Dave East: “[Success] Opened My Eyes To How Quick People Can Change”

Dave East is a true student of the rap game — and the street game. It may seem like his stardom was a quick ascent, but the Harlem lyricist has been at this for a long time. Back when his hoop dreams were deflated and the microphone seemed like his only ticket out of the hood, Dave believed in his own talent and never looked back.

READ: Dave East Releases ‘Paranoia: A True Story’ Album

Last year, we took the Paranoid rapper out to Koreatown to catch up on his Def Jam deal; the rapper has since released his debut project with the historic record label. A few days before the project’s release, he stopped back over to VIBE for a powwow. He discussed how life has changed for him since he appeared on TV with Gabriel Union, why he has to be “on point” at all times — and\ played a game of Levels of Paranoia with us.

READ: Dave East Spits The Facts Of Life With A Freestyle On DJ Clue’s ‘Desert Storm’ Radio

Dave on Remaining Focused Despite His Success

“Coming from where I come from, [success] don’t happen every day, and it got real… real fast. It just kind of opened up my eyes to how quick people can change. How quick family can change, how money is really the root of all evil. It really brings shit out of people that you never seen. [But] I just take it on the chin, I deal with it, but [the paranoia] is a feeling of not knowing. Plus I’m a father, so at all times I got to be on point, for my daughter. I feel like I’m her one and only protector — I’m her hero. I’m living a [new] life, and you can’t go back to your [old life]. You can’t turn fame off.”

Dave on Believing in Himself and Living for His Daughter

“I just believed [in myself] the entire time. I never felt like ‘I’m an underground dude’ or ‘I can only be hot in New York.’ I was like, ‘People just need to hear it.’ And I’m seeing the growth in my own character. It’s a dope process as far as the music-making. I’m talking about a lot of the same topics that you are used to from me, but the approach is different, the talk is different — the whole production, just the whole sound. I feel like I’ve mastered Dave East. For a long time I was trying to figure out who I was and what sound I wanted to come with.”

Levels of Paranoia… According to Dave East (Strictly Hypothetical)

Dave East knows a thing of two about being in sticky situations, but here’s how paranoid he really would feel under these extreme circumstances.

Situation 1: You’re driving around and smoking weed with a bunch of drugs in the trunk of your car.
Situation 2: Your main chick and side chick want to meet at the same restaurant for dinner.
Situation 3: You’ve been out at the club all night before a big basketball game.