“You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.” – Alfred Pennyworth
I spent the better part of Chief Keef’s meteoric rise to – well, I’m not quite sure where yet – making fun of him. I laughed at his simplistic flow, low-budget videos and 16-minute set. To me, Keef was a representation of a record label (Interscope) throwing money at a hype machine while also complaining that illegal downloads are the terrorist activities ruining its billion-dollar empire.
For us Hip-Hop purists out there, Keef is the enemy and we’ll stop at no expense to ridicule his attempts at success. When I found out he was a then-16-year-old with a kid and a 32-year-old mom I cracked a few jokes on Twitter about how many generations of Keefs were running around the Southside of Chicago.
Then something happened.
Two weeks ago, I was living in Uptown New Orleans in one of the worst streets in the city (long story.) Behind my house was a blighted property that became occupied soon after we moved to that neighborhood. On any given day there were anywhere from five to ten kids under the age of ten living there, going to school and begging for food and clothes at night. There was one adult there and a 16-year-old. The kids would play barefoot in the street, skating through the rain and wheeling shopping carts. A three-year-old that couldn’t pronounce his own name once told my wife to go f*ck herself for not giving him candy.
If society and history are any indication then these kids don’t have a future. Barring a miracle they’ll either contribute to the indentured servitude of the country’s jail system or not even make it until they’re old enough to drink.
I don’t know much about Chief Keef and his family but I can imagine he was on a similar path of virtual insignificance; victimized by circumstance, choices he’s too young to make and a system that has a vested interest in his failure. His mother was 16 when he was born. He’s 17 with a child and he was on house arrest for shooting at police officers… allegedly.
So you know what? Why the hell should I be mad at Chief Keef? Interscope backed the truck up and dumped a load of cash his way so he and his family can move above becoming a statistic. I’m all for it. Is there a more talented rapper out there in a similar situation as Keef and his family? Possibly. But I’m just glad one family has a way out of those Chi-town hoods.
Unfortunately though, he was thrown to the wolves a couple of weeks ago: opening the floodgates for all the slander the Internet could provide. But really, whose fault was it? If Scott Brooks draws up a play for Kendrick Perkins to shoot a game-winning three Brooks gets the blame, not Perkins who shouldn’t have even been in that position in the first place. The people at Interscope are smarter than I am so I’d imagine they have a plan. And when they reveal their grand scheme I’ll applaud or something but, for now, their strategy for Chief Keef in New York didn’t make an iota of sense.
They essentially sent a teenager fresh out of house arrest to the New York media circuit, making a stop to headline the city’s Hip-Hop proving ground. No media training. No practice for on-stage presence. There are grown ass rappers out there that need months of training before going through what Keef did in the Big Apple. While the whole Internet was throwing insults Keef’s way, Interscope’s mismanagement really deserved the blame for his setback.
And right around the time a group of halfwits at Pitchfork sent the kid to a shooting range Keef crossed over into the realm of the exploited. Dismissing him as just “the worst thing to happen to Hip-Hop” misses what he represents. Keef is a kid that’s grown up in America’s third world.
Yes, it’s easy to laugh at his perceived shortcomings as a musician. But the kid has a movement and is the only human being in the country that seems able to connect with our country’s most volatile youth. For that, and the fact he was able to liberate himself and his family from that situation, I’ll salute him.
So to you, Chief Keef, continue to get money. Just make sure you do good for your people.