Baltimore rapper Dee Dave was just hours away from getting on a plane Friday morning, traveling to Atlanta for what could possibly be his “big break,” his family said.
He’d been rapping and writing songs most of his life, family said, waiting for a gig that would take him to the next level. Now he’ll never get the opportunity.
David Leroy King Jr., 29, aka Dee Dave, was fatally shot outside the Kings Mills apartments in Essex around 5 a.m. Friday, Baltimore County police said. Another man was shot in the incident and taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Over a dozen neon green evidence markers were sprawled out in the housing complex’s parking lot.
Dee Dave’s music appealed to many in Baltimore because it addressed the realities of living in a city blighted with crime and a high homicide rate, said Baltimore author and activist D. Watkins.
“The music he created was bigger than him,” said Watkins, who’s known King for years. “I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about him. He’s a big piece of the community and he is going to be missed.”
Watkins grew up with the rapper and said King was one of the greatest people he ever met. He described his friend as an “amazing, positive person" who rejected any negativity around him.
When the two would get together, Watkins said, they often talked about their careers and appreciated one another’s art. Watkins said King focused on the lyrics of his songs, emphasizing the importance of survival, family and being a good, honorable person.
Dee Dave had just played a show Thursday night in East Baltimore. He rapped about his life and always kept it positive, his father, David King Sr., said.
The rapper released a new album, “Real 4eva,” last year. Dee Dave has nearly 4,500 followers on Instagram, and his YouTube videos have been watched several thousand times — one from four years ago, several years ago, “Chapel,” has over 24,000 views.
“Forgive me player I am not your usual, crazy how I make that struggle beautiful, why you hate me?" King raps in the last music video he posted before his death, December’s “No More Humble."
Fans took to social media Friday to pay tribute to the rapper. Many thanked him for “keeping it real."
If someone ever needed help or advice, Watkins said King never hesitated.
“Maybe the world doesn’t deserve people like him,” Watkins said.
King’s death comes months after another rapper, Michael Anthony McCoy, was shot and killed during a robbery attempt at a Catonsville music studio while working on a project. Other prominent local rappers have become victims of gun violence in recent years, including Baltimore’s Lor Scoota in 2016 and Annapolis’ Tre Da Kid last summer.
Friday’s shooting also comes on the heels of Baltimore County’s most violent year on record. There were 50 homicides in 2019, surpassing a previous high of 43 set in 1992, according to FBI data that tracks violent crime since 1985. It also was an 85% increase over the prior year, when 27 people were killed in the county, according to police data.
King’s family members said they aren’t sure why he was in Essex. The other man who was shot lived nearby and was supposed to give King a ride to the airport Friday, his grandmother Barbara Austin said. Police have not identified the man.
Family said the rapper lived in the city with his girlfriend and has a 10-year-old son.
Austin described her grandson as a “quiet guy who didn’t bother nobody.” She last saw him Wednesday when he stopped by to pick up his mail and chat. The two talked about music and caught up on life. Then, like always, she told him to be safe right before he left.
“It’s devastating, I never thought it would hit so close to home,” Austin said. “Somebody wants something that someone else has.”
Just days ago, David King Sr. hugged his son and told him he loved him.
“I wish my son was here so I could hold him one last time,” the elder King said. “I just want to see his body.”
After David King Sr. got a phone call telling him his son had been shot, he first went to the hospital, thinking doctors were working to save his life. That’s when he found out it was too late — David King Jr. never even made it to the hospital.
“The worst call to get," he said, “is that your child was taken from you in a senseless act."