The city of Chicago has consistently, since the early 90’s, provided an ever-changing Hip-Hop landscape with a new, fresh sound. From Twista and Do or Die, to Kanye West and the “backpack” movement. From Common‘s spoken-word style to Kid Cudi‘s drug-inspired, emotionally charged croons, and Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa‘s infusion of all the aforementioned styles, there has yet to be a decade in which a new frontier hasn’t been introduced by the windy city. It’s become tradition.
In 2012, that new frontier was the “drill” movement, jump-started by a music video Chief Keef filmed in his grandmother’s living room, featuring Keef and his friends holding guns and pointing them at the camera. The videos were shot guerilla style, and Keef wasn’t lyrically gifted, per se, but it was an extremely raw take of the lifestyle of a teenager running the streets of “Chiraq,” the nickname given to Chicago’s inner cities when crime rose violently in 2012. Out of that movement came artists like Fredo Santana, King L(ouie), Lil Reese, and Lil’ Durk, who’s hit record, “Dis Ain’t What U Want,” received praise from street rappers nationwide, from Meek Mill to French Montana, the latter of whom brought Durk into his Coke Boys fold.
Three years later, the Chiraq movement has lost ground. Chief Keef is no longer on Interscope Records, Lil Reese’s last big record was released nearly 3 years ago, and the face of Chicago’s youth music movement resembles Chance The Rapper more than it does Fredo Santana–Kanye has championed artists like Chance and Vic Mensa much like he did with Keef and King L 3 years ago. Lil’ Durk however, is a victorious remnant of 2012’s drill upbringing, as he’s managed to impact the radio and the streets in the past year, and with his debut album–Remember My Name–in stores this week, he’s not stopping there.
The Source: You haven’t put out too many singles, you’ve been real deliberate with what you release, but this “Like Me” record is the first radio-ready banger. “Dis Ain’t What You Want” obviously blew, but it wasn’t something you wrote for radio. What transition did you have to make to actually go in the studio to prepare to make a record ready for the radio.
Lil’ Durk: I got advice from artists like Wale. He would tell me, “You’re going to always have the streets, but you need that radio hit. He always told me with Jeremih, you’re going to be on the radio.” Who doesn’t want to be number one?
I always tell my friends that you have to fail ten times before you succeed. Was there a real trial and error process looking for this record?
You cant really force a record. We did like three songs together and “Like Me” was just it.
2012 was the big year for you when things started to pop off on a nationwide scale for you. What was your mission statement when you first started to put out music; what was your overall goal for your career early on?
When I went to jail. I was 17, and I had my son when I was locked up. That really got me focuesd. My goal was to get hot in the streets, get show money, and collect the show money. I didn’t see the bigger picture until now. Now I want to get hot and sell albums. Be a touring artist. My goal right now is to be a better artist/performer. I didn’t see myself becoming like this.
There was an interview on CNN last week with T.I. and Kap G with Don Lemon. Lemon asked why they made a song called “F*ck The Police.” Do you feel that Hip-Hop has a responsibility to ease some of that tension between citizens and law-enforcement?
It’s a product of the environment. I’m angry at the police. Another person probably ain’t, it’s just a mixture of feelings. But a lot of people go about it different. I agree with T.I. this era is totally “f*ck the police.” Just with this interview right now, you cant judge me when I say “f*ck the police” when they’re actually out here killing innocent people. So I’m definitely not mad at T.I or Kap.
Is that a mentality you’ve always had? Having a tentative nature when you approach people in law enforcement? Or do you feel it built in you over time?
It just built in overtime, at first it wasn’t really like that. Now you’re killing people on camera and going free. That really builds anger inside, and that’s why a lot of people are out their rioting.
Lets go back to the music real quick. I listened to your mixtapes and they’re all different in their own right, but one thing that’s consistent in your catalog is your story telling. You paint very vivid pictures, you’re very accurate on how you set a scene. I remember the intro to Signed To The Streets 2. I listened to it over and over, it was such a harrowing tale of where you were and what you were seeing around you. How much of that do we get on this album?
The song with Logic is a party song. It’s a feel good party song for everybody just like the song we have for Jeremiah, it’s for the ladies. You have to make a song for the ladies. But there’s still a lot of that, what you mentioned. One of my verses on the song “What Your Life Like,” I say on a verse “the murder started after the L’s/now my phone got shit to tell, take it wrong/they got it after ‘Dis Ain’t What You Want'”. I like to keep it real and paint the picture of and show them what it really is.
Are you ever worried that people will get the wrong message from your music? I derive a clear message from a lot of your songs, but that’s me. I’m someone that studies and listens, but to the casual ear, one might say you’re promoting violence. What’s your response to that?
I’m keeping it real with what’s going on today. Just like the T.I situation, it’s going on today. I’m going to talk about whats going on today. Even if I start rapping about God right now, ‘oh, he’s a hypocrite.’ You cant make everybody happy. Whatever you focus on, focus on, and you have to go hard with it, because there’s always going to be something said about it. I’m not saying “go kill somebody,” but, as you’ll hear in the music, I’ve seen a lot of people get killed. It’s a difference between what I’ve seen, and what I do.