Jonah Bromwich is the sausage king of Chicago.
When it comes to music hyper-fandom, there are generalists and there are specialists. If you’re a generalist in the internet age, pretending to any kind of omniscience is a herculean task. There’s no way to keep abreast of a broad swathe of everything when everything is so cotdamn big. So props to those Chi-town rap specialists who have been on top of the drill scene from the get—the rap kids of the Windy City are so prolific that even keeping your interest confined to Chicago has become a full-time job.
Take for instance, the recent work of King Louie and Lil Durk. Louie released thirty-one tracks in March, apropos of nothing. Just on his grind, I guess. But at least #MarchMadness had a trackable hashtag. Lil Durk has been everywhere in the past couple months in anticipation of his upcoming mixtape, Signed to the Streets — and the quality of his output has been impressive to say the least. My favorite thing about Durk’s music is the way it combines good old-fashioned DIY hustle with refined pop instincts.
Take the recently released video for the Life Ain’t No Joke mixtape track “Days of My Life.” It’s not just that the hook is unbeatable—it’s that every bar is candy-coated (and auto-tuned) with that same basic catchiness. Every lyric begs memorization, if only so the listener can fully immerse himself in the lifestyle, partaking in the fun of wearing white tees while brandishing loosely rolled dollar stacks and hanging out with Grandma.
Durk’s new single “Dis Ain’t What U Want,” preserves those same appealing qualities, even as it embraces the darker aspects of the Chicago scene. “I can’t do no shows…they say I terrify my city,” Durk sings, and the claim doesn’t come across as a boast, but a lamentable truth. Producer Paris Bueller, who helped pioneer the template he’s being asked to provide, obliges with minor key synths and ascending drum machines, but the song only really sounds ominous if you’re familiar with Durk’s background–otherwise the rapper just sounds supremely matter of fact.
The list of concerns Durk supplies on “Dis Ain’t What You Want,” is revealing. The Def Jam signee is obsessed with snitches, and as fed up with gossip and celebrity culture as he is with being the focus of the news. The first outlet he asks to step off is TMZ. But Durk’s personality is undeniably suited to celebrity culture–both he and King Louie have an enormous amount of charisma, which allows them to skate by on songs like the #MarchMadness capper “Throw a Party“.
“Throw a Party” perfectly encapsulates the elements which lead to the mixed feelings that many listeners have about the Drill scene. The music is exuberant, fun, hedonistic and totally unconcerned with any world beyond the immediate. That said, it’s tediously misogynistic and lyrically DOA. But Durk and his fellows’ appeal doesn’t revolve around the nuances of any one song–the appeal of these tracks doesn’t tend to last longer than it takes for the hook to get stale, and, beyond their immediacy, the verses hold little replay value. Instead, the importance is placed on the aura created, the cult of personality inspired by the constant output and the fun of having a new song to tear into every couple of weeks. Prolificacy is essential to these artists’ success, and they know it, and it’s that simple fact which keeps them releasing an enormous amount of music. That and the fact that they’re conscious of how many won’t see tomorrow.