With an insurmountable hustle evinced year-after-year throughout his beastly barrel of mixtapes, Harlem’s elite emcee, rapper-actor, Dave East, releases his long-anticipated debut studio album, Survival, and we’re smug to say – it’s nothing but the hip hop benefaction we’ve been waiting for.

Survival, the same-title album as his upcoming five-part Netflix documentary, Survival Seriessees an unshakeable East face-to-face with his many confronting chapters in the come-up to success, everywhere from the streets (“They Wanna Kill You“), homelessness (“Need a Sign“), and resisting temptation (“Devil Eyes“), to finally making it (“Mama I Made It“), and staying grounded by his source of inspiration, Kairi Chanel Brewster, his two-year old daughter (“Daddy Knows“).

In a recent interview with Big Boy TV, on why his debut album is called SurvivalDave East reveals, he spent five long years making music and didn’t make “a single dollar,” until his 2014 mixtape Black Rose caught the attention of the one-and-only, hip hop icon, Nas, who soon signed East to his label Mass Appeal Records.

Now, the 31-year-old Mass Appeal / Def Jam artist proves his astounding influence, from Survival to the big screen. Survival features an A1 artist roll: DJ Premier, J. Black, Nas, The Soul Rebels, Teyana Taylor, Rick Ross, The-Dream, Fabolous, Jacquees, Gunna, E-40, Mozzy, Lil Baby, Max B, DJ Clue, Ash Leone, Mad Rapper, and Snoop Dogg (in a special tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle).

Listen now below.

— Almost 2 decades ago, DJ Clue? made his leap from the streets to the record label with the release of his star-studded debut album, The Professional.

Many of us can still remember a time when music wasn’t so accessible and musical products themselves were much more tangible. While today you can instantly stream or download just about any music that you want, things weren’t always like this. Artists found themselves creating projects on an incredibly tight budget, often over the course of months. Crews hit the corners to distribute mixtapes like the Sunday newspaper. And, Hip-Hop connoisseurs were in the streets sniffing out the hottest new product like shameless dope fiends. So, during the ‘90s, when Hip-Hop was receiving more admiration that it ever had before, DJ Clue? mastered a formula that made him one of the first and few DJs to take his talents to the record label.

DJ Clue Presents ‘The Professional’

On December 15, 1998, DJ Clue? released The Professional through his newly founded label, Desert Storm Records (a subsidiary of Roc-a-Fella and Def Jam). Prior to this release, DJ Clue? had become one of NYC’s top DJs due to his prominent street-level mixtapes featuring exclusive tracks from Hip-Hop’s biggest names like Mobb Deep and even Notorious B.I.G. However, once given the opportunity to deliver a studio album, DJ Clue? significantly stepped his game up while still providing quality exclusives that folks on the block can appreciate.

The list of featured acts on The Professional is absolutely insane. In some cases, you get hit with excessive firepower on tracks like “Fantastic 4” featuring Cam’ron, N.O.R.E, Big Pun, and Canibus. A young Fabolous continues making a name for himself on “That’s the Way” and “If They Want It”. Missy Elliot, Nicole Wray, and Mocha set things off with “I Like Control”. Jay Z and Ja Rule join forces for the smooth cut “Gangsta Shit”. Mariah Carey even got a skit. The remaining roster includes DMX, Drag-On, Eve, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jadakiss, Styles P, Nas, Nature, Boot Camp Clik, M.O.P, Memphis Bleek, EPMD, Lord Tariq, Made Men, Redman, Flipmode Squad, Foxy Brown, Mase, Keith Murray, Raekwon, Big Noyd, and Mobb Deep.

As of 2001, The Professional has been certified platinum by the RIAA with over 1,000,000 records sold in the United States. Still, those numbers alone can’t sum up this project. This album is a piece of history – as all albums are. However, this is one where you can see where so many different artists were at a particular time in history as well as their chemistry with each other – all in one place.

Check out the full project above.

Written by DJ Robinson