Q&A: Chicago rapper Lil Durk

May 29, 2012|By Kyle Kramer, for RedEye

19-year-old Englewood rapper Lil Durk has been gathering buzz in Chicago since last year's mixtape "I'm A Hitta," but his April release, "I'm Still a Hitta," with its standout single, "L's Anthem," generated enough attention to land him a deal with Def Jam less than a month later. We caught up with Durk while he was out in LA just before signing his deal to discuss the New Chicago scene and find out how far-flung its fans are.

Are you recording out there?
Actually I'm going with different producers down there. One of them's ["I Don't Like" producer] Young Chop. I was going over, working with him.

Is it weird having Young Chop out there in LA all of the sudden?
Yeah, it's weird. It's different, but I love that he made it. He deserves it. He did hard work for it; it paid off for him.

It seems like the whole New Chicago scene is gaining a lot of visibility right now, and a lot of it seems because of YouTube. Do you think that's been a way for people to find out about the music?
Yeah, I'm thinking because of YouTube, like now, that anything we put out, a lot of people will know about it. And then, it was like, underground. YouTube is getting us a lot of views. I think you put out any type of music that everybody would know about it and you would get a lot of views.


You've worked a lot with DGainz. Why do you think he's become the go-to guy in Chicago?
Gaines, his videos is outstanding, his videos is, like, amazing. I mean, personally--he and [videographer] A Zae got the best videos in Chicago. His video bring out the song. He don't just throw anything together, he's dedicated to the work.

How did the "L's Anthem" video come together? How did you end up doing it on the rooftop?
We had different ways that we was going to do it. Like, we were going to have different people in different areas and have different races throw up the Ls and everything. But Gainz--actually we were standing outside--and Gainz thought up a roof shot. And that [video] begins on the roof, we got the train and everything, the background looked so beautiful we just ran with that.

What does L's mean? What does that represent?
L's, it represents life. That's what I represent it as, life. When you throw the L's up for life, you can't go wrong. Like, no gangbanging, nothing like that.

There's definitely a culture of gangs and violence around some of the music that's coming out. What's your response to people who might criticize rappers for that?
I can't actually say. Everybody got their own state of mind. I can't actually speak for the other person.

What about you personally? If someone came to you and said 'your mixtape has a gun on the cover, that's a bad influence on kids' what would you say to them?
Guns, it's the way you use it. They advertise guns everywhere. I won't see it as violence...It's good for our music outside of Chicago too. Everybody ain't looking at it the same way. Personally, I don't think there's nothing wrong with it.

Chief Keef, King Louie, yourself are all blowing up. Do you think there's a real sense of community in the Chicago scene right now?
Yeah, I think it is. And it's good because we're like all real close friends. We close friends, so anything Keef do I support, anything King Louie do I support, they support me, so it's like a movement.

Is it weird getting attention online? How long have you been rapping? Were you expecting that?
When I began to rap, I wasn't taking it real serious. As I start seeing good things, it's getting serious. Like, "I'm a Hitta" and "Sneak Dissin," my first two songs and videos, after the hype I got off it, I started getting real real serious. So, these labels and all this is new to me. It's actually feeling real good.

What's the farthest away you've had a fan contact you from?
Actually, Africa. It was on Facebook. He was telling me I got a fan base in Africa. It really shocked me and surprised me.

What about you? What do you listen to?
I listen to different artists. I open my mind to different artists. Like, my favorite artist, you've probably heard...Meek Mill.

Did you meet him when he was in Chicago [Meek Mill performed at the Congress Theater with Chief Keef and others on April 23]?
Actually, where I'm staying at [in LA], he lives in the building...He motivates me. He's like motivation. You know, you've got that person you look up to.

Kanye's been paying attention to New Chicago music. What do you think of that?
That's exciting. It's nice to know that we doing something right. All the Chicago rappers have their own things going, and he reached back to our music. It lets us know that we really opened Chicago up.

--Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor

RedEye Chicago Articles
|
|
|