Lil Durk Talks ‘Remember My Name’ Album, What He’s Doing to Stop Gun Violence in Chicago and French Montana’s Words of Wisdom [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Everyone remembers their first time and surely Lil Durk does too. The rapper is scheduled to perform at the House of Blues Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and the experience in the city is a first for him. It's a Sunday evening in May and Durk and his camp are already running behind. He still needs to get a pre-show interview in before he hits the stage to performs songs like "What Your Life Like" and "Like Me" off his debut album, Remember My Name.
Durk was still showering inside his room at the Andaz West Hollywood hotel before access was given to run up to his key-access-only floor. Once inside the double-bed room, which still lingered of a faint fresh-out-of-the-shower soap scent, Durk was partially dressed in black cargo pants, a black shirt and shocks. He still had about 15 minutes to go before he was stage-ready, yet still took the time to talk about Remember My Name, what he had in store for L.A. and gun violence among other things.
As he sat on his bed, covers pulled back, Durk kicked his leg back and forth in what could be mistaken for nervousness, but according to the 22-year-old, he's just excited. It's been a long road to get to the release of his June 2 debut.
During his come-up, Durk was arrested on weapons charges in 2011, and sentenced to three months in prison. In 2013, he faced weapons charges again after he was witnessed throwing a gun into his vehicle. Unfortunately, gun violence was hitting home for the “100 Rounds” rhymer. He lost his cousin OTF Nunu in 2014, his manager OTF Chino in a drive-by shooting in Chicago in March, and his Coke Boys label mate Chinx in May.
But it hasn’t all been bad news for Durk. He inked a deal with Def Jam in 2012, signed with French Montana’s Coke Boys imprint in 2013 and that same year, he released his Signed to the Streets mixtape. Before the “I Made It” creator was even 21, he garnered a massive online following and was named a member of XXL’s 2014 Freshman Class. While achieving his dreams, he's also become a father to three children: Angelo, 3; Zayden, 2; and Bella, 2.
Dealing with the highs and lows comes with the territory and Durk is embracing what the future holds. Peep the conversation below to understand why Durk chose to work with Jeremih and Logic on the album and how he helps to reduce gun violence in his hood. Plus he shares French's words of wisdom, the best place to get mild sauce in Chi-town and more.
The Boombox: You once said with Remember My Name you want to paint a picture of Chicago that people don't know. Do you think you've done that? If so, what image are you trying to create for your listener?
Lil Durk: I want to show them the stuff they haven’t seen. What the news doesn’t show. My album is just pure. It shows the struggle and what we go through. For example, the news will show a lot of the negative side. You don’t get too much about the positive from the news.
Which positive things are you doing that you would you like to highlighted?
For example, once upon a time a little girl had died. We [the community] all tried to put on for the funeral and get money together and show our support for the family. But [the news] didn’t show that. They only covered her death, not how the community came together.
Although you've worked with so many artists in the past, on your last project, Signed to the Streets 2, and on the new album you choose to have a limited amount of feature artists. Only Jeremih and Logic appear. Why is it important for you to limit guest appearances and focus on your own flow?
I just wanted people to hear me. I don’t want to try to piggyback off of anybody else. This is my album, it's all me. But I put Jeremih and Logic on there just to show my different lanes of creativity. They are two very different songs.
Watch Lil Durk's "Like Me" Video Feat. Jeremih
What ever happened to the Jadakiss and Meek Mill verses you had? They missed the deadline?
Oh yeah I still got ‘em. I will see how it goes. I might just chop the verses up and make a whole new song. They missed the deadline for the album so we’ll see what I come up with. I will use them.
Was there anyone else besides French Montana that you wanted on the album but they didn't make the final cut?
It’s a lot of songs that didn’t make the final cut. But I ain’t really trippin’ though, as long as I know people came through. Meek's verse, Jada, French.
Let’s talk about how you narrowed it down to these tracks.
How you narrow it down to an album is, we are always listening to the music. I let my partners and my DJ listen to my songs and if they say, "Oh yeah I felt that one" or "I am feeling that" then I write it down and we just continue building the album from there.
So your team really plays a huge roll because you value their input?
When I'm working with them, 20 songs will turn into 15 and then 15 turns into 10. That’s the album right there.
What career advice has French Montana given you that you find yourself using?
French just said, "Stay out of trouble." He told me "Stay in the studio, stay focused." When you in the studio you don’t need everybody calling your phone telling you about what’s going on outside the studio. I don’t need those distractions. So yeah, he just has me focused.
We went to the Chi and tried the mild sauce. It was good. Do you put it on everything? What is your go-to spot to eat in Chicago?
Mild sauce is good everywhere in Chicago [laughs]. Mild sauce is good everywhere but especially from Harolds’s too.
You recently went to Harlem, N.Y. to ball at Rucker Park. Do you have skills on the court too? What's your favorite basketball team?
Yeah, I got a little something [laughs]. But my favorite team is the [Chicago] Bulls.
Listen to Lil Durk's "Tryna' Tryna'" Feat. Logic
Gun violence has tremendously affected your life. You lost your cousin Nunu last year, your manager Chino was killed in March and now your Coke Boys brother Chinx. What are your thoughts on gun violence continuing to claim more and more lives each day?
It’s hard. Especially when you lose people back to back like that or when you lose anyone that’s close to you like that. I just wish it slowed down and it stopped. I know it’s never going to stop but if it slowed down... It’s happening too much. I really just want people to think before they shoot.
How has the loss of your boys influenced your music or how you're living your life?
I know what they want. They would want me to keep going hard and strong for them so that’s what I am going to do. I learned from my mistakes and I am more focused.
You are part of the Chicago-based anti-gang violence campaign Cure the Violence. Coming from where you grew up, how are you preventing children in your community from succumbing to street life and violence?
We go talk to the kids, we go to the schools [in the community]. We even talk to them when they study overseas. I FaceTime them and talk to them about staying on the right path.
Like a mentor?
Not really like a mentor but to show them that I am a part of this. I am here; this is what I do. I just want to have them fall deeper in the hole with me so that they become part of the team. [Chicago Bulls player] Joakim Noah is with it too.
So theses are the positive things you want people to focus on?
Yeah, it just started recently. So I am going to be talking about it and I will get the message out there soon.
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