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.
Lil Durk comes from Chicago’s drill scene, and he’s been making noise since 2011 when his I’m a Hitta mixtape dropped. Being a contemporary of Chief Keef kept Durk in the background of Keef’s music and offstage activity, but the drill scene is thriving, and there’s room for more than one hot artist. Unfortunately, Remember My Name isn’t the hotness that was expected from Durk’s first major label outing.
When a Hip Hop artist comes with the stigma of a rap sheet, as Durk did, some take the ball and run with it, delivering some of the hardest verses and beats in the genre. Durk takes the ball and spikes it in the red zone, getting so close to the end zone but coming up short. The banger that opens the album, 500 Homicides, is all but forgotten by the time Like Me comes around two tracks later. The use of Auto-Tune takes this from hard to soft so quickly that when it comes back to the edge on Tryna’ Tryna’, you’ve already shuffled the album into the R&B section of your mind.
A record this anticipated by a man so young, with so much riding on it — his manager, OTF Chino, was killed this March, and Lil Durk wants this album to be a healing force in his community — should sound more important. Instead, Remember My Name sounds a lot like a lot of other things.
Essential Tracks: What Your Life Like, Tryna’ Tryna’, and 500 Homicides