About Chief Keef
The day that a 16-year-old Chicago kid was freed from house arrest in 2012 was the day hip-hop shifted on its axis. Chief Keef (born Keith Farrelle Cozart in 1995) had been charged with waving a gun at a cop and was posting music from lockdown: simple yet booming trap tunes full of matter-of-fact violence spit by a menacing voice with a gift for catchy repetition. When a video of a local fan celebrating Keef’s freedom blew up, people around the world started seeking his mixtapes, and the Chicago drill genre was born—gritty, revenge-seeking rap that dropped listeners into the city’s South Side wars. Keef signed a multi-million dollar deal with Interscope and debuted with 2012’s Finally Rich, a drill-defining declaration of nihilistic not-niceness, followed by a celebrity-studded (Pusha T, Big Sean, Jadakiss) Kanye West remix of his “I Don’t Like.” But being an innovator became another kind of confinement. Keef’s sound was a product of Chicago’s history of segregation and street gangs, and fame shined light on that ugly legacy, resulting in heightened scrutiny, real threats, and the mayor blasting him as “an unacceptable role model.” Keef moved to Los Angeles, adjusted his style, and declared himself the inventor of mumble rap, the slurry, eccentric sound co-signed by Future and more recently revised by Post Malone. His 2017 mixtape Thot Breaker showcases this veer into pop, featuring him rapping over dancehall beats (“Can You Be My Friend”) and sounding startlingly romantic. The drill is gone, and now Keef is truly free.
BORNAugust 15, 1995