Lil Durk has been on a rap roller coaster over the last couple of years. The Chicago rhymer became one of the hottest commodities coming out of a crowded pool of talent in 2013 with his breakout mixtape, Signed to the Streets. After signing to Def Jam, becoming chummy with French Montana and the Coke Boys plus landing on XXL's 2014 Freshmen Class cover, the sky was the limit for Durk.

But the ride started to get bumpy for the 23-year-old. He suffered several devastating losses when two people close to him were killed due to gun violence. Durk's cousin, Mcarthur "OTF NuNu" Swindle, was killed in June 2014, and the rapper's manager, Uchenna "OTF Chino" Agina, was gunned down in March of last year just a few days after the tatted up spitta announced the release date (though it was later changed) for his debut album, Remember My Name.

With producers like FKi, London on da Track, Metro Boomin, Vinylz and Young Chop handling the beats plus fellow Def Jam label mates Jeremih and Logic joining, the album was a solid effort but that didn't translate on the charts. Durk has a rabid fan base, so when the tape debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 in June of last year, it's easy for an artist to be disappointed. However, not Durk. He released his 300 Days, 300 Nights mixtape a few months after to close out 2015, made Dej Loaf his boo and the two dropped their Love & Basketball-inspired video for "My Beyonce" to kick things off in 2016. Now the Chi-town native has a strengthened resolved moving into his sophomore LP.

With newfound energy and happiness, Lil Durk came to XXL to discuss his new project, LilDurk2X, how he learned from his mistakes, visiting Meek Mill in Philadelphia and his relationship with Dej Loaf.

XXL: What does “2x” mean? I see you’re using that all over.

Lil Durk: It ain’t no super big meaning to it. It’s like your second chance. Everybody gets a second chance, I get a second chance and my pops get a second chance. I got two boys that are following my footsteps. So that’s the whole meaning behind “2x.”

What was your second chance?

[My second chance was] getting out of jail and doing better with my life. I was facing a lot of jail time, a lot of probation, just a lot of bullshit and I overcame everything. Like I ain’t facing nothing. It’s a good patch right now so we’re going to turn up.

Have you ever had this long of a period where everything in your life was cool? How are you different now with making music than when you made Remember My Name?

This my first time [life has been cool]. I’m more focused now. I grew as an artist and a person. I’m just ready to work, get this money, get this new fan base and tour all over the world. Album, mixtape, everything good with music. I’m in love with it.

How did you grow?

Mentally, physically, my mind got stronger, I make better decisions now. I make better moves as a father, [as a] friend, [as a] uncle and a boss.

Remember My Name was a good album but it feels like it came and went.

I was telling the story at the moment and wanted to get it out. I want wanted them to hear where I come from. That’s what Remember My Name meant. With LilDurk2x, it’s a good vibe to it, good energy. I’m talking that real shit and I just feel good about everything. We had fun with it this time.

Did you think your debut should’ve been bigger? Were you mad that it wasn’t?

You learned from your mistake and see where you mess up at. On that album, everything was solid. I talk to the streets and I told my story. But we didn’t have no good vibes though. We didn’t have something that when it comes on you jump to it. Only the song with Logic ["Tryna Tryna"] had energy. So a lot of the songs on LilDurk2x have energy. We touch a lot of areas. I wanted to touch on different sides.

How long have you been working on LilDurk2x?

We just go in there and record, not thinking too hard and have fun. I ain’t go in it like, This the album. I just went in there like this is a regular studio session.

You seem noticeably happy.

I feel good. I’m happy with the music I’m doing. I’m happy with the person I become.

Who is the person that you aim to become? What does that look like?

Durk, but more advanced, more structure, more of a boss.

What do you mean by more of a boss?

Just putting my team in position, put my family in position to win, to eat, to live comfortable so your kids can be comfortable. To make sure everyone’s happy, no bullshit, no drama, nobody broke.

Your sound has grown also. It’s flexible so to speak.

You got to want to evolve. It’s something you can practice on but it just came to me. I wasn’t really sitting there like, What can I do to get better? It just came to me, talking to my people and my crew. They just tell me what my strongest and weakest points are at. So whatever be my weakest points, I work on. Then they say, “Dang, they improved.” I be moving along so fast like, Damn, I did.

Were you apprehensive about singing on records? Was it weird for you to hear yourself harmonizing on a track?

Oh no. That’s how I started off anyway. I don’t give a fuck if I did 10 hard songs, I’ll always have two of them that are harmonized.

Tell me more about LilDurk2x.

Uptempo, the beats on point, the feature on point, you got dance songs we got female songs. We’re just not talking about what’s going on in the streets. I’m tackling everybody. We recorded in L.A., Chicago and Atlanta.

You and Young Thug work really great together on his I’m Up project. Where did y’all meet? Are y’all panning anything together?

We met in Atlanta’s studio. We knew of each other. We just clicked out and vibed out. First song we ever did was “Party” then we did “Waffle House.” We did stuff for his tape that same day. Then everybody was saying that we killed it and we sound good together, then me and him had a conversation about a tape. So we’re going start working on that when he gets off tour.

When do you expect to drop LilDurk2x?

Pretty soon, probably end of the summer.

How’s being a young father?

You got to have responsibilities. You have to know what to do. You have to be able to take care of yourself before [you have kids]. That’s why people say you too young to have kids. But I was already grown; I already know what to do.

What are some of the hardest parts about being a young rapper and a father?

Not seeing them, not talking to them sometime, that’s the hardest. Everything else I can handle.

What you think is your greatest weakness right now?

My politics skills [laughs]. It’s not intentional though. Certain artists may get around me and be like, “He talked to me for like 15 minutes but he stopped after that.” It doesn’t be any harm like that. That’s just me. Don’t take it wrong.

How do you improve that?

You just have to be open and coming from where I come from, it’s hard [laughs]. But I’m working on it.

Who have you been collaborating with?

Meek [Mill].

Word, you were on Instagram with him in his Philadelphia home. How is he? What y’all talk about?

He’s good. He’s turnt up, ready to get off house arrest. [We talked about] how he made a mistake and how he don’t want me to follow his mistake. House arrest killing him; they have him doing community service but he likes it 'cause he’s helping his community. He’s just ready to get back to work, get back to the studio.

“My Beyoncé" was great man. Are there more Dej Loaf and Lil Durk collabs?

Oh yeah, we definitely got like six more songs like that. It can overshadow songs that are out right now. It’s hard. We definitely got a lot of songs in the cut.

So what’s up with you and Dej? Couple, no couple?

We good. We’re politicking and talking. It’s just she super busy, I’m super busy and we need some time together so we can grow.

How did y’all meet? 

[Laughs] It was in New York, it was at Bobby Shmurda and French Montana’s video. The remix to “Hot Nigga” and she came and we was talkin’. She was all shy. I was laid-back too. The first time I met her, we just exchanged contacts.

What game did you spit? What you say?

I don’t have no game. I suck at game. All I know we just started talking.

Damn no smooth line?

I was like, “Damn girl, you sexy as hell.”

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