“For the last decade, R&B has been more concerned with downtempo, often depressing music than anything that comes close to eliciting joy. “Tetris” revels in the nostalgia of its source material and by the time King sings “Cuz you’re livin’ la vida loca” his addition to the booty song pantheon is complete.” – Rolling Stone
“Bay Area singer-songwriter Derek King has cut his teeth and earned his stripes as one his region’s go-to hook masters and most talented vocalists, helping popular artists like Sage the Gemini, SOB x RBE, Nef the Pharaoh, Iamsu! and several others cook up hits.” – HYPEBEAST
With his “Tetris” viral single and social media challenge leading the way, Derek King put up a high score in 2019. The breakthrough song achieved nearly 20 million plays across platforms and had Billie Eilish among its participants. Derek spent the year on the grind, including a tour with Sage The Gemini to support the hit and his More Vibes full-length. Now, the Bay Area native follows up with May 29’s Let’s Be Honest. The sophomore EMPIRE album featuring Eric Bellinger, Likybo, E-40, King Combs, and others spotlights King’s songwriting as well as his vocal abilities. Derek King continues to cement himself as one of R&B’s hardest working talents.
Let’s Be Honest finds Derek King asserting himself as a great within his genre. The 24-year-old wants greater recognition for his gifts with the pen as well as the microphone. “I’m so grateful for the success, but I still feel like I’m the most slept-on,” he admits. “People are still not tuned in to me. Like, let’s be honest: a lot of singers don’t write their own stuff, a lot of singers are not really hands-on with their music. I want to make a statement with this album,” he says of the title. From props and stories, much of King’s newest writing is focused on enhancing his live show.
After years of working with mentoring producer and writing partner T Kelley, King exclusively wrote every lyric of his 2020 release. Derek now teamed with Reece Beats (Kehlani, P-Lo, Mozzy) for almost all of the LP. “It’s a new album with a new producer, and it brought out a new side of me,” he notes. Fans received an early taste of that chemistry on “Dead Roses,” a 2020 video that has nearly garnered half a million YouTube views. An upcoming remix with EMPIRE label-mate King Combs will enhance the song inspired by real-life relationship woes.
As an artist who has used social media to set himself apart from others, Derek King is feeling energetic and creative about the new decade. “My biggest downfall has been consistency and staying on top of everything; I was releasing a song every four months. People’s attention spans are too short for that. I’ve gotten much better at staying in people’s faces. That’s why I constantly shoot videos and live in the studio,” shares the artist who has released five 2020 singles. New music and social media interaction have been integral to Derek King’s success. “Even if I don’t have millions of fans yet, I want to cater to the followers that I have right now.” Remaining confident while staying humble, streaming and video numbers suggest that the Antioch, California product is well on his way.
Let’s Be Honest notably includes the first of several collaborations with E-40 on “2 Much,” marking a personal milestone for King. “Snakes” is another video highlight. That song began with Derek experimenting with his delivery. Listening back, he loved what he heard in the song about betrayal. Others did too, as the track nears 500,000 on YouTube and Spotify, respectively. The upcoming Eric Bellinger duet, “Stories,” will arrive ahead of the spring 2020 album.
While 2019 showed that Derek King to be a special talent in R&B, he intends for 2020 to prove his staying power. The versatile vocalist emphasizes his writing, his live show, and his ability to outwork the competition. “This album is 100% me, from front-to-back. I’m very proud of that.”