Styles P Inspired Dave East to Rap Without Writing His Lyrics While Recording Their ‘Beloved’ Project
Dynamic duos have been integral in the history of hip-hop. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, 8Ball & MJG, Mobb Deep, OutKast, Clipse. The names go on and on. In modern rap, there's been a noticeable trend of two established rappers teaming up for a project. Enter: Styles P and Dave East, who linked up for their latest album Beloved in a union of two different generations of New York City hip-hop.
Dave East is a 30-year-old rapper from Harlem who cut his teeth on gritty New York beats and trap-influenced sounds while never forfeiting his lyrical depth. In addition to being a 2016 XXL Freshman, East has a solidified reputation as a classic spitter, with a flurry of mixtapes that began toward the start of the decade all the way up to July's Karma 2. As an artist who has never hesitated to show love to those who came before him, collaborating with someone like Styles P is fitting—Dave came of age while listening to his music.
Styles P is a living legend, coming to prominence as a member of The Lox before releasing successful solo projects on his own. Styles has seen it all, successfully making it through multiple iterations of the rap game unscathed. He has also bucked the trend of older rappers straying from the youth; Styles is sharp and very much aware of who's making noise when it comes to street hip-hop. Coming off of his own strong solo release G-Host, Styles' undying love for the craft is a great fit alongside Dave East, as the neophyte truly respects hip-hop as an artform.
Both artists represent purist NYC gangsta rap, with East paying homage to his roots and Styles carrying on tradition. The two sat down with XXL to discuss the creative process of Beloved, learning from each other even though they are from different eras and rapping for the love of the sport.
XXL: How did you two get cool with each other?
Dave East: Initially it was through Buda [DaFuture]. I tell people all the time [Styles] P been my favorite rapper of all time since I fell in love with rap. It was just like one of them things that I been wanting to do, but I guess the timing had to be right. Once we linked, we been clicked.
Styles P: When you come from hip-hop and you make it and get your status and watch someone young—he just carried that flag that no one was carrying as far as an authentic East Coast rapper that was for each generation. Most young fellas don’t care about the older heads. He had that sound and he was reppin' and talkin' that talk about something. I know that shit really well and he just always had a cool vibe. He wasn’t on that new weird rap shit; he was reppin' him and his homies. Real cool, real organic and street. When you street and humble, that’s real dope shit.
What do you appreciate about each other, creatively? What was the thing that made you say I wanna work with this guy?
Dave East: For me, it was already being a fan for so long and wanting to be around his process and how he put his shit together. From the outside lookin’ in, just waiting for his tapes to come out and shit like that. Then to be right there with him and to see this nigga don’t write nothing down, he really becomes one with the record and it got my focus up differently. I’m so used to writin’ the verse and recordin’ and it got me thinking, ‘You know what, let me memorize this shit, cause it'll sound stronger.’ And I got that straight from him.
Styles P: I just love his energy and what he brings to the table and what his bars embody. You know I’m a MC. A lot of youth get lost just from my perception of MC’s that’s street MC’s. Particularly, as street MCs, it’s easy for you to get on camera and get a flash and get noticed and then lose it. They lose how they create and the hunger the drive. He’s always workin'. I like workers. [Especially] if you wanna be the boss and you got great work ethic. And for me, certain shit I’m not gonna go outside and do, so I’m havin’ fun vicariously now watchin’ him do it and I learn something new on how it's done now. I’m learning at the same time and his crew is more about business early. The elevation of everything.
What’s your favorite Styles song?
Dave East: Song? I don’t got one. The body of work is too much, I can’t even say my favorite tape. All them shits classic, all them shits was there through the worst times, best times. It's my soundtrack.
That’s refreshing. You’re a legitimate fan and it's obvious. A lot of rappers don’t like to show appreciation to other rappers.
Styles P: And the niggas hotter than me! [Laughs] Nah for real, that’s real fuckin' talk. Sometimes you gotta be real. I've earned my spot in hip hop but I'm not tryna be hotter than East. I just do what I do. I think it’s easy for both sides. He a fan [and] I’m a fan too. I’m appreciative. For him it’s a bucket list [thing]. But if you ask who’s it's gonna help, it's gonna help me more, as far as media and social shit. Now with the other end, stampin’ with the legends, it’s gonna be 'East went hard with P, he was on every song.’ It’s always gonna be a give or take and one hand wash the other, both wash the face. Once you cool with that, you understand.
Dave East: I think that’s what made it dope: the fact that that’s where the competition was at. It was like in my mind, ‘This P.' And in his mind he’s like, ‘I’m not letting this nigga smoke me on these tracks.’ It’s a constant battle but we not even sayin’ nothing to each other.
What was the recording process like for Beloved?
Styles P: Easy, actually.
Dave East: Easy. Lotta weed, lotta push ups, dips, pull ups.
Styles P: It’s very easy to work with East, he’s very efficient. It was really simple, it was really fun we just smokin', drinkin', sparkin’ up, workin' out, knockin' shit out. That was pretty much the process. It keeps you sharp; he just lay that four, eight [bars] and I gotta come right behind. No one tryna fuck up the time or money, you comin in’, doin’ your job. It was a beautiful process.
How long did it take?
Dave East: It was quick. As far as recording and the bulk of the music, maybe a month.
Styles P: Fourteen songs. Took 19 days, maybe 20.
Dave East: We did the intro last, that was the last record we did.
Styles P: Only thing is if we was too high at night, we did one thing and we’d just daze off,
Is there a song y'all are excited for everyone to hear?
Styles P: I love that whole album. It’s a great body of work that embodies a good feel of hip-hop and East Coast. Old young hip-hop head from the East.
How did you choose "Feels Good" featuring Kehlani as the one you wanted to drop first?
Styles P: Shit, the one that ain't get cleared. I’m old-school, I don’t believe in wasting music but I’m not gonna sell it. We not tryna get no money off of it but let the people enjoy.
What kind of reception are you looking for, critically?
Styles P: We made some dope shit for whoever like lyrics and whoever like music. When it's out whoever give us dap and say they love it, job's done after that. And we need the bags. As far as music, I just wanna please the fans. Nothing in the industry is more important than having people fuckin’ with your music.
Dave East: For me, it’s more like I just want that talk back—that barber shop talk. There’s none of them conversations no more. Everyone’s either turnin' up or you know. I feel like it’ll be dope for the culture I come from and even for the younger dudes, there's no age for this. The video we shot, there was mad kids in it. It’s a perfect balance for whatever age group. We wasn’t really focused on that, "Yo P, we need a joint for the radio.” We just really got in our bag with our own producers.
Swizz recently told XXL that Styles' upcoming song with Jadakiss and Kendrick Lamar ("Something Dirty/Pic Got Us") is like a 2018 version of Jada's "We Gonna Make It." What can you tell us about the song?
Styles P: He hit it on the head. He came with a beat that embodied what we do, but it's kinda the future, so we channeled that. We like to talk that shit, man. We like bars. That's what we're about. So with the Swizz thing, the beats was there, me and 'Kiss was sittin' there stoned. We was like, let's do what we do, give 'em one more. Let's fuckin show how to be precise.
That's the thing that was actually great about working with East, his precise timing. That takes real chemistry, when you goin' in and out or you gotta catch somebody's tone—that's craftsmanship. 'Cause when you get in the studio with certain people, that "I just got bars" shit ain't good enough. You better be able to get in your pocket, get in your zone, be able to think deep. Soon as you see 'em, it's like you in a tribe of MCs—what are you gonna do? So that timing of when you can make an in-and-out flow with another MC, it's always a special. And when they nail it, it's a beautiful thing,
East: And it keeps you on your toes because the whole time he in the booth, I'm tryna have my shit ready. By the time he step back out the booth, I'm gon' have my verse. That energy there, that shit is priceless.
What did you learn from each other in the process of working on this?
Dave East: I don’t really write no more. That was my breaking point from my last days of writing. I’ll still jot shit down here and there, but I just zone out to the music. The consistent every day ‘I’m in the lab, I’m in the lab,’ I picked that up for my own self too. I just try to keep my shit sharp. With this shit, I don’t ever wanna be in a position where someone says, “Lemme hear some shit“ and then I don’t have nothing on me. I was rappin' before I was really rappin'.
Styles P: I learned a lot about energy and having fun. ‘Cause when you on street mode you learn, ‘OK, I could do that’ but I could still be looser and have fun, ‘cause most of the time, I’m gonna assassinate this shit. It was more like old shit and he’ll take something and he'll take the vibe and I see where he goin’ with it. It was showin’ me a way to channel the energy different. I’m on street time, bag time and lady time, but I'm also mixin' wavy shit in. It re-energized me, it gave me a boost, gave me a new wave.
Don Q was in the juice bar, then it really hit me and I picked that up from him and that’s the new wave of the youth. You can always learn something. As older males or anyone older, they think they can’t learn from younger people. I ain’t the hottest on the streets now—he’s the hottest now. I can sit back and look at the formula and just apply it in my own way. It gives you legs, new ideas, new energies, cause there [are] not too many young people I’m really in the lab with outside my circle. It just family and I'm getting a look at what's a look for the city.
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