Harlem rapper Dave East has been creating quite the buzz since the release of his Black Rose mixtape back in July. The rave reviews from the project have earned Dave co-signs from some of the biggest artists in hip-hop, such as Nas, Styles P and Sheek Louch, making Dave East an artist that many within the industry are paying attention to as possibly the next big thing coming out of Harlem.

Looking to capitalize off the success of his July release, Dave will rerelease his Black Rose project once again as an EP that will drop on Dec. 9 on iTunes. Following the EP, Dave plans to drop more music for fans in the holidays to get them more familiar with his sound and story. XXL chopped it up with Dave East during his recent visit to our offices to speak on his newfound success, his future projects and how he feels his music is different to other artists in New York area. —Roger Krastz

XXL: Your mixtape Black Rose received rave reviews after it dropped. Did you expect that to happen with the release? And how do you feel about all the positive feedback the mixtape has received?
Dave East: It’s crazy man. Honestly I knew it, but I didn’t know it and I think for everything that was going on in my life at the time my tape dropped that’s why it got the reaction. My cousin that I’ve been with forever got murdered in June. My two closest dudes that was with me day in and day out, one got a five-year sentence, the other got a seven-year sentence. So when that tape dropped none of them people was around me to even hear it, and they’ve been around me since I said I was going to start rapping. So I just had a lot more pain and a lot more focus and I wanted a sound for that in my music. I recorded like 50 joints for the tape, but I narrowed it down to what I really was feeling at the time and the title fit everything.

How long did it take you to complete the tape from start to finish?
The tape dropped in July and I started working on the project top of the 2014 year. I really just putting together the plan for it and honestly I feel like I had to take that time because them things happened during those moments.

What do you think your standout moment has been thus far in your young career?
My standout moment I would have to say was when Black Rose dropped and getting the co-sign from Nas and The LOX. I would say all those moments together were crazy for me.

Do you recall what you were doing when you heard Nas and The LOX name-dropped you in their interviews?
I remember I was in the crib in Queensbridge and my man hit me and told me to check out The Breakfast Club because Styles P and Sheek were talking about me on there, and then they mentioned my name on Sway in the Morning. Nas though was actually the first one who spoke to Angie Martinez on Power 105 about me, and after he did my Instagram went crazy.

dave east nas mass appeal

How did you end up connecting with Nas?
I’ve kind of known his brother Jungle just from me being in Queensbridge running around and because I have a lot of family out there. When I wasn’t in Harlem I would be in Queensbridge, so I met Jungle like that, just being in the Bridge. But he told me, "Yo, my brother feeling you," and dudes around him were letting me know that as well, but I still couldn’t believe it.

So one day I got a call from Nas’ manager and he told me he wanted to link up. I then met up with him and my manager and he told me that Nas was a fan of what I was doing and he was really interested in getting down with me so that shit went from there.

How do you feel your music is different that what’s going on in the New York hip-hop scene?
I think my music is more personal than most of the music I’m hearing. I feel like everybody else is trying to make you do something or make a certain type of music to fit in with everybody, I feel like I’m talking about straight my life. You might hear a club record from me because I go to the club, but I’m talking about Dave and what’s going on in my life, my homies that are dead, alive or in jail. I’m speaking for them, so I feel like I got more real life music.

What are you trying to accomplish in the rap game?
I want to be one of the greats. I feel like the money and all that is going to come, but I want to be a name that, like, when you say Nas or Jay Z, that’s forever. Those names will never go away in hip-hop. Biggie has been gone for a long time and his name is still mentioned by everybody. So I just want that, you know what I mean? When I’m dead, gone or whatever, people will always remember my name and the music I did during my time.

Besides the EP that is dropping soon, what other projects should we expect from you?
Yeah, I’m doing The Best Of Dave East Vol. 1 with Scram Jones. Me and Scram were supposed to do a tape a long time ago, we have a good relationship. That’s my bro as far as this music goes. Scram is ill with the mixing and cutting. Even Styles P told me to make sure that Scram does some cutting for me because he’s nice with it, so I got Scram to do the Best Of tape. And we’ll put it out right before Christmas because Black Rose came out in July, so that will just hold people off 'til I drop more music in 2015.

Anything else you want to mention before we wrap up?
Yeah, Free Bully. Free Charlie. Free Rev. Free Trav and Rest In Peace Freaky my cousin.