For nearly a decade, Lil Durk has been struggling to cope. Fighting through constant grief and childish feuds have taken its toll on the Chicago rapper, leading to Durk acknowledging that he needs help. This much is made clear on the opening track of his new album Almost Healed, where his therapist, played by Alicia Keys, recounts the moments when things began to fall apart. He lost King Von in 2020 and his biological brother the year after to senseless violence. Grief isn’t linear and neither is progress, so even years removed from these tragic events, Durk still hasn’t fully dealt with his trauma.
Following the “Therapy Session” intro, Durk dives right into the time that molded him on “Pelle Coat.” He goes back to the early 2010s, rapping about times he couldn’t sleep on a proper mattress and seeing his cousin get gunned down in front of him (“I ain’t know what to say, I knew he was dead when they pulled out the tape / That shit was a shame, he died right in front of me, Auntie say I’m a snake”). That happened nine years ago, leaving a young Durk to pick up the pieces for himself and live with what he had seen.
The harrowing opening tracks act as a smokescreen for what the actual album represents: a bloated grab bag of solid to underwhelming cuts, essentially, the same type of album he’s been making since Voice Of The Heroes.
Durk’s penchant for collaborations that don’t service either artist catches the usually sound feature of J. Cole in the crossfire on “All My Life.” Despite the song’s laudable message–featuring an emotive child’s choir singing about fighting through hardships–neither Durk nor Cole manages to bring forth interesting thoughts despite having a wealth of experiences to mine from. The former’s verse serves as a recap for every bad thing he’s done, while Cole can’t seem to figure out if he wants to make points about the media (“I got a new rule /If you ain’t never posted a rapper when he was alive / You can’t post about him after he get hit”), or sneak in juvenile jokes (“Fuck ’em all like I’m goin’ through a ho phase”). You’re 38 with a wife, Jermaine, don’t say ho phase.
Durk’s insistence on making radio friendly tracks includes another lackluster team up for pop crossover. The Morgan Wallen-assisted “Stand By Me” reeks of desperation from a man seeking approval from people who don’t respect Hip Hop. Granted, Durk did this before on 7220, but this second attempt only further muddies Durk’s willingness to grow. Though he might want to come off as sincere, the track sounds anything but.
For an album that initially presents itself as a way to establish Durk as a voice of healing and vulnerability, neither of those themes get explored for too long. The remaining tracks see Durk in situations that tread familiar ground. Whether he’s navigating through toxic relationships on “Sad Songs” and “At This Point We Stuck,” or justifying his reluctance to trust people on the Kodak Black-assisted “Grandson,” Durk seems more comfortable in his ways, and at this point it’s become stale.
Durk’s most complacent moments on Almost Healed outshine the reflective ones. “Put Em On Ice” acts as a reminder of who Durk can be when he’s at his most clear-headed thanks to assured verses and a thorny beat from Chopsquad DJ, while the warbly “B12” is a drug-induced carnivorous rant that has Durk blurting out his conscience.
The mindlessness of the album provides some much-needed relief between the darker introspective corners, but it never furthers the Durk mythos. Songs like “Dru Hill” and “Never Again” offer sufficient glimpses into his psyche to get a feel for his healing process, but these moments are too few and far between to accept this album as a complete therapy session. Durk just has no grasp on what he wants this album to be, leading to a project made strictly to appeal to everyone, but satisfying no one.