The Lowdown: A sequel at least in name to last year’s Paranoia: A True Story, the latest from this Harlem rapper with the Nas co-sign carries on the New York rap tradition. Decidedly less commercial than its immediate predecessor, Paranoia 2 returns to the Kairi Chanel mixtape vibe that initially endeared him to lyrically minded hip-hop heads.
The Good: Right out of the gate, P2 demonstrates its mettle with the kaleidoscopic “Talk to Big”, a veritable state of the state moment for East that covers more ground in four and a half minutes than most rappers’ entire mixtapes. From there, he bolsters his street bona fides on cuts like “Powder” and “I Can Not”.
The pressure was seemingly on for Dave East.
Coming off the tired KARMA mixtape, the Nas protégé had to bounce back to do his Def Jam ranking proud. Paranoia 2, the sequel to 2017’s Paranoia: A True Story, won’t win East any risk-taking points but is enriched by heartfelt reflections and vivid storytelling. P2 threatens early to be ensnared in the same trap that caught up KARMA on tracks like “Woke Up” and “Powder,” which are sonically pleasing but feature more of the same posturing and paper-chasing.
Just in time, however, East switches things up with “Corey,” which dives headfirst into a tale of brotherhood lost.
The “art of storytelling” (apologies to OutKast) is something that has seemingly disappeared from current hip-hop. Disregard a handful of the well intended, old-school influenced emcees of today — Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole — and (at least for old heads) hip-hop seems to be a ghost-town, artists escaping its storytelling roots for self-obsessed tendencies.
Dave East doesn’t rap as though he’s still in the streets but like he’s eternally haunted by the experiences and playing them back in his mind. He can recall every detail of every dirty deed; every mood and regret just burned in his brain. Though the Harlem rapper has never been short on ways to translate these sentiments on wax, with Paranoia 2—his third release in less than six months—he’s much closer to the ideal formula of beats and writing that makes his music that much more effective.
Building on the themes of the first Paranoia, feelings of suspicion and preoccupations with mortality topped with introspection (and, of course, women and money) are sustained throughout.