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Dave East Leans on Harlem; A Community That Has Influenced Generations

Jewelry: Mazza New York, Artist’s Own | Tuxedo shirt, Studded Tuxedo, and Tie: Philipp Plein

For Harlem-born rapper, Dave East, being “fly” came naturally. With over a decade in Hip-Hop, East has been able to excel in his career that has transcended from music to television, and on to fashion. The rapper knows that it takes an unshakable work ethic to make it in the entertainment business. It wasn’t until his eighth mixtape, Black Rose, that legendary rapper, NAS, took notice of East and signed him to his record label Mass Appeal Records.

The Harlem hustle has kept East inspired. From the “clothes to the basketball court to every aspect,” the rapper says he reflects Harlem’s culture. “I definitely feel like it has inspired me to be the person I am today. It inspires the music I make. It inspires the way I dress,” East explains. “I feel like it's a goldmine of so much talent. So much comes out of Harlem.”

Hat: Bandit Studioz | Jewelry: Mazza New York, Artist’s Own | Sweater: Nahmias | Pants: A. Potts | Sneakers: Nike Air Force Ones

It’s East’s swag that has made him a standout. The gritty rawness of his lyrics matches the way he carries himself in business while continuing to be relatable on the streets he grew up on. “Harlem taught me to put more of an emphasis on how I wear the clothes I put on,” the rapper says. When it comes to his personal style, East says he is inspired by the rap group Dipset, “During their skull and bones Rock & Roll look, that was high school for me.”

Not only has East’s style evolved, but so has his career. Before music, the “Pablo & Blanco” rapper was a rising star on the courts. “I feel like that’s every kid from the ghetto’s dream,” he says referring to his past desire to play in the NBA. “It was my first love and my first grind.” East played basketball for close to 20 years. He played college basketball and even played for the amateur non-union league. “The game of basketball prepared me for whatever I was going to do.” And from basketball came Dave East, the rapper.

Sunglasses: Givenchy | Jewelry: Mazza New York, Artist’s Own | Coat: Iceberg

After releasing mixtape after mixtape that featured some of hip-hop’s heavyweights including The Lox, NAS, and Pusha T, East finally released his debut studio album in 2019. Survival peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and solidified the rapper as one of the best emcees this past decade. “I was dreaming while I was grinding,” East says about his early rap career. The Harlem hustle he learned as a kid came in handy when it was time to put in the work. East released nearly 30 music videos before signing a deal. “I was doing my own shows, on the road, with no help from a label,” he says. East’s advice for those wanting success is that it doesn’t happen overnight, but if it does happen overnight “you probably won’t want it.”

Hat: Bandit Studioz | Jewelry: Mazza New York, Artist’s Own | Pants: Fried Rice

East is appreciative of his journey, no matter how long it took him to get to the position he is in now. Unlike now, where the use of social media can help catapult an artist to superstardom in a matter of months, East understands why he had to blaze his own path. “It is a gift and a curse,” he says about social media’s influence over the music industry. “It is great to directly talk with fans and get feedback, but it also made the hustle a lot lazier. Now you can sit at a computer and with a click of a button you can promote your music, but money is money,” the rapper explains.

Sunglasses: Givenchy | Jewelry: Mazza New York, Artist’s Own | Coat: Iceberg | Pants: Iceberg

The father of two admits that social media isn’t for him. “I am more of a face-to-face guy.” But as the new generation evolves, he has to protect his kids from the downside of technology. As of now, East says his kids are too young for social media. “I feel like with my kids once they get up in age, I will have the conversation with them about the dangers of it all.”

Hat: Bandit Studioz | Jewelry: Mazza New York, Artist’s Own | Pants: Fried Rice

East has proven that he is not afraid to go against the grain. The young kid from East Harlem has become one of a kind and steps away from what is trendy. Just like his style evolution, East’s career has evolved to Hollywood. The rapper is on his way to leading man status with roles on hit TV shows such as Being Mary Jane, The Breaks, and Wu-Tang: An American Saga, where East takes on the iconic role of rap icon Method Man.

The rising star is only growing and he is focusing on his mental health by “pushing through and leaning on the strength of Harlem.” He is a beacon in his community and understands that following your heart can take you places you only dream of.

The 2022 Style Issue comes out the last week of October.

Creative Director: BYoungAgency Stylist: Janet Igah Stylist Assistant: Aja Mahogany

Groomer: Carol McColley of GlowByCarol


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