A lot of legendary MCs have come from Harlem and Dave East continues to fit the mold of a traditional, skilled rapper from New York. Although many may assume making it out of the hip-hop-focused city is easy, especially with the success its had in the past, it's safe to say that breaking out of New York as a buzzing rapper has become increasingly harder.

"To make it up out of there is really a task itself," Dave East expresses during his sit-down interview to discuss his XXL Freshman class spot. The rapper goes on to explain that the struggle is what builds the mesmerizing character of his hometown. "A lot of creativity coming from the east side of Harlem. It really built my character and who I am."

The Hate Me Now creator is no stranger to hard times after his college basketball plans were dismantled and the street life later left him behind bars. It wasn't until he succumbed to his love for music that he began to see a change. "It was always a love of mine but I never took it serious," he shares. "Once I took it serious, my life changed dramatically. I've been able to provide for my family, move out of Harlem and travel the world."

In 2014, Dave inked a deal with Nas' label, Mass Appeal Records, after his Black Rose mixtape caught the ear of the Queens icon. The release of his 2015 effort, Hate Me Now, an ode to his mentor and rap legend, further cemented him as a rising rapper to watch. His most recent tape, Tales From the East, officially brought his career to the next level, thus earning him a spot of this year's Freshman list.

Watch Dave East open up about his big moment above, check out his freestyle and take a look at the candid photos from the cover shoot below.

Go Behind the Scenes With Dave East at 2016 XXL Freshman Class Cover Shoot

Directed by @travissatten and produced by @apk.nyc

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