Life comes at you fast sometimes – just ask d4vd.
The Queens-born, Houston-raised artist spent much of his youth obsessed with esports and online gaming, so much so that his first passion eventually led to his blossoming music career.
Not too long ago, d4vd (pronounced “d4vd”) was just playing Fortnite with his friends, using popular songs to soundtrack his gameplay montages, until he fell foul of YouTube’s strict copyright laws.
The solution? Start creating his own music, spurred on by his mother, in his sister’s closet (as DIY as it can get), and d4vd hasn’t look back since, becoming a teenage sensation in alternative music. His first official single, [2001’s] “Run Away”, was followed one year later by “Romantic Homicide”, a special song that swiftly went viral and gave him his first chart hit.
Still only 18-years-old, d3vd has collaborated with The Kid Laroi, toured with SZA, appeared on the Call of Duty soundtrack alongside 21 Savage, made his late night TV debut, and gained over 24 million Spotify monthly listeners, all before he can legally drink in his home country.
Perhaps nothing sums up the quickness of d4vd’s rise to fame than the fact he went from seeing SZA for his first-ever concert to opening for her on the very same tour.
“It was insane. I gave her a gift, a singing bowl. My mum cooked for her, we gave her some food. It was a dream come true. Bro, it was like the best summer vacation you could ever have. I’m playing 30 minute sets in arenas over the course of 3 weeks, 22 shows. Seeing all the different crowds—it was almost like it was two headline shows too, because all the crowds knew all of my songs,” d4vd recalls to Rolling Stone AU/NZ.
Supporting a star like SZA so early may have proved daunting to some fresh artists, but d4vd is built differently. “It’s even easier to play [because the fans are further away], there’s less to worry about, and it’s more about the music. I was more worried about the huge screen behind me, because I’m a pretty short guy [laughs],” he says.
According to him and SZA, one show on the tour clearly stood out above the rest. “We both agreed on Salt Lake City—dude, the energy was nuts! They scream so loud. They checked the decibels after every show, and Salt Lake City had one of the loudest.”
A lot more arena shows are likely waiting for d4vd to sell out in the future, but for now, he’s got to deal with other types of loud noises and disruption in a way he’s not so used to. Now, instead of his humble wardrobe set-up, he’s working in studios surrounded by equipment and people, and his recording process has drastically changed.
“I came from BandLab making everything on my phone to these earphones in an app, then to being able to take advantage of a studio and having multiple people in the room producers etc. I love being 100% self-sufficient, I love educating myself, I love writing myself, I love producing myself, and things of that nature.”
Being 100% self sufficient may sound like a lot of work, but it’s worked for d4vd thus far. Songs like “Bleed Out” and “Notes From a Wrist” display his innate songwriting ability, but also the bravery and vulnerability he has to pour his heart out through his lyrics.
“I feel like music is an extension of everybody that’s in the process of making it”, he says, which is something he’s realising the more he collaborates. “Even if I’m working with other artists, like when me and [The Kid] Laroi made “The Line”, you’re kinda tethered to these brains at this point. When I’m doing it myself, it’s just me and my phone, so it can be a good or bad thing.”
Alongside d4vd, The Kid Laroi’s debut album, The First Time, was stacked with features from Future, NBA YoungBoy, Central Cee, and more “The Line” caught fans off guard – d4vd is becoming more and more known, but having a song on one of the most touted hip hop albums of the past couple of years elevates you to new levels.
“I was on a recording trip in LA and he texted me, ‘Yo are you in LA?’ I was starstruck, but I said, ‘Yeah, I’m here,'” d4vd says about the collaboration. “He said, ‘Pull up to the studio real quick. Have you listened to Elliot Smith? I’m working on my album right now, and I want to make an Elliot Smith song.’
“So we get in the studio and we’re bouncing ideas off each other, but nothing is working. We’re spitballing, have about four unfinished songs, and I ended up going home. A couple days later, he was like, ‘Yo, I think I got it,’ and he played me “The Line”. I went to the nearest studio and laid my verse down and sent it right back on the same day.”
With two EPs released in 2023 alone, Petals to Thorns and The Lost Petals, one could put d4vd’s success down to an old saying: “you get what you put in.”
Hopefully a full album will be on the way soon, but first, d4vd is heading to Australia and New Zealand to perform at Laneway 2024 (it will be his second appearance in Australia). The iconic festival’s lineup features big names like Stormzy, Steve Lacy, and AJ Tracey this year, but it’s testament to d4vd’s preternatural talent that he’s already one of the main draws for fans.
Being unafraid to try new things yet still staying authentic to yourself is a quality that should be celebrated, especially in younger artists like d4vd. It’s a considered attitude that belies the musician’s age, and it’s why he knows when to be critical of his own sound even at this early stage of his career.
“I’ve always wanted to be viewed as a guy that you feel like you’re listening to a band, essentially, but it’s one artist. And I kind of lost that,” d4vd concedes. “I kind of got a little a little too poppy here and there, and a little bit too R&B- leaning here and there. But I think what I was best at in 2022 wasn’t making everything for one genre. And I’m trying to bring that back.”