The “Good Vibes” EP debut could have been the rapper Dee Dave’s coronation. The seven-song record moves with the confidence, instrumental sophistication and impressive flows of an artist secure in his craft. As the first track, a spoken word number appropriately called “Intro (Dee Dave Talks),” says: “I swear to god, yo, s--- just keep getting better and better.”
To many who knew him, this was Dee Dave at his core: talented, determined and positive. They wouldn’t get to see where these qualities might have taken him after “Good Vibes,” which came out May 22, his birthday. The rapper and Baltimore Gas and Electric employee, whose real name was David L. King Jr., was killed outside an Essex apartment complex in the early hours of Jan. 24.
Last month, Calvin Krasheen Fogg was indicted on first-degree murder and attempted murder charges, along with several assault and weapons charges, in the shooting that resulted in Dee Dave’s death. Fogg is pleading not guilty.
“The man is confident in his innocence,” defense attorney Warren Brown said.
Dee Dave’s family and team said he was supposed to fly to Atlanta the morning he died for what could’ve been his “big break.” If it were successful, Dee Dave would have been one of the few Baltimore hip hop artists (another being his cousin, the “Bank Rolls” star Tate Kobang) to flourish beyond the area. Instead, he follows the likes of Lor Scoota in being shot down before achieving broader fame.
The 29-year-old artist grew up in East Baltimore and was living in Perry Hall at the time of his death. He split his time between rapping, a passion since the age of 9 that led to two EPs and several mixtapes, and working at BGE.
Beyond his talent, his friends and family recall him as supportive -- and quick to lighten the mood with a joke. They are committed to keeping his story alive through creative and philanthropic channels.
“Right now, I just think the possibilities are really limitless,” said Shaleece Williams, one of the late rapper’s managers. “So right now, we’re picking up the pieces with the things that he was already setting in place, and to take those far but to also just tap into as many avenues as keeps his name alive and keep the legacy going.”
Joe “J Hunt” Beckham, another of Dee Dave’s managers, said that he and the family will put out videos from “Good Vibes” and other unreleased music in the future. For now, the music helps his team and loved ones through their grief.
“I miss him every day, and I always listen to him every day, so that gets me through it … he keeps me motivated,” said J Hunt, who said he was last person to talk to Dee Dave on the phone before he was killed.
“I cherish every song, every project, and I look at it in a whole ‘nother different [way than before], because he was going somewhere,” his mother, Lutherville resident Linnette Madison, said. “He did go somewhere.”
“At first, when I was younger, I used to [think], ‘He is so annoying. Why does he keep rapping all day every day, stay in the bathroom and just rap for hours?’” his sister Kaiya Alford recalled. “We only had one bathroom! But now that Dave’s gone, it’s way more, I listen to him all day … I don’t listen to no other rapper but my brother.”
Another way those who knew him plan to keep his memory alive is by keeping up with The Huddle, his recurring concert series, and his clothing line, REAL4EVA, named for his previous album. Although they’ve yet to file official paperwork, they also hope to get part of N. Chester St. at McElderry St., a place where he frequently hung out, named after him.
Moreover, they’re launching a foundation that will give a one-time $1,000 scholarship to a football player at Perry Hall High School, where Dee Dave’s alma mater where he also played the game. A summer music camp is also in the works.
His family, fans and management aren’t alone in processing this loss. The Baltimore-based writer and educator D. Watkins, with whom Dee Dave was friends, said people can take a lesson about celebrating Black lives from the rapper’s passing.
“It’s a shame, but we live in a society where people only care about Black dudes if they’re dead or if they locked up and part of some type of jail campaign,” he said. “You got all of these people rallying for people after they gone, when you got a perfectly good positive dude who was a great artist that didn’t really get the shine [that] I feel like he deserved while he was alive. And I think we need to learn from that.”
Watkins recently wrote about his friendship with Dee Dave and their shared bond of fatherhood.
“I can’t help but think about how proud Dee Dave was of his own son,” Watkins wrote in Salon. “He worked so hard for him. And Dee Dave’s dad, a great man, loved his son dearly too. What happens now to his son, his dad?”
Jason Holzman, a music manager and promoter working with the family, said that Dave’s 11-year-old son was interested in music. “We were even talking about getting him some music equipment, because he wants to start rapping,” he said.
Dee Dave’s father, David L. King Sr., said counseling and listening to his son’s music have helped him.
“I find myself sometimes reenacting the whole incident: Could I have been there? What could I have done?” he said. “Sometimes I back up off [it] because I watch his videos so much, over and over again, and it hurts.”
Dee Dave’s boss at Baltimore Gas and Electric, Shawn Quattlebaum, considered him akin to a son. He received a call to come to the crime scene and saw Dee Dave’s body.
“It shouldn’t have been him,” he said. “I wish he could’ve gotten out there and shined.”
Denzel Pollard, who grew up with Dee Dave in the Chapel Hill public housing of East Baltimore, handled his booking and promotion before he linked up with J Hunt. Pollard said Dee Dave inspired him to start his own health and wellness business.
“Knowing how Dee Dave worked, he was consistent,” he said. “He had a dream and didn’t let anything get in the way of achieving his dream. I take that and apply that to myself and my business, and how I run my business.”
These memories and efforts to memorialize his name keep his family and team going. They aim to preserve “REAL4EVA” for a long time to come.
“We will keep Dee Dave’s name alive,” his mother said.