Last week, Lil Durk dropped his They Forgot mixtape, and while I didn’t listen to it as soon as it came out, the title left me scratching my head. Who is “they?” I would assume he means the wider world, rap critics and fans who haven’t checked for his music since his disappointing debut album. This mixtape is his comeback, then, his chance to simultaneously prove himself and make everyone who thought he fell off look like fools. Besides a short video of Future dancing in his car to the title track of the tape, it received very little fanfare, and discussion of it seems to be scant. I finally got around to listening to it earlier today, and it took my admittedly low expectations and shot so far past them that I had to rewind the whole thing and bump it again just to make sure I had really heard what I thought I had heard. The tape is fantastic, a perfect exhibition of not only Durk’s rapping abilities but his melodies, the catchy hooks and sing-song flows that made his music so unique in the first place. This led me back to my original question, my confusion regarding the title: “Did they really forget about Durk?” Did we forget about Lil Durk?”
The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. In 2013, Durk seemed poised to be the next huge star out of the Chicago drill scene after Chief Keef’s rise to prominence paved the way for other artists. He dropped the classic Signed to the Streets tape, scoring a hit with “Dis Ain’t What U Want,” and proving that he could appeal to a wider fanbase and not sacrifice the roots of his sound. It didn’t take long for him to be scooped up by a major label and put to work on a debut album that would catapult him to stardom. But the album he no doubt imagined as his breakthrough never materialized that way; after Signed to the Streets 2, a mediocre attempt to keep his buzz going, he dropped his official debut, Remember My Name. The irony was that the project was so forgettable that it had the opposite effect of what the title expected, barely charting and not spawning a hit single or even a standout track. His follow-up tape, 300 Days 300 Nights, was such a drastic improvement that it was almost difficult to believe that the same artist had dropped both within a year of each other. Durk sounded focused and hungry again, ready to grab the throne that had been waiting for him since Keef had moved from Chicago to the suburbs and beyond.
In early 2016, Durk announced his second official studio album, Lil Durk 2x. The lead single, “My Beyonce” featuring Dej Loaf, earned “Best New Track” from Pitchfork and racked up millions of views on Youtube but never seemed to stick. Hype for the album was minimal, and when it quietly dropped over the summer, very few seemed to be aware of its existence at all. As of the writing of this article, it has sold only about 10,000 copies, dismal numbers for a major label artist who was thought to have cultivated a strong fanbase.
So this brings us to the modern day. Durk’s been pictured numerous times in the studio with Young Thug and seems to be a favorite artist of Future, but besides a few collabs on Thug’s I’m Up, we have yet to see the fruits of those interactions. His buzz seems to be non-existent, so he dropped a tape called They Forgot, whose title is actually supported by the quality of the music, unlike Remember My Name. Each song is better than the last, and 21 Savage and Meek Mill both deliver scene-stealing features; even the “tracks for the bitches,” the love songs, are highlights of the tape. If you haven’t peeped the it yet, it comes highly recommended as a refresher course to the rapper we never should have forgotten about.