The beginning of d4vd’s musical career happened, unintentionally, in his younger sister’s closet. While growing up, he was an avid anime watcher and gamer and tried to monetize his Fortnite domain on YouTube. The only problem: His gaming videos were constantly flagged for music copyright issues. Frustrated, he asked his mother for advice, and she suggested making his own background music.
In January 2022, he took his cell phone to his sister’s closet — because it had the best acoustic sound in the house — and recorded a song called “You and I” to appear in his gameplay scenes. It was the second song he recorded in his life (his first was an indie song called “Runaway” in 2021, while he was finding his sound).
“He exploded onto the Fortnite scene and was in the top 50 Indies on Soundcloud,” says d4vd, whose real name is David Burke. when we spoke on a Zoom call. “All my Fortnite friends started using it and it got circulated on Twitter and YouTube and then it went crazy.”
He’s not kidding: in just a short time, the 18-year-old artist has amassed more than 24 million listeners on Spotify with releases like his latest EP The lost petals, and he recently came off the road opening for SZA’s SOS go through. Still, your phone is part of your production process, a home, so to speak, for your musical ideas.
“I’m switching between my phone and the studio,” he says. “You get two different sides of me wherever I’m recording.”
You would never guess that he is someone who started creating music a little over two years ago, or someone who started listening to different genres outside of gospel music in 2016. For the first half of his life, he grew up in Queens, New York, where his mother made him join the church choir at the age of seven. He remembers singing a lot of Marvin Sapp songs, like “Perfect Peace.” But he was only in the choir for about five months before dropping out, then returning at age 13 and dropping out again. These experiences, along with listening to artists like Kirk Franklin and CeCe Winans at home, were his first encounter with music.
After his eighth grade year, his parents decided to move to Houston, where his mother would homeschool him. “I was terrible when I was in public school because I had trouble paying attention,” recalls d4vd. “(My parents) wanted a more elaborate, more career-focused curriculum, and I wanted to be an engineer. I learned how to build computers, I learned how to code, C++ and a little Java.”
But the engineering plan also only lasted a few months. “Everything that was really forced on me, I gave up in the first four or five months,” he says. “Except music, because I’m still doing that.”
D4vd’s 2022 debut song “Romantic Homicide” first gained notoriety on TikTok. To date, the song has over 830 million streams on Spotify and has reached the billboard Hot 100 chart – but initially it was a song he almost didn’t release.
“When I made ‘Romantic Homicide’, I asked myself why it wasn’t the time,” says d4vd. “I thought I was scared of what the opinions on it would be, but I learned not to rush into anything and to do it in my own time. If I had released it when I did, I probably wouldn’t have done anything because I wouldn’t have been in the right mindset to promote it and it would have been another Fortnite montage and forgotten about for the next two. weeks. Me not trusting that song and then putting it on TikTok (helped me) recognize my own creative patterns.”
This year alone, he has already participated in four tours, the biggest of which was opening for SZA. He met her team this spring when she was performing at Madison Square Garden – d4vd’s first time was at a show outside of hers. She then listened to his music and signed him into an interview. Shortly after, her team received the email informing her that he was chosen for her SOS the second leg of the North American tour.
“I’m SZA’s biggest fan. I’m super grateful to her,” he says happily. “When I got the news that I was booked on tour, I was in a recording session and I jumped up, threw my headphones in and went crazy.”
Life on tour has been an enjoyable experience for d4vd, who brings his family with him, even having his younger sister (whose closet started it all) on stage alongside him. Many fans appear in white shirts with red paint that resembles blood, an expression that reflects d4vd’s love for anime, while also symbolically representing the theme behind it. The lost petals. The five-track EP is like an exercise in poetry with diverse guitar styles and influences from R&B, jazz, pop and gospel piano. “Notes From a Wrist” is an R&B ballad that touches on elements of mental health and loneliness and abandonment – emotions d4vd felt when he was homeschooled and lost touch with his friends in Queens. “Rehab” is a punk-rock track that makes you want to dance wildly in an open space. “Hollow Prayers” is a peaceful meditation whose guitar part is emblematic of its title. “Poetic Vulgarity” is apparently an ode to his love of poetry, which he often writes on his phone. “Once More” showcases d4vd’s writing prowess as he tackles themes of love in the midst of a breakup.
His career is growing rapidly and he can’t wait to bring listeners along. “I’m a gamer, so I’m going to talk in video game terms,” he says. “It’s a DLC pack, it’s downloadable content. It’s an expansion of the first project and I wanted to finish the story. When I move on to the next chapter, I want to leave something that marks this time for my fans.”