Since the steely Chicago rap subgenre known as drill exploded in 2012, Lil Durk, 22, has arguably become the scene’s most consistent voice. He earned cult status with his Auto-Tuned, half-sung flows, but the melodies never distracted from the fact that he can seriously spit. Few of his peers turned drill’s early buzz into sustained relevance; with his major-label debut, Remember My Name, Durk aims to avoid a similar fate. The album lacks the obvious potential hits to guarantee that, although the moody, Jeremih-featuring single “Like Me” is easy to get lost in.
Rapper Lil Durk’s Manager Killed in Chicago
The album does, however, strike a graceful balance between gritty roots and big-budget sheen, recruiting underrated drill producers (DJ L, C-Sick) whose slick beats are highlights — check the subtle EDM bounce of “Tryna Tryna” or the poignant piano on “Ghetto.” The latter is Durk at his most touching, recalling a young adulthood spent going from promo interviews to funerals. He isn’t exaggerating: His manager, Uchenna Agina, was murdered in March.
This story originally appeared in the June 13 issue of Billboard.