The reserved 22-year-old Lil Durk is nestled inside his hotel room at the plush Brooklyn Marriott Hotel near the Brooklyn Bridge. Surrounded by his crew of stone-faced, self-described brothers, Durk—draped in blue jeans and white Italia jersey—goes over his agenda for his concert later at New York City’s Highland Ballroom (Sept. 3).
But getting to this moment in Durk’s life hasn’t been easy. Hailing from Chicago’s violent Englewood neighborhood, Durk was one of the rappers featured in the 2014 documentary, In The Field: Chicago, which chronicled the violence plaguing the gang-ridden Chi-City. “It was two ways: basketball or streets,” he said about growing up in Chicago, “and basketball ain’t for everybody.”
Just one month after The Field was released, Durk was arrested for gun possession. While in jail, Durk’s son was born. But that stint in jail only sharpened Durk’s focus. Upon his release, he dropped his second mixtape, I’m Still A Hitta and signed a deal with Def Jam. The following year, Durk linked with French Montana’s Coke Boyz, though he’s not signed to the roster. He then picked up another possession, which brought another 43 days in jail. But Durk wasn’t deterred. The “500 Homicides” rapper hit the streets with more mixtapes, most notably, his Signed to the Streets series. After the deaths of his murdered homies (Chinx and his cousin OTF Nunu) and squashed beef (Game, Tyga and Chief Keef), Durk is riding the success of his debut album Remember My Name, released this past June.
Before Durk—a man of few words—rocked the stage, he kicked back with VIBE to discuss his calmer demeanor.
VIBE: It seems like you’ve calmed down a lot.
Lil’ Durk: My kids. I just want to be there for my kids. I used to be out there wilding out.
You still live in Chicago?
On the outskirts.
I know you’ve been vocal about not wanting to raise your kids in Chi-Town.
I don’t. Man, not long ago, a four-year-old baby got shot in the face. What the f*ck a four-year-old baby doing getting shot in the face?
On “Don’t Judge Me,” you rapped: “The President is Black/I hope he change sh*t .” If you had a chance to talk to Obama, what would you ask him?
I would just want to know why he won’t build community centers in the hood so these kids can have more positive stuff in the hood? That’s all I would want to know. He can do stuff why won’t he do stuff when he has the power to.
I’ve seen documentaries where critics said that Larry Hoover can’t come back to Chicago. How do you feel about that?
People like him can change things.
But he’s old and these young boys out here ain’t playing.
But now it depends how they come. If they come sideways then yeah, they’ll get their head knocked off. But if they be like, ‘I ain’t trying to take over but I’ve done done what y’all trying to do so I’m just trying to give y’all game.’
I do think he’s more powerful in the streets than in jail.
He is. People will still listen to the OGs of the game.
What’s up with you and Dej Loaf?
This her texting me now.
What does the text say?
[Lil’ Durk smiles.]
Are y’all dating?
[He smiles again.] She cool.
What makes her cool?
She’s just laid back. She don’t be on that bullsh*t, know what I’m saying?
So if she’s “just cool,” what celebrity would you date?
Umm, Dej Loaf, DeJ Loaf, and umm, Dej Loaf. [Laughs.]
Your pop’s about to get released soon. What y’all going to do?
I don’t even know yet. I be telling him he got to calm down. He still using a minute phone. He gon’ have to learn to use an iPhone.
You mad excited?
I am. Yeah.
So what’s next for Durk?
I’m working on a mixtape.
You’ve never been big on features so I doubt that anyone on there.
Nah, it’s just me. I haven’t named it yet. Hopefully, it’ll be out by the end of the year.