Is Chief Keef the Face of Chicago Violence?March 28th, 2013
By Jake Rohn
Over the last few years, Chicago has become the face of inner city violence in America, with each story seemingly more horrific than the one before it. Just two weeks ago, a 6-month-old baby was shot and killed while her father was changing her diaper. The murder rate over the last two years is the worst the city has seen since the early ’90s, with most coming from the city’s notoriously tumultuous and predominantly black South Side. In past years, the city’s hip hop scene did not reflect this. MC’s like Common, Kanye West, Rhymefest and Lupe Fiasco represent a decidedly more socially cognizant brand of hip hop. Though they reference the devastation that plagues their hometown with lines like Kanye’s “314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago” on his The Throne song “Murder to Excellence,” they always frame it in a manner similar to the national media: Problematic.
Chief Keef rose to fame as a teenager at the height of the news coverage and has since become the face of everything that is wrong in the city. From his lyrics, which are often criticized for their excessive misogyny and promotion of violence, to his antagonistic posts on social media sites, the “I Don’t Like” rapper has time and again gained notoriety for the perpetuation of hip hop’s most negative stereotypes. Is it fair to elect someone who isn’t even old enough to vote as the leader of a movement of villainy? In America there is never a shortage of blame pie. This is not to suggest that people blame Keef for individual incidents, but in a community where role models are an endangered species, he is one. And like Charles Barkley, he has no say in the matter.
Perhaps the most telling incident regarding feelings on Keef is a recent one where the rapper’s photo was posted as part of The 500 Campaign to stop violence in Chicago. The public outrage was so great it led to the program’s founder, Bryant Cross, removing the photo, before re-posting it, insisting that people like Keef are exactly who the program needs. On one hand, the people have a point: Can you really frame someone who recently took to Twitter to mock the murder of a rival rapper on Twitter as the face of anti-violence? On paper it doesn’t make sense. However, looking at the big picture, this one photo just took a local campaign and gave it a million dollars worth of free press. If you’re reading this right now, the odds of you knowing about The 500 Campaign would have been slim to none if a photo of Keef riding in a convertible with a girl in the passenger seat hadn’t been posted.
Like most issues that are debated, analyzed and over-complicated, the answer is obvious: It’s can either be a problem or an opportunity. Progress is long-term. Chief Keef has been famous for less than two years.
Is Keef a microcosm of the vicious cycle of violence that has become as much a part of Chicago as the Hancock Tower? Maybe. But, is he responsible for millions of young people (and many adults as well) now being made aware that there are serious problems in one of the nation’s most prominent cities? Absolutely.
For more log on to BET.com