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Chartbreaker: YK Osiris On Being Co-Signed By Young Thug and Making R&B Hits For the Ladies

The 20-year-old R&B sensation has a game plan to prove he's "Worth It."

20-year-old rising R&B star YK Osiris has countless clips circulating social media where he’s brazenly singing and dancing along to his breakout hit “Worth It.” But, while growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., he admits to being “very shy.” Born Osiris Williams (and named after the Egyptian god), he was nicknamed YK, for “Young King,” by his teacher; it stuck, despite his less-than-royal upbringing. “It was tough out there,” he says of his Floridian stomping grounds. The eldest of eight, Osiris says he didn’t always get what he wanted, “but my momma always gave me what I needed. I didn’t complain, but I didn’t live how I live now.”


Early on, YK Osiris was inspired by his musical icon Michael Jackson to pursue music — and quickly realized he’d have to build up his confidence to go far. “I got over it,” he says now. “I knew I had to.” In 2018, he started posting videos of himself singing on Instagram and YouTube, one of which was his romantic breakout hit, “Valentine,” which dropped in March 2018. It put him on the radar of Def Jam vp A&R Alexander “AE” Edwards — and has since garnered 104.4 million on-demand U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music. That same month, Edwards took YK Osiris on his first plane ride, to Def Jam’s New York City office. “I was nervous,” says YK Osiris of signing with the label, but “I felt a bond.”

YK Osiris
YK Osiris photographed on May 14, 2019 at The Crown at Hotel 50 Bowery in New York.  Ssam Kim

His current hit, “Worth It” — which peaked at Nos. 52 and 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, respectively — is similarly sweet, which he says comes from having six sisters: “It made me think about how the ladies feel.” He says, “a lot of girls don’t know their worth, a lot of girls think it’s about money and it’s about looks, and it’s not. It’s about you being worth it and not being the girl you’re supposed to be, but the girl that you are. You don’t have to be flashy or sexy. Just be you.”

Even with a strong mission intact, Osiris didn’t anticipate that “Worth It” would move as quickly as it did. “I knew they were gonna love it; not gonna lie,” he says, “but I didn’t know it was gonna go like that.” The single raked in 30 million views on YouTube in just three months and is already certified Gold. “I started going viral,” he says. Even so, his true barometer for success was scoring high-profile cosigns from Drake and Meek Mill — the latter featured YK Osiris in his “Going Bad” video. Meanwhile, everyone from Future to Odell Beckham has started DMing him on social media, though it was a message from Young Thug that made him truly realize he was on the road to fame: “When he reached out, I knew I had something.”

As YK Osiris readies to drop his debut in July, which he promises will be a “different vibe” and stand out from the flooded rap market, he’s still focused on keeping things straight and narrow. “I don’t do drugs or drink no alcohol,” he says, largely because he is heavily involved with the business side of his career. “It just makes me move smarter and have my mind right. I deal with a lot of money, so I need to have my mind right so I don’t go broke. In this game? There’s a lot of fake stuff. You’ve gotta move smart — I’ve got more to this mission to complete.” But for now? “I’m proud of myself, and know my momma’s proud of me.”

YK Osiris
YK Osiris photographed on May 14, 2019 at The Crown at Hotel 50 Bowery in New York.  Ssam Kim

A version of this article originally appeared in the May 25 issue of Billboard.