Lil Durk – “Almost Healed” review

This is the 4th full-length album from Chicago rapper Lil Durk. Rising to prominence a little over a decade ago off his debut mixtape I’m a Hitta, he would go on to follow this up with Life Ain’t No Joke & the first 2 installments of the Signed to the Streets trilogy until signing to Def Jam Recordings for his full-length debut Remember My Name & the sophomore effort Lil Durk 2X. Since then, Durk has made himself home at Alamo Records by 9 more mixtapes & is looking to bounce back from the mixed reception of 7220 due to it’s weak production yet admirably more personal subject matter in the form of Almost Healed.

After the “Therapy Session” intro, the first song “Pelle Coat” starts off the album with an mellow trap instrumental from Chopsquad DJ explaining why everyone’s scared to come outside this day in age whereas “All My Life” featuring J. Cole despite the positive message of people always trying to bring them down was a disappointing choice for a single largely due to Dr. Luke’s sanitary production. “Never Again” works in some pianos & hi-hats talking about not helping others ever again prior to “Put ‘Em on Ice” telling everyone that nobody is safe over a rich trap beat.

Chief Wuk delivers one of the weaker feature performances on “Big Dawg” as they discuss only hating it when their bitches are on lil girl shit on top of a distorted instrumental just before “Never Imagined” featuring Future makes up for it with a more colorful trap vibe talking about the way they’re living now. The beat throughout “Sad Songs” is a bit of a nonstarter for me personally addressing a pretty lil liar, but then “Before Fajr” talks about people hating him for being more famous & Southside’s production here has a lot more going for it this time.

“War ‘Bout It” featuring 21 Savage make it known that you can’t discuss any criminal activity that you’ve ever been involved with as Metro Boomin’ supplies more keys & hi-hats while “You Got ‘Em” talks about perc poppers not being his friends except we have one of the weakest instrumentals on the album yet again. “Grandson” featuring Kodak Black has a hazier flare sonically courtesy of both Metro & Zaytoven as they discuss the lifestyles they live while “300 Urus” making it clear there’s a reason some ain’t with him no more over an atmospheric trap beat from Wheezt

Rob49’s verses throughout “Same Side” are underwhelming compared to Durk’s although I appreciate the back-&-forth delivery as well as the morbid Lil Ju instrumental while “B12” weaves some hi-hats & quirky synth patterns talking about being fucked up off ecstasy. “At This Point We Stuck” moodily asks why everyone’s mad at him while “Cross the Globe” featuring the late Juice WRLD is an acoustic trap hybrid with both of them tackling themes of love.

“Dru Hill” is an melodramatically piano trap crossover wanting to be shown something new & what love feels like while the song “Belt2Ass” declares himself to be a rockstar from the trenches & the instrumental here has more of a symphonic flare to it. The penultimate track “Stand By Me” returns to a cleaner sound so he can desire his girl’s honesty asking if she’d stand by him if he lost it all & “Moment of Truth” closes the album with a trap/rock fusion produced by Alicia Keys talking about being out all night getting the bread.

As admirably introspective as 7220 was, the production on that previous album was lacking quite a bit & it makes me relieved that Almost Healed revealed itself to be a step in the right direction for Durk because it could possibly be the best full-length he’s ever dropped. Some of the features underperformed but most of them stick the landing, it’s more well produced for the most part & it really does feels like a therapy session on wax as the personal themes of the predecessor are expanded here.

Score: 3.5/5

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Lil Durk – “7220” review

Lil Durk is a 29 year old rapper from Chicago, Illinois who came up a little over a decade ago off his debut mixtape I’m a Hitta. This was followed up with Life Ain’t No Joke & the first 2 installments of the Signed to the Streets trilogy, the latter of which led him signing to Def Jam Recordings for his full-length debut Remember My Name & the sophomore effort Lil Durk 2X. Since then, Durk has made himself home at Alamo Records & dropped 9 more mixtapes. But now in light of his late protege King Von’s latest posthumous outing What It Means to Be King seeing the light of day last weekend, Durk is continuing to apply pressure in the form of his 3rd album.

“Started From” kicks off the whole thing with a bare piano instrumental talking about his beginnings whereas “Headtaps” vulnerably opens up on starting from the bottom, but the beat is so painfully generic. “AHHH HA!”comes through with a vicious YoungBoy Never Broke Again diss down to the Southside/TM88 production, but then “Shooutout @ My Crib” mixed some pianos & snares addressing a home invasion that took place last summer.

Meanwhile on “Golden Child”, we have Durk over a cloudy Hitmaka instrumental detailing the violent gang life just before “No Interviews” talks about trying to turn up even with the beat being as comatose as it is. Future tags along for the spacey “Petty Too” to get back at their women being salty leading into “Barbarian” bringing back the keyboards talking about not letting up.

Gunna comes into the picture for the Chopsquad DJ-produced “What Happened to Virgil?” to pay their respects to the late Off-White founder while “Grow Up” starts off as a piano ballad talking about what he is wanted to be as he grew up prior to “Keep It On Speaker” switching it up into more tenser territory telling a story where the cops pulled him over because of the color of his skin.

Following that, “Smoking & Thinking” once again incorporates some keyboards venting the shit that enters his mind when smoking while “Blocklist” comes off as an arduous ballad bragging about the people he has blocked on his phone. “Difference Is” with Summer Walker feels redundant in the track-listing given that it just seems like a forced R&B duet to get radio play whereas “Federal Nightmares” on the other hand expresses some serious paranoia that he’s dealt with in the past & it’s really admirable.

The song “Love Dior Banks” does it’s job at tugging at the heartstrings telling his niece to hold her brother close while the penultimate track “Pissed Me Off” goes into drill territory paying tribute to his protégé King Von & his brother DThang. “Broadway Girls” however has to be one of the worst closers of the year, as Morgan Wallen pops in for a country trap tune describing their regrettable experiences with women.

All of that being said: I went into 7220 excited as Hell & wound up coming away from it at a crossroad. I appreciate Durk getting a lot more personal through his songwriting this time around & the lack of features further cements that, but the production is so remarkably inconsistent & it really makes me hope that he can get that situated sooner than later.

Score: 2.5/5

King Von – “What It Means to Be King” review

King Von was a 26 year old rapper from Chicago, Illinois who came up as a Lil Durk protege. Now I wasn’t big on his mixtapes Grandson or LeVon James at first, but he really blew me away once his full-length debut Welcome to O’Block came out a little over a year ago on Devil’s Night. But as soon as he finally won me over, he was tragically murdered a week later in broad daylight. So it was only a matter of time before Only the Family Entertainment put out a posthumous album albeit Von’s 2nd overall.

Where I’m From” opens up the album with Chopsquad DJ mixing some pianos & snares as Von addresses Patoon’s death whereas “War” has a more dramatic tone sonically talking about his mob ties. G Herbo tags along for “FaceTime” to spit that gun talk on top of a rubbery bass-line & some murky choir vocals provided by Hitmaka leading into the 21 Savage-assisted “Don’t Play That”taking a more cloudier route talking about what they usually do with their day.

Meanwhile on “Straight to It”, we have Fivio Foreign assisting Von in cooking up a combative drill banger just before “Trust Nothing” with MoneyBagg Yo finds the 2 talking about bitches tripping about shit that has nothing to do with them over a thunderous trap beat with some piano chords. “Evil Twins” showcases some amazing back & forth chemistry with Lil Durk accompanied by an atmospheric backdrop, but then “Too Real” goes into a hazier direction talking about how legit he was.

“Rich Gangsta” with Tee Grizzley pretty much speaks for itself as far as the content goes even though it has one of the weaker instrumentals on the album until the synth-laced “Mad” picks things back up with Von angrily calling out those who envied him prior to his murder. “My Fault” incorporates some rich keyboard melodies as A Boogie wit da Hoodie assists Von in a decent romance ballad & the electronic undertones of “Change My Life” are a nice change of pace addressing a lover who thinks she was his wife.

Following that, “Hard to Trust” is an Asian Doll tribute that goes well down to TM88’s production until Dreezy’s verse comes in towards the backend of it while “Get Back” with Boss Top & DQFrmDaO fails at it’s attempt at a Chicago drill anthem. “Get It Done” with OMB Peezy kinda has a Detroit trap vibe to the instrumental with the pair delivering some mediocre gangsta raps while “Chase the Bag” comes through with a passionate hustler’s theme.

The track “Go N Get Em” sees Boss Top returning for a chilling look at how murderous they can be while the final song “Grandson for President” is pretty much a remix of the classic Crime Mob single “Knuck If You Buck”. The outro “Family Dedication” though ends the album with a moving spoken word bit paying tribute to all of Von’s loved ones.

For a posthumous album, I’m actually kinda torn on it. There’s nothing really wrong with King Von’s verses or a good portion of the production, but the feature-list is just so oddly picked out with their contributions ranging from focused at best to pointless & phoned in at worst.

Score: 2.5/5

Lil Baby & Lil Durk – “The Voice of the Heroes” review

This is a brand new collaborative effort between Atlanta superstar Lil Baby & Chicago rapper Lil Durk. The pair have come together on a handful of instances throughout the last few years whether it be “How I Know” off the latter’s 2016 mixtape Just Cause Y’all Waited or even a little over a month ago with “EVERY CHANCE I GET” on the latest DJ Khaled album Khaled Khaled but given their documented history with one another, they’ve decided to take it to the next level by declaring themselves as The Voice of the Heroes.

The title track is a cloudy kickstarter to the album & even though I appreciate the message “2040” being about balling forever, the instrumental is just middle of the road. Travis Scott tags along for the synth-heavy “Hats Off” as the trio shout out those who be keeping it real whereas the Wheezy-produced “Who I Want” brings in some rich piano melodies as they talk about running trains on bitches.

Meanwhile on “Still Hood”, we have Baby & Durk reminding listeners of where they came from backed by a mellow beat from London on da Track before incorporating strings on the loyalty themed “Man of My Word”. We have Nick Papz working in some flutes for the duo as they link up with Meek Mill for the braggaodious “Still Runnin’”, but then “Medical” is easily the saddest joint on the whole thing as they’re crying for help from drug addiction.

“How I Feel” doesn’t have much going on instrumentally despite the lyrics saying you’re not alone on feeling a certain way in certain situations while “Lying” angrily calls out wankstas on their bluff. The rapid keyboards on “Okay” are really cool as both parties talk about being stuck in their ways whereas the horn-inflicted “That’s Facts” finds them speaking their truths. The song “Please” is a more romantic cut down to the airy production from Turbo, but then Durk & Baby bring in Young Thug for the celebratory wealth anthem “Up the Side”.

They later acknowledge the fact that people look up to them on “If You Want To” & even though the guitars come in on occasion, they’re a really awesome touch. The song “Rich Off Pain” is a summery cut saying they became successful due to expressing their struggles while the penultimate track “Make It Out” expresses their desire to “rid this curse” over a dejected Murda Beatz instrumental. To round it out, “Bruised Up” is an emotional finisher pondering what they’d do if they got locked up.

A lot of mainstream collab albums this day in age tend to be hit or miss, but I think it’s safe to say The Voice of the Heroes is leagues better than Drip Harder was. Not just because the chemistry has improved, but the production choices are more refined too.

Score: 3.5/5