“I usually cap with these answers, but I’m gonna tell you the real deal.”
Toronto’s best kept secret, Realest K has gone from sharing covers on TikTok to releasing his debut mixtape and now on tour with NAV.
Rony Kordab, also known as Realest K, began sharing his music on TikTok, where his song WFM quickly went viral. When artists go viral on any social media platform, there is a fear that they will become obsolete after their viral video. Many artists are restricted to only creating alternate versions of their viral song or are denied credit because they are only known for that one song. Realest K acknowledges this fear, but he isn’t letting it stop him from being creative. He speaks candidly and tells us, “I think, during the time when [WFM] blew up, that’s what I was thinking about was like, Okay, now, I can’t get too comfortable. What’s the next step? […] I have this big song that I could just sit down with all this money, and just get lost in it. But I don’t want to be an artist that just is known for one thing, right.” He tells us that he isn’t oblivious to these fears and how others may perceive him, but doesn’t allow them to control him.
Realest K didn’t have the best support system in school when it came to pursuing a career in music. While he wasn’t sure about the intentions of some people he knew, Realest K found solace in the reactions of his fans. He also claims that as his career progresses, he finds it easier to express himself through his music. Especially when he thinks back to high school, when he felt so misunderstood. He recalls times in his life when he did not attend school for months at a time, saying, “I was just too embarrassed to show my face after I’d upload a song or something.”
After his release of WFM, he noticed a shift saying, “I woke up and everyone in school was just, you know, giving me, like, weird, kind of suck up vibes, if I’m being real.” He continues and says, “there was the people that were trying to go and claim that they supported me, you know, this whole time and I was just sitting there confused. I’m like, yo, you don’t even know my last name.” Many people didn’t understand why he wanted to make music, but those who mattered the most to him did.
“I always had this dream, like my whole life, you know, and I feel like I was the only one that ever understood it.”
Growing up, Realest K came from a musical family, though he wasn’t interested in music at first, preferring to play sports. Growing up in a Lebanese household, his father preferred Arabic music over English. Realest K played his song in the car one day without telling his father who it was. “It sounds like you,” he recalls his father saying when he asked who was singing. Realest K waited a few moments before telling his father that it was him singing. Having his dad, who is notoriously picky when it comes to English music, tell him that he liked his song before knowing who sang it gave Realest K the confidence he needed to know he was on the right track, despite what his classmates thought.
Growing in confidence, Realest K’s style evolved as he transitioned from doing covers to sharing his own work. If you look him up, you’ll notice that he wears sunglasses in almost every picture of him. He explains that it stems from a place of vulnerability and privacy. “I don’t like to look people in the eyes when I’m talking to them,” he says. He’d rather let his music speak for him. “I don’t want to give away too much, you know what I mean?” he says.
“I think the best way to describe that mixtape for me was just like a roller coaster, literally, there’s highs, its highs, and its lows and, and I just kind of portrayed that through every song.”
This secrecy is also appreciated by Realest K for creating an air of mystery that keeps fans interested. “I think [some artists] give away so much so quick, that people just run away because, [they think] ‘I already know everything about this guy.’” This, he says, is why he doesn’t do many interviews. Looking up to artists he admires, he says, “you know, [Drake and The Weekend] doesn’t do any interviews [or they’re] very specific about who they go on, and how much they show.” The mystery serves as a way for him to keep fans interested. This privacy, however, does not prevent him from sharing himself through his music.
“When you’re [making eye contact] you’re connecting with the person and you’re showing them your vulnerability and they can see it. And I just think that vulnerability. I wanted to kind of speak through the music more than just with me as a person.”
While Realest K prefers privacy in his personal life, he is willing to be vulnerable through his music. He wanted to make sure that his debut mixtape told his story as accurately as possible. “The process of making the mixtape was just all out of pure emotion,” he says. As he grew in popularity, he recalls his biggest challenge being not understanding why people were treating him differently. When it came to staying true to himself, adjusting to a new life presented itself so suddenly tested his resilience.
“I think it’s just more about people in tune and having them kind of guess and make their own story with who I am.”
He is grateful to those who recognize and appreciate the vulnerability in each of his releases. One question he’s often asked is regarding his lack of features. He says that coming from Tiktok, artists who get lost in the prospect of remixes “end up hitting a plateau because the person they got on it owns that.” He understands that people will associate his songs with the larger artist featured on his track. “With all due respect to these great artists that came up to me and asked me to do a remix, I charted without them,” he says. He wanted to show those who doubted him that he didn’t have to use the names of big artists to make a name for himself.
“I think that’s when I realized, you know, like, regardless of what happens in my life, I gotta keep going.”
Like his perspective on press interviews, Realest K looks to artists he admires when it comes to collaboration. He explains that he doesn’t want any features because he wants to leave a legacy. Looking back to Drake’s Take Care, he wants his earlier work to be remembered as iconic or nostalgic by fans. He wants to make certain that, if he does work with artists, there is a strong connection that they have established first, such as that he has with NAV. “The features are never going to be the chase for clout, it’s always gonna be features that I, personally, would want,” he says. He is, however, about to embark on a large collaboration project: touring with NAV.
He remembers having faith in NAV and Cash because they understood his spirit, who he was, and what he was doing for his music. He says he learned everything from them while working with them in studios for months on end. Similar to a family dynamic, especially given their shared cultural backgrounds, is how he would describe their bond. He recalls his time shadowing NAV in the studio with awe: “[NAV] was like, ‘you know what? Let’s just get a week where you just come and shadow and watch me and then we’ll get another week where you’re just in the studio making songs.’”
NAV assisted him in evolving in ways for which he is eternally grateful. He explains the studio dynamic, laughing: “I always make my records upstairs because NAV would tell me that ‘oh, it’s the Kings Den downstairs.’” Well, Realest K was invited to the Kings Den one day and was able to perform his music for them. NAV, like Realest K’s father, has specific musical tastes: “He loves rap […] he loves singing R&B too, but he’s very picky.” Being a feature on the album came as a shock to Realest K. Artists and songs switch around a lot when creating the final product and Realest K doubted that he would even make the final cut.
Realest K claims that after appearing on the album and filming a music video, NAV took him under his wing in an incredible way. “He brought me to Rolling Loud,” he continues to tell us about NAV shouting him out on podcasts unprompted. “He put me on his tour, like I owe credit and props […] whether people like him or not […] he did a lot for me and I think that’s something that a lot of people need to see.”
Now, Realest K has a support system unlike any other, thanks to NAV, his management team, and his parents. Realest K is ready to show people that “I’m not some TikTok artist, I’m long term.” He tells us he wants to let those who doubt him, “You’ll see my name.” With all of this love and attention surrounding him, it’s easy to forget that he’s an ordinary teenager who wants to make music, still trying to figure out the industry and just make music. “Even if it’s not a song that I think is for TikTok or for Youtube or for my album, I always just record because I love doing that,” he says. Realest K reminds himself to stay present and not get caught up in the fast-paced life he’s been thrown into. He ends our conversation with the words, “I don’t wanna jump into a lifestyle too quick. I wanna savour those moments.”
“I’m still human, and you’re still human. And regardless of how much money that’s in my pocket, or how much success that’s brought to me, like, I don’t need to act different because of it, you know, there’s a time and place for everything.”
With Dreams 2 Reality out, Wish You Well, his latest single, and preparing for tour, we are sure to remember the name Realest K.