Rhymefest Blasts Chief Keef, Interscope RecordsJune 29th, 2012
By Dan Reagans
Chicago is a tough city. Its residents are recognized as rugged, blue collar straight shooters. Unfortunately, there is some tragic irony in the latter description of late. The Windy City has been plagued by a rash of violence in urban communities that see its occupants settle their disputes with a gun more often than not. In 2011, nearly 75 percent of the homicide victims in the city were Black males. The troubling trend has not garnered as much national attention as one would believe, but that could soon change with the rise of a new hip hop movement spawned in the Chi.
Last week, Chicago rap upstart Chief Keef announced that he had signed a record deal with Interscope Records and a publishing contract with Dr. Dre, all due largely in part to his anthemic hit “I Don’t Like.” In response to the signing, fellow Chi-town rap artist Rhymefest publicly blasted Keef and the label for playing into all the negative stereotypes that plague Chicago’s urban youth. ‘Fest even went as far as to describe the rap rookie as a “bomb” that misrepresents African-Americans and who is more so a spokesperson for the Prison-Industrial complex than a future hip hop star. Keef and Interscope didn’t bear the entire brunt of the criticism; Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame were also targets.
While aggressive in the manner that he addressed the issue, ‘Fest, a one-time mayoral candidate, did make some very valid points. Interscope Records has made an investment on promoting the violent, misogynistic content Keef authors, but will not likely bear the consequences of the negative impact the music might have on a community. Such has been the case for hip hop and the music biz for years, so it’s quite clear why ‘Fest called out Interscope for their apparent exploitation of the culture. I’ll be the first to admit he sounded more like D-Dot Angelettie’s Mad Rapper character than Dr. Cornel West , but after a decent once over, the veteran wordsmith’s views do spark a much needed debate on the issue.
‘Fest took the opposite approach of one-time collaborator Kanye West, who opted to embrace the Keef and other hometown talent on the rise. Chicago’s latest surge of rap up-and-comers like King Louie, L.E.P. Bogus Boys and producer Young Chop has earned the Windy City the title of hip hop’s farming system, and record labels are setting up shop in the Second City, plucking talent as it pops up. Keef signed his deal fresh off house arrest and GBE affiliate Lil Durk, who signed with Def Jam, is still incarcerated. Keef and the Chi’s new boom does force some to reexamine some of the messages behind the material. Still, in all fairness, some critics may be asking too much of a 17-year-old kid to lead a movement that will change the fortunes of a region that has lost its way somewhat. The city’s murder rate had been high well before Keef picked up a mic, and what his music does is reflect that very crisis. Stopping him from making music won’t impact gun control laws or better a penal system with many flaws.
It’s obvious that Chief and the GBE Boyz aren’t the most lyrical, and their gritty sound caters more to the streets and clubs, but perhaps this can be window that can shed light on some of the sad and negative problems that Chicago’s infested with. It’s not far-fetched that with some guidance from an OG like Yeezy or Common, Chief could ultimately develop into a positive influence or serve as a mediator/spokesperson for the serious issues in the Midwest. Maybe ‘Fest’s method of delivering his criticism was suspect, but one thing’s for certain: all eyes will be on the new rap city, and not just for new bangers.
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