Digital Cover Story, November 2016
Written by J RIVERA / DIRK DIGGLER
Photos by CHRISTIAN LANTRY
With a frantic life between Chicago and New York, Lil Durk has just turned 24 (he was born on October 19, 1992). Las night, he had an ‘ordinary’ birthday bash in the Big Apple: dinner at Broadway 49 Restaurant surrounded by friends and his Collective OTF (Only The Family). It has been just two months since his second album, LIL DURK 2X, was released on OTF/Def Jam Recordings. His schedule is jam packed, and we know that for a fact: this interview had to be postponed four times. Lil Durk is in the middle of a North American Tour that will take him to 27 cities, and will see an end next December 17 in Miami, FL. The MC tells us about his feelings at the beginning of the tour: «My first two shows on the tour (Warrensburg & Petersburg) were crazy. I’m bringing a different energy to this tour; I interact more with the fans, I’m more in tune with ‘em. I’m giving my all on stage and the audience is feelin’ it.» The stage and the studio are now the ‘home’ for Lil Durk, who had a very complicated childhood.
The streets of Englewood, a violent neighbourhood in Chicago’s South Side, were the school for a teenager who knew rap was the only way out to prosper and change his lifestyle. His family had limited resources and also, he didn’t have a father figure as a reference; Durk reminisces on that difficult stage in his life: «Growing up in the South Side of Chicago was kinda hard. My pops was locked up for life and I was too young so I couldn’t help my mother like I can now. She always struggled to make ends meet in a very hostile neighbourhood, in bad surroundings. We depended on food stamps, we had to borrow money, it wasn’t easy; my brothers and sisters did good in school but I was like the black sheep… I didn’t go to school that much and I spent the nights out tryin’ to hustle, tryin’ to get it to help my family out but I didn’t understand it like I do now.» Times have changed but the ghetto will always be the ghetto: «It is still bad out there. There are things happenin’ on every street corner, kids dealing drugs and doin’ all kinds of crazy shit. All that makes it look bad… and rightly so», he openly confesses.
Family and loyalty are non-negotiable for Lil Durk. Two of his four children, Angelo (5) y Zayden (3), appear on the cover of his latest album. «I definitely don’t want them to go thru what I went thru. I work hard to make their life more comfortable, to keep them away from the streets. I want them to have a good education, want ‘em to know the world. I always wanna be there for them.» His mates in OTF are his only family now, because it’s not easy to trust people when you come from where he comes from. Durk has learned that lesson the hard way and knows exactly how to deal with friendships and professional relationships. «I try to surround myself with good people, business men and business women. I choose who I have around me, that’s really important; it’s not positive to have people around you that are up to no good», he stresses.
«RADIO’S NOT FOR EVERYBODY BUT THE STREETS ARE NOT FOR EVERYBODY EITHER. YOU GOTTA FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN THE TWO: GET PLAYED ON THE RADIO BUT ALSO HAVE PRESENCE ON THE STREETS»
«WHEN I WAS INCARCERATED MY LIFE CHANGED. I WAS ALWAYS SERIOUS ABOUT RAP BUT FROM THAT POINT ON I SAW IT WAS A WAY OF BUYIN’ WHATEVER I WANTED, TO SUPPORT MY FAMILY ON A LEGAL WAY»
For Durk there has never been a big difference between a mixtape (maybe mixtapes will have their own category on the next Grammys) and a studio album. At the end of the day it all comes down to a solid project, no matter the format. «Whatever it is you drop, it always has to be hot. I don’t care if it’s a mixtape, a single, an album… If it ain’t good, it ain’t worth it.» Those words come from somebody specialized in digital mixtapes. From when he started in 2011 up until now he has released six mixtapes, the last one of them, 300 Days, 300 Nights, at the end of last year. His fans are awaiting the third chapter of the infamous Signed To The Streets saga, with DJ Drama and Don Cannon. Durk tells us that he will collaborate with other artists in the next few months. «We gotta a lot of collabos comin’ up. That’s a way to keep your name goin’, to have people talkin’ ‘bout you.»
Almost nobody would have predicted Donald Trump winning the presidential elections and becoming the new tenant in the White House alongside his wife, ex-model Melania Trump. Even Durk was smooth about it weeks before Election Day. «I ain’t really worried about Donald Trump. It’s a very important day, we get to elect our president for the next four years. I think Hillary will definitely win». We are afraid that, like thousands of americans taking the streets to show their discontent with the election results, Durk would have a less peaceful message when Barack Obama (the first african american president in the history of the USA) leaves office after eight years and an individual like Trump, with no political experience whatsoever, takes over.