Chief Keef walked among leaders in American music culture this summer at Lollapalooza, but no one seems to know why. Some say it is because he probably killed Lil’ Jojo, but others think it may just be a guy with Asperger’s and a Twitter account.
Chief Keef may not seem like your average cultural icon. Only 17, he has an aura of mystery surrounding him, mostly to do with his gang affiliation, house arrest and possible children. Yet he has been linked with celebrities such as Kanye West, Pusha T and Big Sean, and has made appearances at Chicago music festivals such as Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. So, as dedicated journalists, we must ask ourselves… what the f*ck is the deal with Chief Keef?
Chief Keef, born Keith Cozart, has become a local sensation throughout Chicago in the past year and a half or so. While under house arrest for a weapons charge, in his grandmother’s home, Keef released a series of music videos and mixtapes over the Internet. A few of his songs rapidly, and somewhat inexplicably, became local sensations, including “3Hunna,” “I Don’t Like” and “Bang.” The music videos accompanying these songs feature Keef lounging around inside, throwing up gang signs and smoking hella weed. So, it is not surprising that Kanye West, 18-time Grammy Award Winner, felt compelled to make a remix of one of these musical masterpieces.
According to Kato Leonard, a writer for LOUD Music 247, Keef commented, “I wasn’t surprised, I was just like, ‘Kanye? Kanye wanna get on ‘I Don’t Like’? But I could understand it, ‘cause I know he be on it to talk about what he don’t like. And I made the song and nobody had come out with that idea yet.”
“I Don’t Like,” possibly Keef’s greatest work, is a list of things Keef dislikes, followed by the powerful declaration, “that’s that sh*t I don’t like.” Kanye, immediately enthralled, was willing to sacrifice in order to record with his newfound colleague. According to Leonard, Kanye was more than willing to send his own videographer to Keef’s grandmother’s home, since Keef was still on house arrest.
So Keef’s self-confidence is nothing if not well deserved. When Kyle Kramer, writer for the Chicago Tribune, asked if Keef thought it made sense that “the whole industry’s eyes” were focused on Chicago, Keef replied:
“I mean, now it is. I think because of me, though. Because I run that bang bang three hunna, you know. I think all the rappers looking at Chicago artists—such as me, [King] Louie, [Lil Reese] Reesy, Fredo [Santana]—the only artists [being paid attention]. Everybody’s looking at us. Because I ain’t seen nobody come up with nobody else from Chicago. It’s other artists, like Spenzo. Spenzo, he cold. They should look at Spenzo. He’s like a Lupe Fiasco. [To photographer] You heard of Spenzo?”
Although, he seems a tad cocky, Chief Keef has been extremely productive over the past year. He founded a record label titled ”Glory Boyz,” with featuring artists including Lil Reese, SD, Ballout and Tadoe. They have one managed producer named, simply, Young Chop. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Keef signed a record deal with Interscope in June- incidentally the same label that sponsors 50 Cent, Eminem and Diddy.
Though for all the good Keef has done for Chicago hip-hop, he is also suspected in a slew of gang- and violence-related activities. Other than his weapons charge that originally put him under house arrest, Keef is thought to be affiliated with the Black Disciples, a gang involved in an ongoing conflict in Englewood with the Gangster Disciples. His gang affiliation makes him a possible suspect in the recent murder of Lil Jojo, born Joseph Coleman, who was shot last week. The two were public rivals, frequently dissing each other in their songs. Keef is now under police investigation due to a series of incriminating comments he made over the Internet after Coleman’s death.
Though, to many, Keef may appear to be a comical blip in American hip-hop culture, his rise to fame brings to light a multitude of disturbing realities within Chicago’s inner-city youth. It’s just possible that Keef may be the icon that brings the social injustices of underserved Chicago communities to light.
-Alex Claxton ’16 & Isabel Monaghan ’16