Paranoia 2 (P2)
New life. That's what comes to mind when I hear Dave East on Paranoia 2 (abbreviated as P2), describing the scenes from his past that are now memories rather than everyday events. New life is what I think of when I see him holding his young daughter on the album's cover. And new life is what Dave offers to a long tradition of rhymers hailing from New York. He's a protégé of Nas and a member of Def Jam's roster, so it's only right that Dave channels the spirit of New York City hip-hop circa the late '90s and early 2000s. He names a number of his influences on the song "What Made Me," but P2 as a whole is more than a long exercise in nostalgia. It's another big step for Dave as he works to be an influential force for future rappers in his own right.
P2 is the sequel to Dave's first Def Jam effort, Paranoia: A True Story (2017), and it reflects the different layers of who Dave is as an artist. There's grit in his voice and lyrics that will make his words resonate with you even if you don't relate to the content. His core flow is measured, giving him the space needed between lines to develop a story or just set up a punchline. Yet, Dave's still able to switch pace and capture what's happening sonically in today's contemporary rap.
"Powder" is a prime example of Dave's growth as a songwriter. For some emcees that rhyme as well as he does, the choruses and melodies of their songs sound forced rather than fluid. They're spitters at heart, so it can take time for them to develop strengths other than their bars. Dave is breaking free from this trend with songs like "Powder," as he weaves so seamlessly between the chorus' melody and the flow of his verses that it took me a few listens to differentiate the two.
While adding to his arsenal, Dave also cements skills of his that fans already enjoy. He's emerging as one of hip-hop's more adept storytellers and you can hear why on the song "Corey." Dave details how he and one of his friends have grown apart as success continues to change his life. He does so from the perspective of a third party rather than his own. This choice may seem subtle to some, and possibly annoying to others given how often Dave repeats the words "Corey" and "homie." Yet, his POV choice helps the song sound less like a clapback on Instagram and more like a cautionary tale.
Dave's approach to "Corey" helps him give new life to the familiar accusation of rappers changing once they make it. Dave renews another narrative on "I Found Keisha," which continues the plot from a standout track off of his 2016 project Kairi Chanel. Sincerity is one of Dave's most commendable qualities as a writer, but for legal reasons, I hope this story is all fiction as Part 1 found Dave getting robbed by a woman he hooked up with while he's asleep (PSA: take it easy on the henny!!!). The beat on the original "Keisha" makes the song a head-nodder, but the same can't be said for the sequel since its sound is a lot more menacing. Nevertheless, the song shows just how vividly (and scarily) Dave can paint a picture.
Despite shining light on his strengths, Dave does offer some miscues on the album. I'll preface my next comment by saying that I may be extra cautious at the moment due to the myriad accounts of sexual violations in the news lately. With that said, I had a bug-eyed look on my face when I heard how Dave was speaking about women on "Annoying," so listen at your discretion. And I could do without "Thank You" as well, even though that mainly speaks to me not being into rap cuts that are so sing-songy.
The album's final song proves to be one of its strongest. "Grateful" features Marsha Ambrosius, whose voice combines with a beat made from piano play and little else to provide the perfect soundscape for Dave. He tends to create special moments when he rhymes over stripped-down, soulful production, and he does it again on the song's second verse. When you hear the pain that comes through so clearly in his voice, you're hearing what amounts to a true moment of catharsis for him.
P2 reflects a man going from a life that was hopeless to one filled with more than he could hope for. The concept isn't foreign when it comes to hip-hop, but it's authentic. From the unflattering details of crimes committed to the relief of no longer facing the dangers of the streets, Dave makes it clear that what he's saying in his rhymes is sincere. His concluding words on P2 are, "My daughter smiling, I'm thankful Freaky told me to rap / Thankful Jungle paid attention, the streets can never hold me back (Imagine that)." Dave has much more ground to cover in his career, but right now he's celebrating just how far he has come.
Notable Tracks: “Corey” | “Grateful” | “Powder” | “Talk To Big”