It almost never got to this point. Two years ago Lil Durk was in jail, charged with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, staring down a $100,000 bail and watching as his promising rap career evaporated in front of him. But sometimes the brightest sparks of creativity come from the darkest places, and on June 2 Durk finally released his long-awaited major label debut album, Remember My Name, via Def Jam Recordings.

Durk has prevailed as the last man standing from the wave of auto-tuned drill rappers that exploded out of Chicago in the wake of Chief Keef's unexpected success in 2012, with only King Louie (Epic) still signed to a major deal. And on the strength of his last two mixtapes, Signed 2 The Streets and Signed 2 The Streets 2, Durk had built a strong following as a more melodic, honest rapper, more prone to describing the shootouts and drug deals of his native Chicago through the lens of the pain and the struggle rather than relishing in the sadistic game. Remember My Name doesn't shy away from the realities of the street life by any means, but neither does it try to glorify the type of violence that have taken his cousin, OTF Nunu, and his manager, Chino, within the past year. The pain still exists, and Durk is fully cognizant of the struggle.

Over a short and direct 33 minutes, Durk lays out his worldview. Grabbing beats from some of the hottest producers in the game right now—Metro Boomin, London On Da Track, Vinylz, FKi and longtime collaborator Young Chop all contributed—the Chi-Town MC harnesses his Auto-Tuned tendencies to support his strengths rather than mask them. Lead single "Like Me" with Jeremih is an easy standout on the record, while the Metro-helmed "Amber Alert" puts everybody, especially his enemies, on notice. But it's the middle of the album—the conflicted, bitter "Lord Don't Make Me Do It" and the indignant plea for understanding of "Don't Judge Me"—that really show what sets Durk apart. Killers, dope dealers and choppers all mix it up with family, friends and street life throughout the album, but it's Durk's commitment to the latter that helps him duck and dodge the former, with loyalty at the center of it all.

Hands down the best track on Remember My Name has to be Lil Durk's collab with fellow Def Jam MC Logic on "Tryna Tryna." On paper, Logic would appear to be the superior lyricist and rapper, and while that may be the case in terms of overall output, when they go toe to toe on a track the two wind up pushing each other and bringing out the best in both MCs. If there's anything that really stands out about Lil Durk's development over the past few years it's how much better, quicker and skillfully he uses his bars, rapping with a confidence and diversity that hadn't been apparent when he was still rockin' his dreads back on "L's Anthem." If Durk truly wants fans to remember his name, he's got to keep improving in that category while continuing to fine-tune his overall game. This album is another positive step in the right direction. —Dan Rys