Release Date: Jun 2, 2015
Record label: Def Jam
Three summers ago, rap found a new center in Chicago. Lil Durk joined artists like Chief Keef, Lil Reese and Young Chop as their unfiltered street rhymes went from local to national fame in a blink. Durk's major-label debut sticks to the mood of melodic exasperation that's carried throughout his previous work. On "Ghetto," he remembers growing up on Chicago's South Side: "Times I ain't eat nothing/Going to school just to eat lunch/No cable, watching reruns." And whatever success Durk has found lately, this isn't an album that revels in it (see the paranoid "Higher").
Drenched in Auto-Tune and more frustrated than a ringtone rapper should be, Lil Durk turns in a surprisingly down effort with Remember My Name, although the album's highlight is the most angst-filled track of them all. "Like Me" with Jeremih is haunted R&B of the highest order, cursing the very essence of romance and kicking love to the curb forever, but "Tryna Tryna" comes in second place as a more simple and primal version of the party cut, barking and beating down the hook in a Chief Keef style. "What Your Life Like" comes in third, threatening to kill anyone who starts arguing with Durk on social media, then the rest of the album turns into a maudlin blur with all the "Like Me"-styled follow-ups melting together.
Whether glorified or dismissive, expectations for an album before it hits the digital shelves is most often a recipe for disaster. But when an artist chooses Remember My Name as the title of their official debut album, the project is accompanied with an inevitable itch for something immaculate. To some capacity, all artists desire immortality. Jay-Z, Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., etc.
Releasing a debut album at 22 years old isn’t so odd. Having that debut follow five mixtapes in three years is more unusual. But Chicago’s Lil Durk is an unusual young man. With a handful of label jumps since 2012, he’s landed on Def Jam for Remember My Name, and with that he’s able to bring on guests like Jeremih and Logic, who provide the album’s mellower spots.
Deonte Hoard. Giovanni Matos. Savon Davis. Jennifer Ponton. Amari Sutton. Nicole M. Towns. Javante Linson. Terrell Campbell. Anthony Diaz. Uchenna Agina. These are a few of the 150-plus people killed by gun violence in Chicago so far in 2015. All of these names (and the ones I don’t have the ….
Lil Durk has all the wit, dynamism, talent, and ambition he could ever need to launch himself from industrious obscurity to regional prominence, to a Def Jam record deal, to radio-powered street rap stardom—to a better life. With Young Chop at his back and a major label in his corner, Lil Durk is equipped to eclipse his Chiraq origin story. So why hasn't he? How is it that Lil Durk is still in the trenches? As of 2015, drill is still a thriving and prolific rap movement in Chicago.