Aaron Lavelle Behind the Scenes with Rapper Lil Durk for Paper Magazine

Navigating the music industry in 2017 isn’t easy for any artist committed to the come-up – and the road to success is paved with contradictions. Gaining traction takes finessing yourself a steady following, but you can’t be seen trying too hard to get it. Exposure means constant output, but beware of over-saturation. There are even politics in air-play, which is sometimes less about having the right sound and more about ensuring your music gets in front of the right people at the right time. It’s a delicate dance, but if there is anyone who has played his cards right every step of the way and come out on top, it’s Lil Durk.

The Chicago rapper is somewhat of a contradiction himself. Not content with becoming one of Atlanta’s rising rap stars, Durk has emerged as one of the loudest activists for reducing violence in Chicago, featuring in a documentary on the subject at just 21 years-old. As one of the few that can claim making the music industry drink from the auto-tune trough – no small feat for a no-name up-and-comer in an industry that ridiculed the likes of T-Pain – Durk, now 24, can and is collaborating with almost everyone who’s anyone dominating the current hip-hop landscape. That’s not to say, however, he can’t hold a hit down on his own – you can expect “platinum with no features”, the ultimate hip-hop hat-trick, is definitely in Durk’s future, along with many, many other big wins.

We caught up with rapper while he was on set in Atlanta to talk success, his softer side and what it takes to stand out.

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Wardrobe Stylist: Troy Clinton

Photographer: Nathan Pearcy

Videographer: Aaron Lavelle

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