Derek King is a rare breed out of the Bay Area. Establishing his own name in the R&B lane, the Antioch singer-songwriter proves the grind never stops when you’re an independent artist. Having made music for over 7 years, it was his 2018 single “Tetris” that would catapult his name to the forefront of the West Coast. With the visual almost at 5 million views in just over a year, the record also caught the attention of Billie Eilish who played it on her Instagram story.
The EMPIRE signee was well aware he had to do everything in his power to make sure the record wasn’t bigger than him. Most recently, he released his highly-anticipated project titled Let’s Be Honest, blessing fans with 11 of his hardest tracks with features from E-40, Eric Bellinger, and Marmar Oso. The meaning in the title speaks volumes to his talents, proving why he really is the newfound King of R&B.
Flaunt caught up with Derek who was driving to his trainer’s house in his hometown of Antioch, to discuss his new project, linking with E-40 and Eric Bellinger, goals, and more!
What are your thoughts on the recent protests and racism?
It’s mainey. Yesterday I’m in the studio, I walk outside and it’s a protest going on. It’s pretty crazy. I haven’t joined anything yet. I’ve been doing everything silently. I’m not a real loud person. During this time, you have to learn to be loud. Learn to be real upfront and involved, I’m learning that as we go.
Where do you workout?
I have to go to my trainer’s house. I’ve been going there all of the time, I can’t miss a day.
Who are you listening to when you workout?
Personally when I workout, I listen to anything. It has to be rap music, I can’t listen to R&B. I have to listen to rap because it’s a certain vibe I have to have.
Does that mean you don’t listen to yourself?
Maybe if I go on a jog here or there, I’ll play myself. I get into different modes.
“Tetris” was a big record for you, how have you evolved since?
Creatively, my vocabulary and my mind has expanded a lot. I wrote “Tetris” in 2018 so it’s been almost 2 years. A lot has come and a lot has changed. Me meeting different people, me seeing different things, me actually being involved in different things. I try to keep my life involved in my music as much as possible. Even if it’s not my situation, I try to make it somebody else’s situation.
You released your new project Let’s Be Honest. How does it feel to have It out?
A relief because it got pushed back because of Corona. I’m like man, let’s drop it. I’m not tripping off of the Corona. It was supposed to come out months ago, but we kept pushing it back. “No, you gotta wait. We should wait.” Finally I said “whatever, we gotta drop.”
Being independent, you can lowkey dictate what you want to do?
Yes I’m with EMPIRE, it’s an independent label. They try to have your best interest with everything, which is dope. I love them for that. They want to be more cautious. “We want you to have a good release, we don’t want anything to mess it up. We want you to tour, we want you to do release parties. We want you to be physical…” Are you willing to give all that up to drop now? Man nah, let’s drop. I wanted to give everyone a full-blown project because I haven’t dropped one in a while.
Why’d you name it Let’s Be Honest?
I honestly feel like I’m slept-on. I don’t get the attention I need. There’s not a lot of people that have seen what I’ve done. It’s an eye-opening experience, nothing mainey. I called it that because, let’s be honest.
Talk about getting King Combs on the “Dead Roses” remix.
He was honestly supposed to be on “Play,” but something happened. He liked “Dead Roses,” he hopped on “Dead Roses.” I got the verses back, EMPIRE set it up. Shout out to Tina, Nima, Ghazi, all them. I haven’t met him yet but we’re supposed to be shooting the video soon. I’m waiting on that.
You also got E-40 on “2 Much.” What does that mean for the Bay?
That’s a milestone for every artist who does music out here. When you get a song with E-40, okay boom. I’m actually making noise if E-40 is recognizing me and has something to say to me, because he’s a legend and how much respect everyone holds towards him. Shout out Lil Bean from out here, he said “somebody tell my pops, I got a song with 40.” He has a song with E-40 as well. I relate to that line. As soon as I got a song with 40, I told my dad, “now I have a song with E-40!”
What did your pops say?
He was shocked and hella happy because he fucks with E-40. He fucks with everything E-40 does. That’s like my kid coming to saying, “yo wait, I have a song with G-Eazy.” Damn n*gga, you got a song with G-Eazy? When it gets to that and these n*ggas get old enough to have full-blown families.
Was that record done in the studio?
Nah, I wasn’t actually there when he did his verse. I’ve been to his house on different occasions to work on different things with him, he’s hella cool. He’s hella big on being your own boss and not working for anybody. I’m big on being my own boss because my family owns a lot of businesses. That’s how I was brought up. My granddad owns a barbecue spot, my dad owns a landscaping company, my mom owns a real estate company that she’s the head of. My sister has a hair salon. I grew up with everyone putting it in my brain: “be your own boss, don’t work for nobody.” When 40 adds on to that, it shows me I was growing up the right way.
How was shooting the “Stories” visual and adapting to quarantine?
Adrian and I were supposed to shoot a whole different video to “Stories,” we had it planned out. I was supposed to go to LA, everything was planned out. We had to figure out another way to go about it. They’re trying to tell me to do a cartoon video, but I didn’t want to do a cartoon video. I already did one and I wanted to be more creative. I wanted to shoot something related to what’s going on in the pandemic. I talked to Adrian about it, he came down from LA. Shot my part, shot his part, sent it to me. It was crazy dope how it all came together, I liked it.
Talk about linking with Eric.
He’s a dope ass person to know. He’s very encouraging. He showed me a lot. That’s a big artist I look up to, I learned a lot of writing from him. For him to get on one of my records was really crazy. To hear him being so cohesive with my voice was very dope. He’s a dope artist to collaborate with all around. Genuine person, one of my idols. It’s amazing to finally get to work with him after these years. I sent him a lot of records, he told me before “it has to be that perfect one.” When he heard this one, he felt that. I’m glad he honestly feels it, that way he wants to contribute to it.
I seen you post you’re the new King of R&B. That’s a statement! Who do you think holds that trophy?
I got a lot of bones to pick with people when they claim something. You can’t be the King of R&B when you have other people writing for you. I look at that seriously. That’s saying you’re the best basketball player, but you aren’t really out there making any moves. The team is doing it for you. You’re not scoring, your team’s scoring, but you’re saying you’re the best basketball player. You can’t claim that you’re the best basketball player if you’re on the best team, that’s because you’re on the best team.