Review Summary: I’d rather be my reason for my downfall not my brothers, know what I’m saying?
I have no idea why these goofballs rated this album so low if you have any brain cells you’ll know this is the best rap release of the last year with little to no competition. If you rate this lower than a 4, you’re an asshole.
The only rappers currently capable of showing the emotive peaks that Durkio does this consistently are, arguably, Youngboy and Kevin Gates. Sure, a song like “Murder on Your Mind” might give you goosebumps and call to mind a Johnny Cash/Townes Van Zandt sense of stoicism, but, unfortunately, Melly hasn’t had the chance to prove himself on a long form release. And I think Melly would agree with me, if he had time to think about trivial *** like that, which he certainly doesn’t. It’s a little wild to imagine, but Lil Durk has been in the rap game since 2011, and on my radar since 2012 when him and his 300 brother Lil Reese accompanied Chicago’s prodigal son the almighty Chief Keef Sosa to the mainstream consciousness. A string of street hits followed, as well as an extremely consistent and overall underrated string of mixtapes including the classic ‘Signed to the Streets’. His melodic, seemingly radio friendly sound, along with cosigns and relationships with established stars like French Montana made his rise to universal fame seem inevitable.
That is, if you hadn’t really been paying attention. Every Chicago rapper has to deal with the double edged sword that is the violence that permeates the inner city. There are rappers that are not intrenched in this violence, like Chance, Vic, Saba, Noname, etc., who campaign for its end and offer a critical, yet sympathetic view to the plight (and I’m not saying this to undermine their experiences. Chance refers to his friend who was stabbed and killed during a house party on his seminal 2013 mixtape ‘Acid Rap’, and Vic wanted to throw hands with Dj Akademiks after he goofed about his friend rapper Tray 57’s 2014 death after the rapper dissed Lil Reese).
And then there are the rappers who speak about this culture from the inside looking out, who might not intentionally glorify it, but whose lives are so full of drama and distress, the highs and the lows, that the best artists are transcendent, like G Herbo, Lil Bibby (look up lil Bibby Crack Baby), and Chicago’s current star in rising Polo G aka Capalot. Lil Durk’s been making beautiful music like this for years now, but the same thing that unfortunately draws many fans to the music also detracts many people and makes advertisers worried. The fact is a long trail of blood follows Durk and his comrade’s careers, and he is connected most closely to some of the most notable casualties in the “Drill” scene, from LA Capone to his cousin OTF Nuski, to Rondo and Cdai serving 50+ year sentences for murder. At the center of this violence is a desperation only known by those at the bottom, those who’ve been “f*cked up splitting mickey d’s/riding in that nissan hoping for some bentley keys”.
In the same breath, Durk acknowledges that there is a level of choice to street life (“i was telling you about my problems with my kids and niece/i aint have no time for em but i did for the streets”), even if certain pressures make the choice less easy. On “Downfall”, a collaboration with Lil Baby and Young Dolph, he cries in distress “You my downfall, I hope you know that ***, I cant be around yall, because I cant show you this”, and he could be either talking to the streets as a whole, someone in particular, or even himself.
Still, a level of both defiance and melancholy is always present, expoused with the melodic clarity in which he sings lines like “all days we was having shootouts up in broad day/hallways, mama kicked us out, that was always” and accompanied by the chilly and orchestral beats you can feel that midwest cold that runs through your bines and practically see the blood in the snow. At the end of the day, loyalty is perhaps the number one motif in all of Durk’s music and it’s with a ominous vigor that he triumphantly proclaims at the end of the scorched the earth “Benihanas” “And I’m screaming free Boona/*** what he did”
Everyone of these songs (except, in my opinion, “Homebody and Rockstar) is a certified banger, and if I really have to explain why good rap music sounds good, then go somewhere else because I’m not a goofy. This *** slaps in the whip and could also make you cry if you’ve ever felt any loss or sense of hopelessness. I wish good luck to Durk, not just because he has 6 kids and a lot of other people to feed, but because he speaks, with a very catchy voice, for thousands who can’t.