After releasing 13 mixtapes and 3 EPs, Harlem rapper Dave East has finally released his 1st album Survival on November 8th, 2019 under the labels Mass Appeal, Def Jam Recordings, and From The Dirt. The album was announced on November 27th, 2018 but was later delayed. It features guests such as Nas, Rick Ross, Teyana Taylor, DJ Clue, The-Dream, Jacquees, Fabolous, Ty Dolla $ign, E-40, Max B, and others.
The first track of the album is "They Wanna Kill You" featuring DJ Premier. This is where Dave drops a full verse with no hooks on this beat produced by Swizz Beatz. Next up is the song "Penthouse" featuring J. Black where the song is about making it out the projects and apartments to driving Benz and living in Penthouses. The late rapper Nipsey Hussle was supposed to be on the song itself but unfortunately, the rapper passed away before Dave East and Nipsey had the time to record the song together. However, Dave had the blessings and approval from Nipsey Hussle's family to use his vocals in the background of the beat where you can hear around the 4th verse of J. Black. The following song is called "Godfather 4" featuring Nas. This mafioso instrumental theme produced by DJ Green Lantern is about the friendship and hip-hop journey between Dave East and Nas. This track has everything you need in a song, a nice instrumental with good lyrics and a background story, beautiful. The song "Need A Sign" is a very meaningful and powerful song featuring Teyana Taylor on the hook. Dave raps about his past struggles, failures, and grind but he realized with different signs and opportunities, he couldn't give up on himself, Harlem and his daughter. The moral of the song is, with just a little sign of hope, we realize that life is worth it. The song "On My Way To School" starts with a flashback story of Dave's mother waking him and his brother up for school and Dave raps about his journey and the things he witnessed every day during high school on his way over there. The song ends with a teacher yelling at Dave that he better be serious at school or he will never amount to anything. I guess Dave's rap career and success speaks for itself, and I love how he put the story together in this song.
Then we have "Seventeen" which is a dope track where Dave spits some firing lyrical content about when he was 17 years old. I like how Timbaland produced this beat like in his old school days adding some of his ad-libs, making the song even more enjoyable, and my neck was hurting badly after listening to this beat. "Mama I Made It" has a nice instrumental to it with Dave East dedicating this song to his mother. The following song is "OG" featuring Rick Ross and The-Dream, which is another good song from the album with a nice melodic instrumental and I loved some of the wordplays that Dave East uses his second verse where he plays around with rappers name and their aliases such as Styles P, Soulja Boy, Lil Uzi Vert and Nas brother Jungle. I also noticed the song ends with a woman saying the name of the album, Survival which is similar to Nipsey Hussle's album Victory Lap. Then we have the song "What's Goin On" featuring Fabolous. The instrumental has a complete good vibe about it, it makes you feel like you want to drive in Miami on Ocean Drive with the roof down while listening to this song. Both Dave East and Fabolous did what they had to do in this song and I also have to give credit to the producers Mike Kuz and Buda & Grandz of well using the sample "Betcha Don't Know" by Najee. If you had fun listening to the last song, "Baby" is no different as Dave East raps hard on this beat talking about spoiling and giving his girlfriend a good time. Just like the song "What's Goin On", Mike Kuz and Buda & Grandz again killed this instrumental with the nice use of Marvin Gaye's "Just To Keep You Satisfied".
Halfway through it, Survival is an enjoyable album. The 11th track is a rap/R&B song featuring Jacquees called "Alone". The song samples and interpolates Jodeci's "Fennin'". Normally, I'm not a big fan of trap music, but the song "Everyday" has a nice vibe to it, featuring Gunna on the hook. The next track is called "Devil Eyes" featuring Bay Area rappers E-40 and Mozzy where all 3 rappers talk about how cold and evil the streets can be. The instrumental and Dave East's hook made the song evil which relates to the title of the song, but overall the song is ok. Then we have the song "Night Shift" featuring Lil Baby. The following song is called "Wanna B A G" where the song tells the story of a young man who is caught up in the streets and lost most of his friends due to street activities, which makes him believing that he has no choice to live and die by the codes of the streets by being a G. The song features Max B, a Harlem rapper who was incarcerated in 2009 for 75 years but his sentence has been reduced to 12 years, which means he might be released from jail in 2021.
Next up is the song "Me & Mines" which sounds like a street anthem with a nice saxophone background in the instrumental. It was nice from Dave East to bring the world-famous DJ Clue into this song, it's doesn't get more New York than that. "Daddy Knows" featuring Ash Leone is a song that Dave East dedicates to his daughter Kairi. He explains how she means the world to him and that his life changed the day she was born. East's way of rapping is good, the lyrical content about his daughter is touching, and the instrumental is banging, great song. The following song is called "What You Mad At" where Dave East calls out all of his haters. The sample of the instrumental from the first part of the track makes the song sound very East Coast then, the instrumental switches to a more hardcore vibe. At the beginning of the song, we can hear The Madd Rapper hating on Dave East, and I can't believe he is still hating on rappers after 22 years, for those who remember him from the skits in The Notorious B.I.G's skits in Life After Death. Then we have "On Sight" featuring Ty Dolla $ign. The album finishes with a tribute to Nipsey Hussle called "The Marathon Continues (Nipsey Hussle Tribute)" where Dave reflects on the days he used to hang out with his friend Nipsey, the memories, the laughs, the good times and how Nip motivated him to reach for the stars and to be his own boss. East can't believe that his friend is gone and it makes him not want to trust other dudes in the streets but Dave swears he'll make sure that Hussle's legacy and marathon live on. The song finishes with a speech from Snoop Dogg at Nipsey's memorial saying how Nipsey Hussle positively impacted his neighborhood, Crenshaw. The Marathon Continues!
For an album that is 1 hour and 18 minutes long, Dave East did a good job keeping Survival interesting and enjoyable. A couple of his previous mixtapes were a little bit better, but Dave delivered a good first album. His lyrical wordplays, his flow, and his way of rapping were unique to himself. The album had a couple of but the album also has a lot of meaningful songs and the samples were amazing in the album.