Street Smarts: Lil Durk On His Debut ‘Remember My Name,’ Chinx’s Death And Violence In Hip-Hop

Lil’ Durk isn’t trying to be a faded memory. The 22-year-old rapper is a mixtape machine, pushing out hard-hitting projects like 2012’s I’m A Hitta and his two-part Signed To The Streets series. Even Nicki Minaj is a fan (See: “Chiraq“).

He’s major now. His 12-track compilation, Remember My Name (which dropped June 2), also hosts a series of talented artists such as Jeremih, Logic, his signee, Hypno Carlito and King Popo. VIBE recently sat down with the young Chicagoan, who sounds off on his Def Jam debut, the “Chiraq” label on his hometown, Keke Palmer wanting to marry him and gun violence in hip-hop.

Cue the conversation below.

VIBE: This is your debut album. How does it feel to be releasing Remember My Name?
Lil Durk: It feels good. We are excited. It still hasn’t really hit us yet but we are excited like crazy.

How much of an impact does growing up in Chicago, serving a jail sentence, and the death of Chinx have on your album?
It taught me a lesson to stay focused because I know what they wanted from me. They wanted me to keep working, so if I stop I’d [disappoint them] so I’m just going to keep going. I’m winning and I want to win more! We are blessed to even be dropping an album.

We used to run the streets. Getting locked up, we were really running around with our heads cut off, not saying that we didn’t have any guidance but I had found a way, stuck with it and ran with it. There was a lot of negative energy behind it. So I just got smart, branched [off] and started doing my own thing. But that negative energy definitely catches up with you so we are definitely sticking to something positive.

I’m winning, and I want to win more!

How does the fame feel now?
It feels good. Even though we have more haters [now], but that’s everywhere. It feels good just being from Chicago and being able to say that I’ve been through a struggle. Just being my age and having a story behind it, I just want to let everybody hear it through the album.

What are some perks?
Taking care of me, taking care of my kids. It was a struggle before, and it was hard to take care of my kids. Now, I made a way for them to be comfortable and to be happy.

SEE ALSO: Lil’ Durk Sees The ‘Bigger Picture’ With His Music

Your album is titled Remember My Name. What are three things that you want to be remembered for in this lifetime?
For one, my name. (Laughs) Two, I just want to be remembered for taking care of my community and being a part of everything that’s going on in Chicago to try to help them be better. Three, my music.

How did you link up with Jeremih and Logic for the album?
Hypno Carlito is signed to [my label OTF] so that’s easy. King Popo is like family. Logic was through Twitter, and Jeremih was just politics. We got in the studio together and banged it out.

Unfortunately, hip-hop has lost another rapper, Chinx. Where were you when you found out the news?
We were on the plane. It was crazy. Still can’t believe it. Chinx was ready to work. He wasn’t into all of that but there are a lot of haters who want to be in your position and will do anything to get you out of that position.

What is your take on hip-hop and violence?
They are going to do what they want to do at the end of the day, be smart, and play your cards right. R.I.P. Chinx.

Is there anything in particular that you want your fans to get from this album?
I want my name stamped inside of this music business; I want to be outstanding. I want everyone to know that this is real.

June is Black Music History month. Who are some of your favorite, old-school artists?
Not too old school, but I like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

What are your thoughts about Spike Lee’s Chiraq movie and the label itself?
Chiraq ain’t on the map so I see why the mayor is mad and salty about it, but Spike Lee is going based off of today, so I see it 50/50. We have the soundtrack on it too so I’m supporting everything that everyone is willing to do in the movie. You can’t really be mad at him because he’s going off of what he heard. He does his research, and everyone calls [Chicago] “Chiraq” but I see the mayor is trying to change the word “Chiraq” back to Chicago, so I see it both ways.

Give me your ideal supergroup project. Pick any five rappers/singers and producers.
Drake, Rihanna, Young Chop, Hypno Carlito and Nuski [rapper killed in Chicago].

What do you think about Keke Palmer’s interview with The Breakfast Club? She gave you a shout out, saying, ‘She would marry you.’
Yeah, it was funny. I appreciate that. That’s my homie. She’s cool. She was praying for me on the phone and I appreciate that!

Tips for ladies to keep it fly this summer.
Stick with me, and I’ll do the other half. (Laughs)

And the dudes?
Be leaders. Stop being a follower. Be yourself and take care of them damn kids.

Cop Lil Durk’s Remember My Name on iTunes here.