The start of d4vd’s musical career happened, unintentionally, in his little sister’s closet. Growing up, he was an avid anime watcher and gamer, and he had been trying to monetize his mastery of Fortnite on YouTube. The only problem: His gaming videos were consistently flagged for music copyright issues. Frustrated, he turned to his mother for advice, and she suggested making his own background music.
On January 2022, he took his 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 feature on his gameplay footage. It was the second song he ever recorded in life (the first being an indie song called “Runaway” in 2021, as he was finding his sound).
“It blew up on the Fortnite scene and got top 50 Indie on Soundcloud,” d4vd, whose real name is David Burke, says when we chat on a Zoom call. “All of my Fortnite friends started using it and it circulated on Twitter and Youtube and then it just went crazy.”
He’s not kidding: In a short amount of time, the 18-year-old artist has won more than 24 million listeners on Spotify with releases like his latest EP, The Lost Petals, and he recently got off the road opening for SZA’s SOS tour. Still, his phone is very much a part of his production process, a home if you will for his musical ideas.
“I’m back and forth between my phone and the studio,” he says. “You get two different sides of me wherever I’m recording.”
You’d never guess that he’s someone who just began creating music a little over two years ago, or someone who just began 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 mom 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 joining again at the age of 13 and dropping out again. Those experiences, along with listening at home to artists like Kirk Franklin and CeCe Winans, were his first encounter with music,
Following 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 problems paying attention,” d4vd recalls. “[My parents] wanted a more crafted curriculum, to be more career-focused, and I wanted to be an engineer. I learned how to build computers, I learned how to code, C++and a little bit of Java.”
But the engineering plan only lasted a few months as well. “Everything that I really been put on to, I gave up in the first four or five months,” he says. “Except music, because I’m still doing it.”
D4vd’s 2022 breakout song, “Romantic Homicide,” first got its notoriety on TikTok. To date, the song has more than 830 million streams on Spotify, and it hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart — but it was initially a song he almost didn’t release.
“When I made ‘Romantic Homicide,’ I second-guessed myself because it wasn’t time,” d4vd says. “I thought I was scared of what the opinions would be from it, but I’ve learned not to rush into anything and to do it on my own time. Had I released it at the time I made it, it probably wouldn’t have done anything because I wouldn’t have been in the right mindset to promote it and it would’ve been another Fortnite montage and been forgotten about in the next two weeks. Me not trusting that song, and then coming around to it and putting it on TikTok [helped me] to recognize my own creative patterns.”
This year alone, he has been on four tours already, with his biggest one being his opening spot for SZA. He met her team this spring, when she was performing at Madison Square Garden — d4vd’s first time being to a concert outside of his own. She then heard his music and co-signed him in an interview. Shortly after, his team received the email that he was chosen for her SOS tour’s second North American tour leg.
“I’m SZA’s biggest fan. I’m super grateful to her,” he says cheerfully. “When I got the news I was locked in for the tour, I was in a recording session and I jumped up, threw my headphones and was just going crazy.”
Tour life has been a pleasant experience for d4vd, who brings along his family, even having his younger sister (whose closet started it all) onstage alongside him. Many fans show up in white shirts with red paint that resembles blood, a piece of expression that reflects d4vd’s love for anime, while symbolically representing the theme behind The Lost Petals. The five-track EP is like a poetry exercise with diverse guitar styles and R&B, jazz, pop, and gospel piano influences. “Notes From a Wrist” is an R&B ballad that touches on elements of mental health and going through loneliness and abandonment — emotions that d4vd felt when he was homeschooled and lost contact with his friends in Queens. “Rehab” is a punk-rock track that makes you want to dance wildly in open space. “Hollow Prayers” is a peaceful meditation whose guitar part is emblematic of its title. “Poetic Vulgarity” is seemingly an ode to his love of poetry, which he writes often on his phone. “Once More” shows d4vd’s writing ability as he touches on themes of love amidst being broken.
His career is growing quickly, and he can’t wait to bring listeners along for the ride. “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 off the story. When I’m going to the next chapter, I want to leave something that marks this era for my fans.”