Dave East is taking hip-hop back to the Big Apple. East is inspired by his hometown, the city that birthed and cultivated hip-hop, and he explains why being from Harlem, specifically, means so much to him. And being a New Yorker, he holds hip-hop and hip-hop history in particularly high regard.

“Hip-hop started in the parks in the Bronx with dudes bringing…deejays,” he explains. “Before dudes was even rocking the mic, it was a big party—a gathering.”

And despite all of the chatter about other locals dominating the hip-hop sphere in recent years, East still believes New York has a distinct flavor that will always be necessary.

“I think what sets a New York rapper apart from other places is just being from New York,” says East. “I feel like we birthed a lot of styles, a lot of trends, a lot of ways people wear their clothes—it came straight from New York City.

Dave East is a gifted emcee with reverence for his city’s rich history. But even more than that, he’s Harlem born-and-bred. And he celebrates the legacy of Uptown in his music and persona.

“Where I’m from in Harlem, it’s like everybody look like a rapper,” he says.

Citing Harlem rappers like Big L, Bloodshed and Cam’ron, East shows love to those who paved the way for him. And it was the wave of early 2000s rappers out of Harlem that really gave him a blueprint.

“That’s when I was really getting older myself and Cam’ron birthed that,” he shares. “Once Dipset came out, I feel like the world really knew about Harlem. After them, that’s when it went into A$AP. Rest in peace to Yams; Yams was working with Dipset and was able to form the next wave to Harlem.

And Dave East is ready to ride that next wave.

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