Lil Durk’s 2019 album ‘The Voice’ propelled him into the major leagues, a record that chalked up platinum sales and plateau’d at No. 2 on the Billboard charts. Stardom sat uneasily with the rapper, however; sure, it was everything he’d ever asked for, but misfortune and tragedy followed in its wake.
‘7220’ pivots between major league production and harsh introversion, with its relentlessly visceral rhymes documenting loss, addiction, and violence – against others, and against the self. Named after the address of his childhood home, ‘7220’ invites the listener into Lil Durk’s world, a realm framed by the spectre of death, chemical abuse, and a suffocating lack of material exits.
That he responds to this with his most creative album yet is testament to Lil Durk’s singular spirit. ‘7220’ is a vastly potent work, one that is unafraid to stare down ugly truths; half-in-love with the world around him, he moves from the elixir of criminality to some of his most profound observations on the art.
Early highlights like ‘Started From’ and ‘Shootout @ My Crib’ are dominated by blunt, often brutal landscapes; mindsets shaped by poverty engage in violence, but he also takes time to discuss the bonds forged in its wake. ‘No Interviews’ feels like a seismic moment, Lil Durk warning you to “put your head down in the trenches” as the shots ring out.
‘Smoking & Thinking’ present Durk at his most open, yet also most introspective, but songs such as ‘Federal Nightmares’ are unafraid to take down the inequalities of the world around him. An album dominated by survivor’s guilt, the braggadocio of ‘Pissed Me Off’ features some of Durk’s harshest bars, a reminder that the glaring news headlines that accompany ghetto violence could so easily be linked to his name.
An album that focusses on the craft, ‘7220’ makes astute use of features. Future adds light and shade to ‘Pretty Too’, while Gunna’s effervescent approach adds something distinctive to ‘What Happened To Virgil’. It’s Summer Walker who perhaps steals the show, however, with her golden streak continuing on a gorgeous ‘Difference Is’.
By no means perfect, ‘7220’ seems to absorb its flaws into a riveting broader canvas. A record in which self-aggrandisement and self-doubt are coiled into one, the project finds Lil Durk facing up to his faults, and owning them, while never abandoning the landscapes that framed him. At times hugely inspired, the intensity of the experience will leave you breathless.
Words: Robin Murray
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