The Untold Truth Of Lil Durk

Dubbing himself Lil Durk, Durk Derrick Banks hit the rap scene in the early 2010s. As the rapper’s AllMusic bio explained, Lil Durk was just a teenager when he first began making a name for himself by releasing mixtapes through OTF (Only the Family), the rap collective he founded in his native Chicago. That led him to sign with Def Jam Recordings and the release of his debut album in 2015, Remember My Name, peaking at No. 5 on Billboard‘s Current Album Sales chart. 

The hits kept coming as his popularity grew, resulting in collaborations with such artists as French Montana, Logic, Jeremih, Yo Gotti, Young Thug, and more. After switching to a new label in 2019, the following year proved to be a prolific one, seeing the release of his fifth studio album, Just Cause Y’all Waited 2 and, later that same year, The Voice, which featured the likes of King Von and YNW Melly.

He may be one of rap’s most popular rising stars, yet there’s much even his most ardent admirers don’t know about this talented and often controversial performer. Read on to discover the untold truth of Lil Durk. 

He had a difficult childhood

Lil Durk grew up in Chicago’s South Side, and his early years were not easy ones. According to a profile on the rapper in the Chicago Tribune, his father, Dontay Banks, was sent to prison when Durk was a youngster, receiving a life sentence for his role as “ringleader” in a crack cocaine operation. With no father figure in his life and his mother working full-time as a nurse, Durk didn’t have a lot of parental supervision; he remembered, as a fifth-grader, not returning home some nights until 5 a.m. 

“It was hard growing up. [There wasn’t] a lot of money around. [There was] a lot of shooting and killing and all that,” he told Complex. “There was a lot of killing going on as a kid. Took a lot of stuff out of me growing up. A lot of shootings going on. It was hard growing up, but I made it.”

However, Lil Durk also credits his tough childhood for making him “who I am today.” As he told Interview, his upbringing made him “a different type of breed. I got 10 senses … But everything I did was for a reason. I wouldn’t change nothing.”

Lil Durk came to fame through social media

Social media played a big role in Lil Durk’s early days as a rapper. As he told the Chicago Tribune, things really caught fire when he began sharing his music on MySpace and YouTube. “That’s when MySpace was hot,” he said of the now-moribund platform. “The fan base grew after that. People used to see us and ask for pictures. That’s how I knew it was growing. That was motivation. I was 17 and out of school, living with my mom, starving, not eating, getting locked up, no focus, no guidance. When you ain’t got no guidance, you can’t do too much. But then I had my first son and started working. I got the right people around me.”

As Vice pointed out, the DIY music that Lil Durk and contemporaries such as Chief Keef and King Louie posted on YouTube racked up millions of views, creating the rap sub-genre known as drill. After several years recording as an independent artist for Def Jam, in 2018 he signed with Alamo Records/Interscope Records, reported Music Connection. “I went somewhere that made me feel like I was top priority,” he said of the motivation behind his move.

Lil Durk has had some trouble with the law

In 2013, Lil Durk was arrested when police found two loaded guns in his possession. As the Chicago Tribune reported, he subsequently served six months behind bars. He spoke of serving time in an interview with the Tribune, recalling that the experience “really messed me up inside.” His time in jail, he explained, “made me smarter: ‘What will make me not come back?'”

That, however, was not his last brush with the law. In 2019, Billboard reported that Lil Durk had turned himself in after an arrest warrant had been issued in Georgia, stemming from his alleged involvement in a shooting that took place outside an Atlanta restaurant. He faced several charges, including aggravated assault and attempted murder. 

Not only did he record a song about it — “Turn Myself In” — he also explained the reason why he surrendered to authorities. “I have nothing to hide. I have nothing to run from,” he told Atlanta’s WSB, explaining he was on tour when he learned of the warrant. “Once I heard, I immediately came back,” he said. Lil Durk was later freed on bail after posting a $250,000 bond.

The moment he realized he needed to clean up his act

During the six months he spent behind bars after his 2013 arrest, Lil Durk became a father. As he told Rolling Stone, the arrival of his first child led him to think back on his own childhood, growing up without a male role model while his father was serving a life sentence. This, he realized, was a pattern he didn’t want to perpetuate. 

“What really broke it down was I had my son while I was locked up, so that really affected me,” he told the magazine. “I can’t really have this, knowing my father was locked up when I was small. So that really out of everything — through the fame, the money, everything — that really put the toll on me: ‘Oh yeah, I gotta change.'”

After his release, Lil Durk pursued his music career with a renewed vigor. His second mixtape, I’m Still a Hitter, caught the attention of Def Jam, and his first record deal. However, his legal troubles didn’t completely vanish; a subsequent gun-possession charge, noted Rolling Stone, led to another stint in the slammer, this time for 43 days.

He's been heavily impacted by gun violence

Lil Durk has been surrounded by gun violence since he was a child, and his success in the music world didn’t change that. “I don’t think anybody feels safe in Chicago,” he said in an interview with Vice. “Bullets ain’t got no name on them.”

As Vice recalled, this violence affected him personally through the murders of several people close to him. In 2013, Durk’s friend Leonard Anderson — a rapper who went by L’A Capone — was shot to death while exiting a recording studio. The following year, his cousin McArthur Swindle — known by his rap name of OTF Nuski — was likewise murdered.

Then, in 2015, Durk’s manager Uchenna Agina — known in the rap world as Chino Dolla — was shot and killed while returning from meeting with Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah to discuss “anti-violence initiatives” (via DNA Info). He was 24. “It f**ked me up,” Durk told Vice of his manager’s murder. “It still f**ks me up today. But I know what he wanted because he was around me every day. He wouldn’t want me to stop because if I stop I give everybody what they want. And we don’t got no time for no mistakes.”

The 10 things Lil Durk can't live with

There are 10 essential things that Lil Durk cannot live without, and he ran down the list for GQ. At the top of that list were his My Beats by Dre headphones, which he described as being “perfect for the ear, not too much, not too little,” and responsible for keeping him “focused” and “sane.” Another essential was what he called his “Nuski chain,” a “custom made” chain he commissioned to honor the memory of his murdered cousin, McArthur Swindle, who rapped under the moniker OTF Nuski.

He also declared he can’t live without Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, admitting not a day goes by without indulging in his favorite snack. “I’m addicted to them,” he said. Other essentials included Calvin Klein slim-fit t-shirts (“perfect fit”) and Sauvage by Dior cologne, because “you never know what you’ll run into.” He also revealed he never leaves home without some dental floss, while other must-haves included his Lamborghini truck, the hard drive on which he keeps all his music, the Call of Duty video game, and his cell phone, which he housed in a Louis Vuitton case. 

The rappers who influenced his style

Lil Durk was a young rapper on the rise in 2012 when he spoke to Complex about his musical influences. “I always used to listen to Meek [Mill]. I liked [Rick] Ross. I liked Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. ‘Crossroads.’ I used to listen to a lot of Bone Thugs,” he said. “I don’t know how old I was. I knew I was real young because that’s when the video for ‘Crossroads’ first came out.”

His interest in Meek Mill, Lil Durk explained, came because he “was a battle rapper. He was on YouTube, DVDs, and stuff. He was young and just rapping. I used to see him battle and I was like, ‘I like this cat.’ It’s crazy when I see him now because he was a battle rapper and now he makes songs.”

At the time, Durk offered a glimpse of what he envisioned for himself in the future and the upcoming musical collaborations that were already on the horizon. “[I’m doing songs with] Yo Gotti, French Montana, Meek Mill,” he said, “I’d do a song with Rick Ross. I’d do a song with Drake, Future, Gucci Mane. I like them type of artists.” 

Why working with Drake was a game changer

One of the names on Lil Durk’s 2012 wish list of potential collaborators actually came to work with him — nearly a decade later. In a 2020 discussion with NBA great Dwyane Wade for Interview, Durk opened up about collaborating with Drake on the Toronto rapper’s 2020 single “Laugh Now, Cry Later.”

“It was so crazy. He told me, ‘I want you on my album,'” said Lil Durk of Drake, admitting there was quite a bit of back and forth before they were finally able to get together. Asked by Wade what kind of impact he foresaw from that collab, Durk described it as “the Drake effect.” He explained, ” I got so many things surrounding me right now that I know came from his way, and my way from just working. It’s about taking the opportunity, risking it in a good way, and holding your own.”

During that interview, Durk also outlined some other artists he’d love to work with. “I really want to do something with Rihanna. If she called me right now, I already got three or four songs ready for her,” he said. “I like Billie Eilish, too. I ain’t going to lie.”

Lil Durk envisions a future on the silver screen

In his conversation with former basketball star Dwyane Wade for Interview, Lil Durk was asked if there were any other goals he wanted to pursue outside of music. He shared a big one. “I want to act,” he declared. “Will Smith could call me about a part tomorrow. I want to be prepared.”

The rapper admitted he had once displayed a certain degree of arrogance when he was advised to take acting lessons but had since managed to overcome that. “To be honest, I was like, ‘I ain’t taking no acting class. I ain’t going to be talking to no therapist.'” he recalled. “But now, I understand life. I used to have anger management problems and I used to think everybody was against me when they tried to make me go take classes. But everything worked out perfect.”

Lil Durk’s acting ambitions finally bore fruit when he made his movie debut in the 2019 comedy-drama-thriller Dear Frank, playing a character called T-Mac. 

Lil Durk has an impressive net worth for someone his age

In October 2020, Lil Durk celebrated his 28th birthday. He may have only been in his twenties, but the Chicago-born rapper had already earned some serious coin since he first started posting his raps on MySpace and YouTube back in the day. According to Celebrity Net Worth, by age 28 Lil Durk had amassed a fortune estimated at $3 million.

One aspect of accumulating all that cash, he told Forbes, was his focus on marketing branded merchandise alongside his music, using the power of social media to sell both. “You’re really capturing and covering the whole market — clothes, music,” he explained. “And if you go [on Instagram] live with fans, if you’re being social with them, all that drives the sales.”

While he admitted that merchandise was “the number two thing besides music,” he also declared that the situation had become “real ugly in the world right now. You ain’t buy no clothes before it happened. So it’s like, ‘Here’s one my favorite artists, I’m gonna go get his merch.’ It’s just being smart and engaging with the fans at the same time.”

The business advice he offered up-and-coming rappers

Rap isn’t just a creative endeavor or musical art form, it’s also a business. It was in that regard that Lil Durk shared his wisdom with aspiring rappers in an interview with Forbes. The biggest piece of advice he offered for up-and-coming rappers was to read a contract closely before signing it. “Know what you’re getting yourself into. Know your worth. And don’t let them tell you anything,” he explained. “Read your contract — that’s No. 1. You don’t know where you’ll be six months. You’ve got to have a little confidence about yourself.”

Asked why young rappers tend to get ripped off by signing unfavorable contracts, Durk said that these unsigned rappers were so “money hungry” and “thirsty” to succeed that there’s a tendency to ignore the fine print — including stipulations about when they’re able to release new music. “The label will tell them something [and] they’ll believe it. You don’t know. They’ll give you nine albums. It’s a period where, if you drop one, you can’t drop [another] one for six to nine months,” Durk explained. “You were thinking you could just drop back-to-back because you’ve got the music. It’s real important.”

He's passionate about basketball

While there’s no denying that Lil Durk’s primary passion is music, by no means is it his only interest. In fact, Durk is a serious basketball fan. In a Q&A with Slam, he traces his extreme love of the sport back to grammar school. While he played plenty of playground basketball, he revealed he’d never been able to play on school teams, “because I was always in trouble with my grades.” His favorite player back then, he added, was Allen Iverson: “Definitely the GOAT.”

Asked to single out the best basketball player within the rap community, he didn’t hesitate. “That’s easy,” he replied. “Me. There’s a couple dudes out there that rap. I like Chris Brown. I like his game. I like Quavo game too,” he added, identifying the Migos rapper.

As for which NBA star is the best rapper, he had an opinion on that as well. “Damian Lillard,” he said, naming the Portland Trail Blazers point guard. “He can actually rap.”

Lil Durk has had his share of rap feuds

It’s a fact of life that rappers get into heated quarrels with other rappers, and Lil Durk has proven himself to be no slouch when it comes to rap feuds. As early as 2012, The Guardian reported that Durk and fellow Chicago rapper Lil Reese had a “dispute” with Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart. Then, in 2014 XXL detailed Durk’s feud with rappers Tyga and the Game, which began, reported Complex, when lyrics in one of Durk’s raps accused Tyga of “sneak dissin’ on me.” Meanwhile, that feud managed to reignite Durk’s earlier feud with Chief Keef, whom Durk accused of “disrespecting” the entire city of Chicago by posting the Tyga-Game collab “L.A. To ChiRaq” on his social media. 

Lil Durk eventually ended his feud with the Game. As Durk told XXL, he was squashing all his beefs in order to put his focus where it belonged: on his music. “That s**t ain’t s**t in my eyes. I’m working. We ain’t beefing with nobody,” he explained. “I gotta stay in that light where people will see me and hear me. And not be scared of me, you know?”

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