the MC makes his “Drink Champs” debut and chops it up about his newfound fame, creative process, his bond with Nipsey Hussle, and what’s next in store for him.

To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from Dave East’s “Drink Champs”episode. Take a look at them below.

1. On Removing A Kodak Black Verse From His Album

In 2019, prior to the release of Survival, East revealed that Kodak Black, one of the intended guests on the album, verse was removed from the song “Night Shift” due to remarks Kodak directed towards Lauren London, the girlfriend of late rapper Nipsey Hussle. During his visit with the “Drink Champs,” East explained his reasoning behind the decision. “Honestly, I’m a big fan of Kodak,” East admits. “We did the XXL Freshman cover together... And the record I had him on, I got Lil Baby on it, so they were telling me I was crazy, like, ‘You got both of them on this record?’ But, me and Nip was tight. I’m cool with his brother, all his homies, I got a different relationship with Nip then I had with Kodak. And at the time when I saw it, what he was saying, it just rubbed me the wrong way. I move off morals...”

2. On His History As A Basketball Player

East’s past as a highly touted basketball prospect is well-documented. When asked about navigating between those two worlds, East admits that basketball was his first passion. “With me, it was like B.I.G. said it best, ‘[Either you’re slinging crack rock] or you got a wicked jump shot,’” he explains. “That was the options with me. But, that was my first love... That was my every day, get up in the morning [and play]. I was trying to go with the A with that and it took me to school. I was able to go to college, play with a few players that’s the top dudes right now in the NBA. They’re some of my closest friends, just through ball.”

3. On His Desire To Make Classic Bodies Of Work

While many artists focus on chasing hits, East has taken the opposite approach, crafting well-rounded projects that give you insight into the man behind the art. The Def Jam signee gives his take on the state of rap music and what sets a great artist a part from the rest of the pack. “I feel like that’s what I still listen to,” he says of his own musical preferences. “I just pulled up knocking Life After [Death], that’s what I drove over here listening to. So, I miss that, skits and all that. They don’t do that anymore, all of that is like a lost art. I like to put something on where it feels like you watching a movie. Where if you sit back, roll your weed up or you’re ready to get on the road... It’s a few artists that still do that. YG do that, he’ll bring you to his world. Kendrick do that, he’ll bring you to his.”

4. On Having Nas As A Mentor

According to East, his working relationship with Nas has been filled with more highs than lows, crediting the legend’s priceless advice with helping him navigate through the industry. “To me, it’s easier,” he says of being under Nas’ tutelage. “If you know him, you know Nas is cool, man, and he’s somebody that, he just gives me the game. If I got a question for big bro, he let me know exactly, like, ‘Nah, do that like that,’ and then I can just put that to however I was gonna move and just take his advice. But, it definitely helped s**t I was doing ‘cause the majority of people in hip hop culture that ain’t born in 2015, they’re fans of bro or they grew up to bro. So, that definitely helped me move a lot smoother.”

5. On The Politics Of Bicoastal Gang Culture

An admitted gang member himself, East gives his take on the relations between gangs on each coast and his decision to connect those ties on his own volition. “I feel like it’s up to that set,” he says of the need for gangs on the east coast to be sanctioned by gangs out west. “Like, I’m from Rolling 30s, so I had to go to L.A. and tap in with the actual OGs, the young homies, the girls, everybody. I had to just go over there and let my presence be known ‘cause I couldn’t be in New York or be on these videos throwing up certain s**t or banging certain s**t, and I ain’t went and tapped in where it originated. I feel like it’s up to what you bang, I know with my s**t. You gotta go tap in over there or they ain’t gonna respect it.”

6. On His Relationship With Nipsey Hussle

East had developed a close relationship with Nipsey Hussle prior to his death last year. During his time with N.O.R.E. and the family, the “Everyday” rapper goes in depth into the ties that initially brought him and Neighborhood Nip close. “When I met Nip, everybody that was with me grew up with him,” he reveals. “I met him in L.A., I met him off Crenshaw and Slauson in his parking lot right where that happened... I called him. I said, ‘I’m in L.A.’ He said, ‘Go to the store.’ I just had Kairi, he said, ‘I’ma get you and your daughter a package together. Just go over there.’ At this time, Fatts was in the store. Rest in peace Fatts, that was his left-hand man. Fatts got me together, got me all kind of Crenshaw s**t for my moms, my daughter. Nip pulled up and from that day on, we were locked in.”

7. On His Belief In The Law Of Karma

The most popular mixtape series in East’s discography is Karma. “I’m big on one word [album titles],” he shares. “Like, me and Styles did ‘Beloved.’ My first album was ‘Paranoia.’ I’m just big on one word that says everything that I’m talking about on this project or just the vibe I got, and I’m a strong believer in what goes around comes around. Whatever you put out into the universe, I feel like that s**t gonna come back. We all do our dirt, but I try to consciously put good out hoping that s**t comes back to me ‘cause I got friends that ain’t here no more or they’re doing 100 years. They put bad into the universe. I watched ‘em do it, I might’ve did it with ‘em, but that’s all they did and the karma of that, it never comes back good.”

8. On His Relationship With Former Manager Wayno Clark

Casual music fans may know Wayno Clark from his co-hosting gig on Complex’s “Everyday Struggle” show. But, prior to his involvement of the show, he served as East’s manager, helping the rapper secure his partnership with Nas and Mass Appeal Records. Since then, the two have severed ties, leading many to speculate as to the reason for the split. However, East maintains the decision was an amicable one. “People grow a part,” he explains. “Me and him, that was my brother. I took my shahadda with him, I turned Muslim with him, I had nothing but genuine love for him... At the end of the day, I don’t have no hard feelings because at the time, when we made it happen, it was impossible to the hood for some s**t like that to go down. You got a n**ga from 1st [Avenue], a n**ga from Lex[ington Avenue] that done linked up, put something together and then Nas done signed it. So, that just looked like, ‘Whoa.’ So, I’ll always salute that situation... Shouts to Wayno and what he’s doing right and I’m doing what I’m doing. But, there’s no hard feelings there...”

9. On Rap Artists Personally Reaching Out Follow Kiing Shooter’s Death

One of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic was Queens rapper and Dave East affiliate Kiing Shooter, who passed away May 5. When speaking on the impact Shooter’s life and death had on his own journey, East mentions a few of his rap peers who took the time out to offer emotional support. “A lot of s**t now in life, we put it on the gram,” he explains. “Whether it’s a death, whatever. That’s like our new coping mechanism, ‘Let’s post this,’ and it’s only certain artists that really directly hit me. Like Styles P. pulled up on me. Shouts to sis, I was with him and his wife. He called me, he said, ‘Yo, come in the juice bar. I wanna give you a hug.’ N.O.R.E. hit me direct, ‘I’m just checking on you, you alright? You good? Anything you need, I’m here.’ So, it’s certain people that I might have met in the industry, but it ain’t industry s**t.”

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