[Editorial] Understanding Chief Keef
Chief Keef knew he would be famous. I was standing in the living room of his grandmother’s house when he gave an estimation of 3 months preparation time before he blew up. Not three months after this interview, no, three months after he was released from prison in January. He came in pretty much on schedule with spring and early summer explosion that catapulted him to a huge bidding war, visits from Riff Raff, and being dubbed a major catalyst of Chicago’s dominance on Hip Hop. And oh yeah, there was that remix of “I Don’t Like” that Kanye West happened to put together, just a minor drop in the bucket featuring one music’s biggest influences as well as guest spots from Big Sean, Pusha T, and Jadakiss. All no slouches.
“I Don’t Like” has come to be defining part of Hip Hop in 2012, most definitely for Chicago Hip Hop, and perhaps Hip Hop as a whole. The record carries such an angst, a supercharged mentality, a youth culture ready to rage. The music also carries real reminders of an America that many Americans wish to ignore. But that’s another article.
This article is about Keef’s seemingly out of nowhere comments on Sunday that Kanye West’s remix didn’t do that much for him, at least a lot less than what people think. He’s deleted those comments from twitter since, and replaced them with, “All u dumb ass people I didnt Diss
@KanyeWest I jus said he didn’t get me hot I [did] it song by song #300 I’m In da Streets Not Industry!”
A lot of people immediately went to twitter and paid their condolences to Keef’s career. Several users created a tombstone of summer 2012-summer 2012. And Keef’s “outburst” was headlined daily blasts from VladTV. But before we throw the final dirt on the casket, let’s consider a couple things.
As I said earlier, Keef really saw this coming. All of his behavior, while it doesn’t really match what we’re used to, at times falls below expectations and goes against old school customs, it all shows that this isn’t an ‘oh my god, I can’t believe it” moment for Chief Keef. This is the kid that told us in his grandmother’s living room that he’ll know he made it when he can introduce his mom to Julia Roberts, and told the Chicago Tribune that rocking at Pitchfork “ain’t shit.”
So, while the public can’t believe how fast he’s risen in a cruel business, to Keef it makes perfect sense. He’d already been getting hundreds of thousands of views by the time Kanye West remixed “I Don’t Like”, had collaborated with Lil’ B and Waka Flocka, some of his favorite artists, and was a local celebrity. Kanye wouldn’t have even caught wind of him any other way. But the fact is that Kanye did catch wind of him, did do a remix, killed his verse on the remix, and brought Keef even further into the spotlight.
It was a major co-sign, and it’s impossible to take it out of the equation. Kanye didn’t bring Keef out, or take him from no-name to big name, but he did give him a tremendous boost and added Keef some credibility and legitimacy to a whole new audience. Without Kanye does Keef get a deal for his own headphones and label? Maybe. Does he play Lollapalooza? Perhaps. But it’s impossible to say that with any certainty, and truthfully doubtful it would have happened this soon. Kanye also made “I Don’t Like” into a historic moment. He used the platform to officially give notice to Chicago’s scene, cheer for his home city, and big up a new generation of artists. He helped to further put haterville to rest, and made it even better for heads, hipsters, gangsters, and anyone in between to respect each other and keep it moving.
Let’s not forget that Keef is still 17. Even though he’ll say he’s 300, he’s still a minor and many of these adventures with the media remind of that daily. He’s not a kid that’s been groomed for years to be in the music business. The music business came to him and crashed landed at his house and when he doesn’t exactly know how to act, some tend to forget where he’s coming from. He definitely delivered that message wrong, but there is some truth to it. What he could use is a better way to express himself, and some media coaching.
And Keef, it’s ok to admit that Kanye threw you a pretty nice bone. It doesn’t mean you didn’t deserve it, didn’t work hard on your own, or cancel out any of your achievements. Having one of Chicago’s greatest musicians effectively freestyle to your record, the same way you’ve done over others is a pretty big honor, and something that many artists would give their first born for. You got it your way, and that’s major props. Accept it. Enjoy it. And focus on the positive going into a debut album and the start of your career as a major label recording artist.