Lil Durk on ‘Signed to the Streets’ and Being Famous in Prison

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Lil Durk is eager to take the throne. Once relegated to an ancillary position in Chief Keef’s cadre, the 20-year-old Chicago native has spent the last year upping his own star wattage, including recently inking a partnership with French Montana’s Coke Boys. Durk recently opened up to Hive about his forthcoming mixtape Signed to the Streets (slated for July release) during a requisite press haul and explained the method to DJ Drama’s madness, wise words from Meek Mill and why being locked up in jail sucks.

You’re doing back-to-back interviews today, which gets repetitive very quickly I’m sure. What’s the most annoying question interviewers ask?

It gets tiring. That’s all. Uh, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” [Laughs]. Uh, [I answer], “Same?” “Success?”

That’s a pretty stupid question … So, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

[Pauses.] Uh. At the top?

I was kidding, but good answer. Anyways, how do you sum up your new mixtape Signed to the Streets?

It’s a lot more interesting. There’s a lot more storytelling. It’s different from my last mixtape but it’s still real rapping. I just stepped it up a notch. I got DJ Drama and he made it bigger. I got more attention on this mixtape, so it’s gotta be more interesting and live. It can’t be dull and turned down. Every word gotta count.

I’m guessing “Turned down” is the opposite of “Turned up,” a phrase that I hate with a passion. Put me on some new slang. What are they saying in Chicago right now?

Um. “Thots.” It means “Bitches.” There’s a lot of words. We talk way different anyways. Chicago got the Drill scene. Everybody say the same words. Like, “Brogas.”

I don’t think I can say any of those words. Chicago’s been getting a lot of love in hip-hop and I interviewed Chance the Rapper recently. Are you a fan of Acid Rap?

First. I looked at him like, he a cool dude. Then I went to SXSW and I went to [King] Louie’s show and he was there. He performed real crazy, hype. I like him, cause he got his own little style.

You mentioned working with DJ Drama on your new mixtape. What’s that process like? Do you send him a finished product and he just screams on it?

It depends on what you want to do. You can just send it to him or you can try to go in the studio with him. Me personally, I want everything to be A-1, so I’mma fly into the studio and tell him what to say, what not to say. He put his own little mix to it. I have a lot more attention on this mixtape, so everything counts.

So you guys actually scripted the non sequiturs he yells?!

Yeah. I add my two cents. He adds his. Then we put it together.

You mentioned a while ago that Meek Mill has been a big influence on you. What’s your relationship now?

First, it was just music. Now, he’s like my big brother. He calls. It’s deeper than music now. It’s more relationship-wise. He tells me to be hungry for whatever I want; nothing’s going to be free. If somebody gives you a handout, they’re gonna be expecting something from you back. He basically says, “Just grind.” Period.

Last year, you did a little stint in jail for a gun charge. What did that teach you?

It gave me peace of mind, how I’m going to spend my money, how I’m going to make my next track, how I’m going to make my living. It basically gave me peace of mind. Jail, period, is bad.

You were already signed to Def Jam the time. Did the other prisoners treat you differently because you were “famous”?

Yeah. Some of them. You know, jail is all about lies. Everybody goes in there, talking about this or that. So people were looking at me like, “Dude lying.” Then, people started sending newspapers [about me] in. It was an article in the RedEye about me, King Louie and [Chief] Keef. Then people started jumping on the bandwagon.

Hopefully the guards treated you better after that?

Yeah. I was in Vandalia [Illinois], which is country. People ain’t really [like] rap like that. People ain’t really know about [Rick] Ross down there. They listen to country. I’m like “Do you listen to Ross?” and they’re like “Nah.” It was the guards though. A lot of people ain’t know him.

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