Updated: Aug 3, 2020
by Jack Ellis, Founder of Pocket Full of Stones, @jackellis85
It’s been more than six years since Derek McAllister, Jr. - better known as Speaker Knockerz - was found dead in his garage at the age of 19. The young artist’s death was a freak incident - the coroner’s office found no signs of foul play or trauma, and his family insists he did not overdose. As David Drake wrote in his seminal profile of Speaker Knockerz for Wondering Sound, “That his end — which came not from drugs, nor violence, nor reckless rock star misbehavior, but mysterious natural causes — arrived so capriciously is hard to reconcile with the vibrancy of the music he left behind.”
Derek McAllister, Jr. was born in New York and spent his formative years in Columbia, South Carolina. In his short time on earth, McAllister self-produced three full-length solo projects - Flight Delayed (2010), Married to the Money (2013), and Finesse Father (2013) - and a string of official singles. He never felt supported by his home state, so he turned to the online platforms of his day - Twitter, Vine, Soundclick, Datpiff, LiveMixtapes, YouTube - to build his following.
Though he’s best remembered for his solo music, Speaker Knockerz made his name selling beats and approached songwriting with a producer’s mindset. He scored his first big production placement from Meek Mill, who used a Speaker Knockerz remake of Will-A-Fool’s “Tony Montana” beat on his 2011 mixtape Dreamchasers. SK’s hustler mentality and keen ability to color in 808s led to more placements with mixtape legends all up and down the east coast (Gucci Mane, Young Scooter, 2Chainz, Young Dolph, Shy Glizzy, French Montana & Chinx Drugz).
Speaker Knockerz’ solo work was simple yet sophisticated. He combined the strip-club-oriented maximalism of Atlanta acts like Travis Porter and Roscoe Dash with the clipped melodicism of early Chicago Drill to create resonant anthems about the melodramas of teen romance and the joys of getting paid. He was a sharp and versatile songwriter, capable of conjuring vivid scenes within a limited musical framework.
In the years after his passing, Speaker Knockerz influenced a new generation of melodically inclined rappers. Stylistic trailblazers like Kodak Black, Lil Uzi Vert, and Juice WRLD have interpolated his signature flow or memorialized him in song. Compton native and pop-rap wunderkind Roddy Ricch told Passion of the Weiss last year, “The basis for my music is Speaker Knockerz”. Gen Z favorites like Lil Tecca and Lil Mosey have credited SK as a primary influence. Even fledgling teen stars like 2kbaby and The Kid LAROI have paid homage.
The body of work that Derek McAllister, Jr. left behind continues to spark inspiration in the artists who come across it. In an era of ever-shrinking attention spans, Speaker Knockerz’ staying power is a testament to his work ethic and musical intuition.
1. “Good Times”, Flight Delayed
Shortly after his 14th birthday, McAllister released his first mixtape Flight Delayed under the name Jamol Junior.
2. “Freak Hoe”, Married to the Money
3. “Money”, Married to the Money
The video for “Money” was one of Speaker Knockerz’ first collaborations with Zack Dillan (aka Loud Visuals), who would remain SK’s close friend and go-to videographer up until his death.
4. “Count Up”, Married to the Money
5. “Rico Story Trilogy”, Married to the Money / Finesse Father
6. “Flexin & Finessin”, Finesse Father
In one of his only interviews, Speaker Knockerz cited Soulja Boy as a primary influence. The admiration was mutual - Soulja referred to “Flexin & Finessin” as “one of his favorite songs” shortly after SK’s death.
7. “Yo Racks”, Finesse Father
8. “How Could U”, Finesse Father
9. “Erica Kane”, Married to the Money 2
10. “Lonely”, Married to the Money 2
Speaker Knockerz’ most popular song, “Lonely”, currently stands at 146 million views on YouTube and 131 million plays on SoundCloud. The song was one of the last pieces of music he released in his lifetime, and it would eventually appear on his posthumous album Married to the Money 2. Although the buzz around “Lonely” attracted the attention of major labels like Republic and Universal, Speaker Knockerz remained proudly independent until his death.
“Lonely” and “Erica Kane” were among the last songs Speaker Knockerz released while he was alive. They marked a turn towards moodier sonic and thematic material that was never fully realized.