When a record suddenly begins “I got niggas that’s never coming home/Bitches say they love my music, don’t know none of my songs,” there’s a lot of possible directions the album could go in. On my first listen, it came off with an eye roll and an “oh brother!,” expecting to hear an album of every rapper cliche thrown together without depth or even contemplation, like some rap lyrics generator. Luckily, Paranoia 2 is a bit more than that, and although it’s not without it’s problems, it’s probably Dave East’s strongest project yet.

The biggest issue I have with Dave East is in his songwriting. The production is simple enough for him to tell a compelling story, which is his greatest ability (and why he’s signed on with Nas’ Mass Appeal), but his song structures don’t always yield the highest potential for clear understanding. With most songs not having a clear chorus and Dave mostly unable to switch up his flow from rhyme to rhyme, or even verse to verse, each track can start to drag on, and interjections such as “know who you fuckin’ with, you can’t suck it baby just swallow it” certainly do not help.

It’s interesting that a rapper who prides himself on being able to leave his dark and violent past for a life of rap, fame, luxury, and fatherhood, can be so misogynistic while kissing his daughter on the cover. And further lyrics than the lines from “Prosper” above follow on the record, such as “She wanna FaceTime and text, I just want some neck/I ain’t got respect. Hit it on the couch, hit it on the steps/Put it in your mouth, I’ma make a mess” from “Annoying.”

I don’t know why male rappers aren’t able to talk about the luxury and braggadocio of getting women without disrespecting them, as, at least to me, it seems contrary to the point, but it’s something found rampant in rap music nonetheless. Misogyny in rap music is by far not simply an issue with Dave East alone, as it’s a problem with the genre as a whole, but these lines certainly tarnish the record, if not also the artist.

Where Dave East shines is on tracks such as “Powder,” “Corey,” and “Grateful,” songs that not only have memorable refrains and great production, but lyrics that are able to tell a story and not feel mundane. Paranoia 2 holds some of his best material yet, and as East continues to release mixtape after mixtape, I can only hope that his strengths are gathered for what will be his “debut record” as the rapper I feel he has the potential to be.

What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.