Being the Voice of the Streets, Lil Durk makes it a point to give back to the community through various endeavors while leveling up in his own career.
Durkio is looking to provide aid in the education department as Billboard learned on Friday (April 14) that the Chicago native has launched his Durk Banks Scholarship Fund with Amazon Music’s Rotation, his Neighborhood Heroes foundation, (which is ran day-to-day by Kevin Freeman and Durk’s manager Peter Jideonwo), and Howard University.
The scholarship fund will provide a pair of Chicago-bred students with $50,000 checks toward their freshman tuition enrollment at the decorated HBCU.
“Change the narrative,” Lil Durk repeats in conversation with Billboard over the phone. “It’s stuff we never got a chance to do or somebody never did for us. A lot of people don’t do it as far as the music era that we’re in. In my age range, it’s more toward, ‘Let’s go feed them turkeys, let’s go feed them meals.’ My team came together where we turned it up a notch. I wanted to come up with something that was different and impactful.”
The 30-year-old OTF frontman went a step further and is also donating $250,000 to specifically help students hailing from Chicago eligible for Howard’s Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant, which supports students financially in staying on course to graduate.
“For me to boost them up and get them to the next level, it was like a no-brainer,” he adds. “And this scholarship was a super-no-brainer for me. For me and my team, having my own scholarship is like a Grammy.”
Separate from the scholarship fund, Durk spent $100,000 on an all-expenses-paid trip for a group of 20 high schoolers to visit Howard University this week. The kids received the full college experience staying on-campus where they were paired with a Howard student mentor.
The recipients will be presented with their scholarship on Friday when Durkio will be returning to campus and performing as the headliner for Howard University’s Springfest 2023.
Find the rest of our interview with Lil Durk below, which finds him touching on his own college aspirations, his anticipated The Voice 2.0 album, and more.
Billboard: Did you ever want to go to college or think about what life could look like if you went to college?
Lil Durk: Yeah, I always thought about it. It ain’t never too late. For me, it’s like, “Damn, they still going to school.” I got my G.E.D. books shipped in like two days ago. I just want to get my knowledge right … I just want to get smart all around the board. I was doing it last year but I wasn’t really focused.
I’m definitely taking G.E.D. classes, but of course, I’ma do my G.E.D. In my mind, it’s like keeping going on the knowledge. I wanna be super-smart and on point with everything from technology, music, streaming and any subject.
We just rebooted with a smarter Durk, a better decision-making Durk, and we just got off the ground. Me understanding the business and understanding the importance of life. Like, back then, I’d hear [about] a scholarship [and go], “Oh cool, a college scholarship. Great.” Now, I’m like, “Damn, we’re helping these kids out who I’m seeing ride on the bus going to school.” It’s important for the growth on my end, and just seeing it for myself.
How does the selection process for the scholarship go?
So we chose two people from my foundation and the rest gon’ be from Chicago kids who [are] struggling. So we made it where it’s all around the board helping out instead of sticking to different cities. They came from our struggle.
We always see it on TV or on the internet, “Oh, he gave out a scholarship.” But at the time, I didn’t understand. Now it’s gonna be bigger than life when we do it.
When are we getting The Voice 2.0 — what can fans expect?
It’s coming. I promise you when it drop, I’ma give y’all therapy. All the things going on and the world wondering, and then I give them the truth and the facts on the album — it’s gonna be mindblowing. You gonna do a U-turn. This is like our breakthrough.
There ain’t no pressure. The talent and the growth always been there. It just the things around it making it more bigger, like doing the scholarships, being more in tune with the foundation, sitting down with the mayor, and really giving back. That’s the part I was lacking on. I already had the music, now executing the plan is gonna make everything big. The biggest album ever.
I saw you post something about wanting to work with Doja Cat on her rap album. What’s the deal there?
She say she want to work on the rap album and I tried to tell her I wanted to be a part of it. You know, I’m all for that. Just like anytime somebody doubt somebody about anything, I just be like, “Send me a banger! I’ma smoke it and we gonna change the whole narrative.”
If I need help on a situation, and a SZA or a Doja Cat or an Adele could change the perspective on the female side, I know who to go to. Everybody could help everybody.
Swizz Beatz says you made his top 10 greatest rappers list of this generation. What’s it like to hear that from an OG?
Swizz Beatz is one of my mentors. He found me a therapy coach and [showed me] ways to flip my money. He put me in contact with Hov. He’s just a great dude overall. It’s never a favor thing. I might wake up tomorrow and he’ll be like, “I want you to buy this motorcycle. I want you a part of this Ferrari experiment.” That’s like my brother. I don’t want to say “unc” yet, that sound too old.