On the one hand, it’s surprising that an album by four different artists is named after a single one of them. On the other hand, Book of David has no full guest verses, is nearly an hour of exclusively Dave East, and though the Harlem native is ably assisted by the narration of DJ Drama and production from Buda and Grandz, it is an album entirely about one man.
Book Of David is Dave East’s second project of the year following the release of HDIGH in March. The deluxe version of that album came in at 51 minutes, the exact same run time as Book of David, and the MC’s output is impressive in a year. The biggest difference between the two records is in the guest appearances, or, in the latter album’s case, the lack thereof. Katt Rockell adds vocals twice and there’s a brief appearance from Berner, but that’s it.
‘Pray’ is a fantastic opener, flowing seamlessly into ‘Chills’. On both tracks, Dave East sounds sharp, the characteristic snarl continuing throughout the album. Other than brief introductions to each, ‘Pray’ and ‘Chills’ showcase Dave East and nothing else, and it’s a testament to his ability that they keep you engaged.
The similarities between the first two tracks end with ‘Trouble’, the third song on the album. A gospel introduction is not particularly surprising on an album titled Book of David, but the low, monotone flow that opens the song is a marked difference to the little vocal inflections that East uses throughout most of the album, and indeed the latter part of ‘Trouble’.
‘Gangsta’ was the single dropped ahead of this album, and it proved to have been a good indication of what was to follow. The production is grander, the outro softer and the ad-libs are more generously thrown in than on most tracks, but Book of David is clearly an album of Dave East’s storytelling, and on ‘Gangsta’ and the following track, ‘GODbody’, East is at his best lyrically.
Another stand out is ‘Egyptian Kings’. The beat is slower and East’s flow more varied, and it leads perfectly into ‘Aggravated’, which is again, good. Every song on here is good.
The strange thing about Book of David, however, is that none of it is really allowed to shine. All of the songs sound sharp – revealing verses and the same quality production – but it is in fact the consistency of the project that, on first listen at least, renders it all somehow forgettable.
It’s the good and the bad side of finding a formula that works.
And through this formula employed throughout the Book of David, Dave East can talk freely. He does not try to branch out and explore other topics, nor does he need to. It’s 17 tracks of East detailing the impressive journey to get to a point where he can make a cathartic record about whatever he sees fit.