There’s no easy way to break into the music business, but the route that DR King has taken has been extra challenging to say the least. His elimination from season 14 of NBC’s The Voice stunned the nation, but he hasn’t let the turbulence effect his stride at all. His new single, “Gravedigger,” elevates his sound to a higher level of mastery, directing the spotlight on the erudite timbre of his voice and the emotion in his lyrics, which in this song take inspiration from the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and our country’s collective struggle for social equality. I’m admittedly a fan of what King has released thus far, and in this track he goes out of his way to show us a dimension of his craft that is as pleasing to the ear as it is provocative for the intellect.
“Gravedigger” flirts with the tonality of hard funk and vinyl-clad soul music, but I would hardly call it a throwback or an attempt by King to recycle the rhythms of his forerunners. There’s a muscular definition in the bass here that is indebted to modern studio efficiency, which is provided here by producer Marc Swersky. Swersky co-wrote the track with King and the brilliant Brielle Brown, and together they really produced a well-rounded composition. The refined musicality is joined by a sharp, furious lyrical prose that evokes feelings of pain and suffering being challenged by the undying energy of love and determination. Not dissimilar to the chants of an enraged crowd of thousands that will stop at nothing in their pursuit of justice, this song refuses to back down from its ambitious framework and accomplishes what it sets out to sonically.
The vibes that come off of the swanky bassline that exuded physicality in the opening bars spill over into the additional layers of guitar and organ to make the instrumentation sound unruly and chaotic as we approach the finish line. Things never get too explosive thanks to King’s consistency at the microphone, which is uniformly paced even amidst all of the rhythmic discord going on behind him. I’m planning on trying to catch King when he hits the live circuit with Kelly Clarkson this January, and I think opening his set with this song would knock out the crowd instantly. It takes a minute to warm up and grips us with tension, but once it reaches its climactic chorus we become trapped in King’s charismatic incantation.
“Gravedigger” is yet another big win for DR King in a jam-packed year of successes for the young singer/songwriter, but I don’t think he’s reached the ceiling of his aesthetical potential yet. The uncaged grooves that sync up with our heartbeat in this song are stellar gems that sparkle even brighter when filtered through the lens of this ultra-crisp production, and what they tell us about his musical depth is very titillating. When I listen to this song I hear traces of the old school making merry with the experimentalism of a new school that is still finding its footing. One thing is for certain though – DR King is not an artist who is in search of his identity. He’s found it, and it encompasses generations of soul and R&B restyled with pop, rock and jazz influences that intentionally never replicate the sound of the past. King is one of a kind, as is his latest stylish nugget “Gravedigger.”