“DIE-REK is a producer, an emcee, artist, father, son, advocate, a lover of music, and a lover of God.”
Derek Jordan, better known as DIE-REK, got his stage name many years ago from a mispronunciation of his given name. “The first time I rapped at a church, they introduced me as dee-rek, and I thought it was weird after I was done.” Though he was not a big fan of the name, he decided to stick with it.
He grew up in the Malvern neighborhood of Toronto, Canada, saying, “I came from a tough neighborhood. For me, a lot of it was looking up to the older guys.” Many of his older neighbors who were in high school enjoyed rapping, and he looked up to them. “It led me towards rap music, that style, and that culture.” He was not only inspired by his neighbors, but also his older sister, Gail. “She would write rhymes, and I used to beatbox for her. My initials were D.J., so I always thought I was supposed to back her up.”
Though he struggled in school, DIE-REK got a perfect grade when he wrote his first poem for an English assignment in seventh grade. After receiving a perfect grade on a second poem and an A on a third, he realized that he had a talent for writing.
“Getting good marks on that English course sparked something for me and said, ‘Hey, maybe I’m not a D.J. or producer? Maybe I’m a rapper?'”
The church was always a large part of DIE-REK’s home life. “I actually didn’t want anything to do with the church, to be honest, once I hit high school.” At that point, he associated church with arguments and places where newcomers were outcasted. “I thought it was just another religion.”
As he got older, his personal interest in faith and religion grew. “I did my own learning, to be honest.” Lots of teens and young men in his neighborhood would hang out in a park, and they often discussed religion.
“The stuff that I was taught as a kid, I always noticed that it was inside of me. You see people’s different beliefs and how even though we were friends, we didn’t really think alike.”
Listening to and participating in these conversations increased his curiosity in finding out the truth about God. At age twenty, DIE-REK dedicated his life to Christ and enrolled in a Bible college out of his desire to learn more about his faith.
On November 8th, DIE-REK released his newest album, The Dying Ones. Most of the album was written in a two-week period earlier this year. “A lot of what inspired it was seeing people I used to run with lose hope in God.” This was his first project since 2012.
The album’s title track addresses the struggles of unsung heroes who are often ignored or forgotten about. The song is primarily focused on giving recognition to Christian hip-hop’s forerunners. “There was an emcee I grew up on when I gave my life to the Lord. He was a real encouragement to me.” When DIE-REK looked up and contacted this artist online many years later, the person asked how he found him.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I didn’t think anyone remembered me.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I remember you. You were a real encouragement to me.'” DIE-REK learned that after this artist released the album that he constantly listened to, they walked away from their faith after experiencing personal tragedies. “He goes, ‘Thanks for hitting me up. I didn’t think anybody thought about me.'” This response was saddening but also eye-opening to DIE-REK.
“Praises of Men” seeks to encourage listeners to exercise humility. “In the Bible it talks about [how] while we’re here, we might not see our reward, but our treasures are stored up in Heaven.” Noting how people enjoy receiving recognition for their good deeds, he wants to encourage people not to act out of such pursuits. On the other hand, DIE-REK hopes that listeners will show greater appreciation for those who serve others in simple ways that often get ignored.
The first song made for The Dying Ones was “Reign Drops.” It was written shortly after his previous project was released, one which he did not receive a lot of support for. “I felt like a lot of the Christian blogs weren’t posting about it. I felt like I was receiving a lot of shade from people.” Describing the song as a “vent track,” DIE-REK wanted to express his honest thoughts, something that he thinks many artists can relate to. “Sometimes you don’t always get the feedback you expect to receive, and it can feel like the world is crashing down on you.” The song is partially in contrast to “Praises of Men.” In “Reign Drops,” DIE-REK encourages artists to follow God’s call on their life, regardless of whatever others may think.
Beyond music, DIE-REK works with at-risk youth and families in his community, a passion of his.
“I’ve learned a lot about mental health and learning the signs of people who struggle.”
Reflecting upon his life, he now can see that many people he has known have suffered from mental illness. Possessing his current knowledge, he considers how he could have helped people who were in times of crisis in the past. After listening to “I Neva Knew,” he hopes that listeners will educate themselves about the signs of mental illness so that they can spot it in those they know and help them to obtain assistance.
DIE-REK hopes that listeners will consider their judgment of others on “Lift Me Up 1 Time.” “It’s about lifting up believers instead of putting them down.” The song was provoked by having seen excessive criticism of Christian artists and public figures. “We can see that maybe they’re struggling a bit, [but we should] lift them up and pray for them… We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
In 2018 DIE-REK got signed to Illect Recordings. He first spoke with their General Manager, Josh Niemyjski, about five years ago. “Last year he decided it was time. The relationship has always been there, and we’ve always been good friends.” His journey to the label was described in the song, “Unpredictable.” Though opportunities were presenting themselves to further his music career, DIE-REK felt that God wanted him to go to college to study social work.
“It didn’t make sense to me in the natural, but spiritually it did. I said, ‘Okay, God, I have doors open but I felt like this is what You want me to do.”
Being able to make a good income from his jobs working with youth and families has been able to make it easier to fund his music career, a blessing that DIE-REK sees in hindsight as a result of following God’s call for him. “Soon after that, I got signed to Illect Recordings. It was just like, ‘Wow, [God] is predictable, but He’s also unpredictable.’”
“Scars” was influenced by the idea of finishing what you started, regardless of the hardships you endure and the pain they cause. “It’s not about how you start, but about how you finish.” DIE-REK faced many obstacles in creating and releasing The Dying Ones and learned this lesson the hard way. “I felt like as I kept writing and kept going, extra blessings were coming on me.” The song was inspired by Jesus’ parable of the master and his servant contained in Luke 19 and Matthew 25, which describes the servant being rewarded by his master for his hard work.
The Dying Ones concludes with “All Day All Night,” addressing how he seeks to live his life transparently in accord with God’s will 24/7.
Outside of music and work, DIE-REK enjoys spending time with his wife and three children and reading books.
Get or stream The Dying Ones here.