Credit: Courtesy Sun-Times Media archives

Lil Durk first came to national attention as part of the south-side drill scene and an associate of Chief Keef’s Glory Boyz Entertainment crew, but he’s quickly proved that he can hold his own. Over the past year he’s signed to the Coke Boys label run by New York rap kingpin French Montana, appeared on tracks alongside French, Diddy, Rick Ross, and Jadakiss, and been featured in XXL‘s annual Freshman Class issue. (He also had a raw and affecting role in World Star Hip Hop’s remarkably unexploitative drill documentary, The Field: Chicago, so he could easily make it in movies if the music thing doesn’t work out.) Last fall he released a mixtape, Signed to the Streets, that highlights drill’s under­lying pop elements—in his hands it’s clear that the music relies as much on melody as it does on percussive, gunlike spitting. (His follow-up, Signed to the Streets 2, should be out by the time you read this.) Durk’s unshakably catchy recent material has more emotional complexity than you might expect from drill, and makes it seem possible that he could finally find a crossover audience for the style that’s as passionate as its original fan base in south-side high schools.