Album Review: Karma 3 by Dave East

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Dave East is a rapper from Harlem, New York. Even though he started his career in 2010, he didn’t get a lot of recognition until he was on the XXL Freshmen cover for 2016. Dave East mostly releases a series of mixtapes, usually one every year. Last year in 2019, Dave East finally dropped his debut album, Survival. I wasn’t too psyched about the album so I didn’t end up reviewing it. However, since I was a fan of his Karma mixtapes, I decided to give Karma 3 a proper review.

The first track from the album (mixtape) is Handsome. The track starts off with your usual trap drum kits and a bass line. When the rapping comes in, Dave East just kills his lines. According to Dave East in an interview, when he was growing up, people used to call other people ‘handsome’ when they knew that person was making money. Also during the chorus, Dave East says that he visits his hometown area and that people are proud of him.

Unruly changes up the tone with brighter vocals and a horn section for the beat. On this track, he was able to recruit the help of Popcaan. Since Dave East’s heritage is from Barbados, he wanted to incorporate more of that into his music. Honestly, his voice meshes well with the beat and his rapping isn’t that bad. There’s a lot of slang words used on the track that is popular in the Caribbean culture, such as ‘bomboclaat.’

The City marks one of the shortest tracks from the album, it is just a little under two and a half minutes in length. The title of the track is actually a reference to a Jay-Z track, Heart of the City, since it samples that song. This track also features singer Trey Songz during the chorus. Especially during the chorus of the track, it talks about how it doesn’t matter how much love and fame you might get from rapping. There is still going to be a lot of hate out there.

Get The Money has definitely got one of my favorite beats from the album. The track starts with a quick introduction from Dave East saying that you can either try to get famous and earn money or sit back and work for someone else. The second verse, Dave just lets loose and kills it. In that verse, he starts to talk about how he’s able to live this lavish lifestyle. However, he mentions that he still misses where he came from.

Thank God starts off a bit different with a quiet and light piano part. Eventually, Dave East comes in with his rapping, but the piano beat continues to play in the background. I don’t think it really mixes well with the trap drum beats, but it could be better if it was slowed down. Other than that, he was able to recruit the help of A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. They basically talk about how they’re glad they were able to make a name for themselves, even though some of their friends are still stuck where they are.

Said What I Said starts off with an interesting electronic piano or guitar in the background. This is a fun and laid back track from Dave East and Doe Boy. While Dave East does like making serious tracks, this was a laid back one for him. On Dave’s first verse, it seems like he might be referencing the track Panda by Desiigner. It just seems too similar to the actual track since he mentions going to Atlanta and talking about Fanta.

Broke or Not is the first of two tracks that features Jozzy. The track opens up with a laid back, soulful like beat with the background vocals. Definitely not upset, but it seems like he has a lot of R&B type singers do the chorus of his tracks. Jozzy definitely takes it up a notch and adds more flavor to this track. The track seems to be talking about keeping up the hustle, no matter how broke or rich you feel at the moment.

Mission is the second collaborative track between Dave East and Jozzy on this mixtape. The synth beats really add more groove and direction on this track. It’s such a simple synth line, but it really made the track that more enjoyable for me. Can’t forget to mention Jozzy’s smooth vocals on this track either! Throughout the entirety of the three-minute track, they talk about getting more money and valuables is the mission.

Menace is a quick, sub three-minute track from the album. Despite the short track, this is definitely one of the bangers from the album. While you are kind of stuck in Dave’s flow that was kept consistent through the entire mixtape, this does feel like a slight switch up with the energy from the beat. Throughout the track, he talks about people calling him a menace, probably because he is living a luxurious lifestyle at this point in his life.

Fuck Dat is another follow-up banger from the mixtape. You have a chorus of people repeating “F*ck that sh*t,” but it just adds to the energy and the heat from his track. Since he was a fan of Three 6 Mafia, he was able to recruit the help of DJ Paul, who was a founding member for the group Three 6 Mafia. He was also able to get another rapper who grew up in Memphis, Young Dolph, to appear on this track.

Blue Story opens up with a heavily autotuned verse from Bino Rideaux. His voice definitely mixes well with the acoustic beat, but I just can’t seem to enjoy his part on this track. The only thing that is somewhat clever is the switch off between Bino Rideaux and Dave East after his first verse. Also, since Dave East was a close friend of Nipsey Hussle, a great deal of this track seems to reminisce about the old times with him.

For whatever reason, the beat from Stone Killer just seems lackluster and too minimal in nature. I never really listened to Benny the Butcher much in the past, but he definitely outshines Dave on this track since the beat just isn’t cutting it for me. Dave said that this track was just the two of them trading and spitting lines back and forth to each other. Even though they were from different parts of New York, they were still able to split their differences and come together.

Envy definitely brings us back to the more laid back, sample-heavy track. You have the electronic note in the back, as well as a piano chord that repeats itself every few bars. He talks about how people envy him for some of the things that he has in his life. However, they don’t know how hard of a life he had before. He also pays homage to Pop Smoke by mentioning “Shoot for the stars, I just pray I don’t get shot.”

Dave East was able to recruit the help of the legendary singer and songwriter Mary J. Blige on Know How I Feel. With her soulful and emotion-filled singing, what’s not to like about this track? The best part is that this is one of the longer tracks on the mixtape, just a little under five minutes in length. While I thought that she just had a small chorus part, I was excited to hear that she had her own verse. This track talks about how Dave East feels being a black man in the United States, and Mary J. Blige gives her perspective on the issue too.

The last track from the mixtape is Believe It Or Not. It definitely seems like a quiet way to end an album, so that’s one complaint from me. The beat isn’t terrible by any means but it just seems strange to end it on this note. Dave East seems to be talking about his life and that people can either believe him or not. He also seems to be talking about some similar issues like the previous track, since he mentions police being out for him.

While there are some amazing and great tracks on this mixtape, I just can’t help but get lost in his endless flow that seems to be similar through the entire mixtape. I do appreciate several of the tracks, but it could have definitely been cut down in half.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Favorite Tracks: Handsome, Get The Money, Mission, Fuck Dat, Know How I Feel

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