Person Of Interest: Chief Keef
“…that’s exactly how the internet can turn obscurity into fame overnight in a bizarre justification for its own existence / slow death spiral. Why are we talking about Keef right now? We’re…um…talking about him because other people are talking about him….which gives us a lot to talk about.” – Refined Hype; Chief Keef & The Making of The Internet’s Latest False Idol
How does a sixteen year old kid from Chicago find himself positioned for a astronomical boost to his rap career via Kanye West? Easy – grass roots buzz in the streets. Not to mention a little controversy.
You see, Gawker profiled Chief Keef back in February when the only information any considerable rap blog had on the teen belonged on his rap sheet. Keef gained instant notoriety in the streets of Chicago for being engaged in a shootout with Chicago PD. He was believed to be dead, causing many to promote RIP chants and more in his honor. The rumor was false. Keef was much so alive, surviving the shootout. What made matters even more interesting was that the teen was forced to live with his grandmother for a month and then home confinement for another.
It’s the same aura that surrounded 50 Cent in 2002, back when he still was indeed “the future” and rattled off countless mixtape bangers culminating in the Year Of 50 in 2003. Rap fans, especially those with enough youthful ignorance to fuel them through an eight hour school day eat the autenticity story up, especially when it’s one of their own. Keef is arguably the most talked about member of Chicago’s ever present rap class and in an interview with Fake Shore Drive, DJ Pharris revealed why Mr. West was so inclined to work with the youngster.
Well, Kanye is watching what’s going on in Chicago right now. He’s definitely watching what these guys are doing pretty closely. He talked to me about it, and we had a pretty big conversation about what’s going on here right now. He sees the movement and power these young kids have. I don’t know if they totally inspired the record, but I do know that he likes what is coming out of Chicago right now.
He especially likes Chief Keef. One of the records Ye kept playing over and over again was Keef’s “I Don’t Like.” We played it on repeat in the studio. Ye just kept blurting out “I Don’t Like,” then Don C would walk in the studio and yell out “I Don’t Like…..I Don’t Like.” Kanye told me “I Don’t Like” was his second favorite record only to “N***** In Paris” — I couldn’t believe it. I told him “You’ve gotta me kidding me,” but he was dead serious.
The image and the gusty bravado of “I Don’t Like” are more than enough to virally carry Keef but musically there’s not much that separates him from Waka Flocka Flame or 2 Chainz for that matter. It’s nihilistic, brilliantly catered to the masses who refuse to live with a lightbulb on at every waking moment home cooked with the traits of Lex Luger’s gothic work behind the boards. But the entirety of it is encapsulated in Beware‘s piece from The Smoking Section back in February when the Gawker story broke. It cited the youth displayed in the video for the song “Bang”, one of the initial Keef records that took off shortly following his arrest. Children, some no older than 8 are seen pantomiming handguns in an area where murder and shooting victims are known on a national basis thanks to news reports almost every weekend. An image no rapper wants to promote if he wants to succeed on a PC level but it’s quite clear, Keef doesn’t care about PC or general America for that matter.
His most recent mixtape Back From The Dead follows the same linear path as those gothic, wide-open mayhem sandbox styled tapes that came before it. Keep the drums, snares and rattling at an absolute maximum, curate the lyrics to invigorate and create quotables on social networking sites such as Facebook & Twitter and keep on going. It’s how Keef’s name spread from the various lips of Chicago high schoolers, all invested in their peer who was building a moment right off of their support.
He claims to be him, which is arguably the easiest thing you can claim in the world of rap. He’s not going to spout off in the same way that Kendrick Lamar holds fans hostages with verbiage and well-executed schizophrenia but it works. There’s no real telling in whether or not the flame behind him will be extinguished or a major label bidding war will break out over him (rumor has it Birdman wants him on Young Money). Keef knows exactly what the score is at the moment. Soon, thanks to Chicago’s most known rapper – the world will officially know about him.
DOWNLOAD: Chief Keef – Back From The Dead