Lil Durk: Def Jam Wanted Me to Go Pop

“It might fit the next person but it ain't fit me…”
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Lil Durk is a Chicago drill legend, but not without the typical industry hardship. Signed to Def Jam early on in his career, the rapper recently sat down with No Jumper to break down how exactly his deal with the major label went south.

"It just ain't the right situation for me,” Durk said. “It might fit the next person but it ain't fit me... [Def Jam] wanted me to go pop. And when I had something, I'm like, 'I'ma do this.' They [were] like, 'Nah.' I had no say so. It was just a bad situation for me.”

Starting with the obvious: Lil Durk is not a pop artist. Pressing play on any of his music, even his biggest mainstream hits and at his most melodic, we hear the edge and aggression of drill, not the glitz of pop music. If Def Jam was hoping Durk would take a poppy turn, they had their priorities out of order.

In March 2018, Durk spoke with Billboard about dissolving his relationship with the label. “I've been with Def Jam Records for five years and they gave me my first recording contract so for that I'm forever grateful,” he said. “But I'm a different artist than I was five years ago, and the time is right for a change. At the same time, Def Jam is making changes in their offices and trying a new direction. I didn't want to be a part of another regime change.”

It’s important to note that as of January 2018, since Paul Rosenberg took over, most of the personnel at Def Jam has been overhauled. With that in mind, we can conclude that Lil Durk’s experience with Def Jam is not necessarily the norm following Rosenberg’s takeover. 

Regardless, it’s difficult to fault Durk for leaving the label. An artist is nothing without creative control and appropriate validation for their creative vision and direction. With his new project, Just Cause Y’all Waited, released this past April, Durk continues honing his craft, with no pop pivots in sight.

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