Just days after releasing his long-awaited debut Excuse My French, Bad Boy rhymer French Montana went right back to work, signing GBE affiliate and recent solo standout Lil Durk to his Coke Boys imprint. In an Instagram photo posted by Def Jam’s newly-promoted Executive VP, Shawn “Pecas” Costner, fans got a glimpse of Durk standing beside French and known associate Chinx Drugz.
At just 20 years old, Durk has come into his own as a representer of the burgeoning Chicago scene alongside GBE teammates like Lil Reese and Chief Keef off the strength of his recent single “Dis Ain’t What U Want,” and his move to align himself with French’s Coke Boys is equal parts a publicity stunt and a coalition with a close friend. Much like Keef’s recent signing with Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad label, Durk has taken to partnering with a more established rapper while continuing to build his own brand.
During a recent trip to NYC, Durk stopped by the XXL offices to discuss his signing, what to expect from his upcoming DJ Drama-helmed mixtape and what’s really going on in Chiraq.
XXL: Tell me about the mixtape.
Lil Durk: It’s called Signed To The Streets and it’s hosted by DJ Drama. It’s gonna drop in the middle of June and I got a lot of crazy songs on there, a lot of features. I like to keep it real. I like real rap. Sometimes I play around with the futuristic and all that but I like real rap, something you can relate too.
What do you mean by “real rap”?
What people are going through today, what I’m going through, what I’m living. People can relate to other people and how they living. I’m not talking about no jumping in Ferraris.
Signed To The Streets will be your fourth mixtape. After it comes out, what’s the next step?
Just keep putting out music. Like how Future did it, he kept putting out mixtapes and building his buzz, and that’s what I’m going to do. I ain’t really thinking about no album right now because why would you put out an album when you’re not nationwide? Why even think about an album?
When you and some of the GBE guys shout out Chicago you call it Chiraq. What’s that about?
You know how Iraq is, so we just put it together. What’s going on in Chicago is the same thing that’s going on in Iraq.
Do you see yourself as one of the main representers of the Chi’s hip-hop scene?
Yea, most definitely. I get a lot of respect and response with everything I do so I know that they watching, and if I wasn’t important in Chicago, they wouldn’t be watching.
So it seems like you’ve distanced yourself a little from the other GBE guys and have grown more as your own artist and brand. What’s your relationship with them like now?
Everybody’s family, self made. [But] you gotta build your own face at the end. You going to have to put your own money in your pocket. I’m my own boss, I don’t wait on anybody, so I decided to do me. Get my own money and live it up.
How is it living in Chicago?
Living there, I don’t really see it from the outside looking in. But by me growing up in Chicago, I’m used to it. So it’s violence, but for the outside looking in it’s like, “I’m not going there.” And I just ask, “Why?” You know?
Do you see yourself staying there?
If I find a good neighborhood I can live in, then that’s what I’ma do.
You just got signed to Coke Boys. Congrats. What’s your relationship with French Montana?
That’s my homie, he’s like a big brother to me. He talks to me every day, I call him every day and talk about everything music-wise.
How did you two meet?
Actually we was just politicking through Twitter, then I came up here to get some Slowbucks gear. I started working with Slowbucks, then they introduced me to him.
What advice has French given you?
To stay at it and keep your style, and don’t try to follow other people’s footsteps.
How did he convince you to sign with him?
He called me and motivated me. He told me, like, “I’m not forcing you, but when you ready to move just holla at me.” The music and the stuff I’m doing is good, but sometimes you feel like you’re at a standstill and you just need that representative. Like you got to get embraced by somebody, ’cause at the end of the day it’s all about publicity. You’re going to need it, I don’t care who you are.