INTERVIEW: Lil Durk chops it up with us about "Signed To The Streets 3," his departure from Def Jam, Kanye West, Fredo Santana & more.
Lil Durk showed signs of his greatness in 2013 with his mixtape Signed To The Streets. Around the same time, the Chicago native penned his record deal with Def Jam. Fast forward five years and Durk announced his departure from the label. Now it looks like we’ll finally receive his long-awaited project Signed To The Streets 3.
Now that the rapper is in a much more comfortable space creatively after signing his new deal with Alamo Records/Interscope, his new project is set to arrive this fall. Durk recently spoke to us his departure from Def Jam, Signed To The Streets 3, working with Future, Fredo Santana and much more.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
HNHH: You released the first two installments of the Signed To The Streets series after you signed to Def Jam as well as Signed To The Streets 2.5. With the long-awaited third installment finally out, how do you feel about the progression you’ve made creatively since the first installment and now?
Durk: It feels good. Just being able to be creative with my own music, giving my own input, and not being stuck inside a holding cell, like I can’t be able to put music out that I want that I know my fans will like instead of forcing the music, you know what I’m saying? And Alamo is giving me that chance to just be me, do me. And telling them I can do it on my own too, by myself. It was like a minor setback for a major comeback.
You curated some unexpected collaborations for the project. So let’s run through some of them. You have a song with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Ty Dolla $ign. How did that come about come about? I know you mentioned in a previous interview that the song helped you make the decision that you had to leave Def Jam because they wanted you to use that as a single instead of “Make It Out.”
Just different feels, different vibes. Like you say, you’re surprised by it. That’s something that everyone’s saying, like surprised by it. It’s just a good vibe, a good party song. More commercial feel.
Gunna appears on “Homebody." How’s your relationship with him been since you moved to Atlanta?
He’s my brother.
How did you guys first meet? Was it when you first moved to Atlanta?
Yeah, I was around during come up. Just seeing him being around and building my own relationship with him. That’s what it’s all about, relationships, you know what I’m saying?
You’ve worked with Future on numerous occasions, most recently on “Spin the Block.” How’s your relationship with Future developed over the years?
He’s a real big brother, he’s a mentor. He’s been in the same situation and he knows the game. He came out on top. I just take a lot of advice that he gives me. Before I moved to Atlanta we had a bond, but now being in Atlanta, it just made us closer.
What’s your favorite collab with Future you’ve done?
It’s unreleased music, for sure. But “Spin the Block” is definitely one of them.
How many unreleased tracks do you guys have in the vault?
Honestly like twenty. We like workaholics We work hard. When we’re in the studio we’re gonna do like five songs. We just go in the studio back-to-back. It’s just work. At the end of day, my life is music and his life is music.
Last year you revealed that you officially moved from your hometown of Chicago to Atlanta. Kanye West recently announced that he’ll be moving back to Chicago and promised not to leave. Do you see yourself moving back to Chicago at some point in your life?
It won’t hurt to get a crib there but it’s like it’s time to evolve. It’s not comfortable for where I want to get. I would think about that decision. I won’t base my decision off his, or what he doin’.
A lot of people, including yourself, shared your thoughts about Kanye West’s slavery comments and Donald Trump earlier this year. In retrospect, I was wondering how you feel about what he said, and how he’s tried to make amends with the things he said in the past?
Totally bogus. Know what I’m sayin’? Disappointing. It ain’t what you say, it’s how you say it. He definitely said something that was a big disappointment. He tried to clear it up. He said he’s bipolar and you never know what somebody’s going through, but that shit was bogus as hell. Straight up.
As someone with such a positive influence in Chicago, did you feel like the comment was a slap in the face from Kanye? Not only because he’s a fellow Chicago artist but because of his previous political and social stances.
Yeah. It was nationwide though. When you say something about slavery it’s bigger than Chicago. Of course, it’s everyone in Chicago, but it’s also nationwide.
Your name is brought up with Chief Keef and other Chicago rappers when it comes to those who brought drill to the forefront of mainstream culture. What are your thoughts on the state of drill and who do you think is carrying the torch?
It’s had a big impact on the world. We had a big impact. Today you have artists coming up in different cities, in different places, in different countries, everywhere. They take it how they take it and they use drill and mix it with their own. It still influences music today even with some of the bigger artists.
And who do you think is carrying the torch for drill music right now in Chicago?
Everybody’s doing their thing. It’s artists like the [G Herbo], even some of the music Juice Wrld do is drill. I dig everybody carrying that torch. ‘Cause if you started something -- like Keef still carrying it, Lil Reese is still carrying, Booka600’s still carrying it. It’s just different. Everybody put in work for us so one person can’t just carry it.
So I wanted to talk about another song on your project called “Neighborhood Hero.” You’ve used your platform to shed light on the gun violence in Chicago, so my question to you is how would you define a neighborhood hero?
Just a person that goes back and does it for the community, know what I’m sayin’? If it’s for the kids, if it’s for the rappers. Just giving back in some type of way. And I just find that to be a whole concept, a whole idea off a song I did and we starting whole organization around it.
For you, who was a neighborhood hero growing up?
It wasn’t too many. I’m not gonna sit here and lie. I was my own neighborhood hero, whatever I do. I don’t care if it was like giving a dollar to somebody that’s homeless, everything counts, know what I’m sayin’? ‘Cause that meal changed that one person, and there wasn’t too many big homies like we ain’t have too many of them coming up.
Fredo Santana passed away earlier this year and I know you two were close.Going back to the topic of drill music, how would you describe the impact he had in Chicago with his music, and how do you feel his legacy will be carried? Could we even expect posthumous music from you and him in the future?
He had a lot of the music we had, I ain’t gonna lie about that. In emails, I’m locked out of though, a lot of emails. You don’t expect somebody to die.
Yeah but that’s a legend. Same type of energy I brought, he brought. I look at us all as all equals. And I wouldn’t say ‘yeah I did this for-’. Nah. We are all even, know what I’m sayin’? He a legend, for sure. Not just in Chicago - to the world.
Earlier this year you called out Tory Lanez, Quavo, Chris Brown, and a bunch of other rappers for a 10K basketball game. I was wondering if you’ve heard back from any of them?
Yeah I heard back from all of them. It’s just right time and place. It’s all fun and games. This is what we are doing to pass time. (Laughs)
Who’s been the best rapper basketball player you’ve played against?
I ain’t played him yet but I’d definitely bet on Quavo.
Any final thoughts? Are you touring after the release?
Yeah we got everything. From tours, I got a collab project coming out with A Boogie, just more music. Good energy, good vibes. A lot of music.
Excellent, excited to hear it. I appreciate you talking to us on the phone.