Chief Keef, living out notoriety thanks to YouTube

By Morgan Lewis

The 17-year-old Keith Cozart, better known for his stage name Chief Keef is yet another artist that has made his name through YouTube.

The release of his first album “Finally Rich” in December of 2012 reached as high as No. 29 on the U.S. album chart and 2nd on the U.S. rap album chart. Several of the songs featured on the album, including “Love Sosa” and “I Don’t Like” were featured in the iTunes top 100.

Chief Keef’s ominous beats and hardcore approach to his music caught the attention of many hip hop artists. Keef made a name for himself via YouTube, when he posted a low-budget video for his song “I Don’t Like.” He is featured in the video toting a handgun, which is made even more notable due to the fact that he was already on house arrest for a gun charge.

As the video views began to rise (currently over 10 million), Chief Keef received notoriety from some of the most popular names in the rap game. The Chicago native’s sudden rise came about when a list of prominent artists including Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill and Big Sean agreed to be featured in Keef’s song “I Don’t Like.” As soon as his song became a local hit in the Chicago area, there was a bidding war among several labels to sign Keef to a record deal. After many attempts to sign the teenage gangster rapper, Chief Keef signed with Interscope Records giving him deal worth $6 million for three albums.

The commercial success of “Finally Rich” has been clouded with the controversy that surrounds Keef. Chicago’s own hip hop artist Rhymefest authored a prominent blog that was critical of Keef’s style and image. The article stated that Chief Keef “represents the senseless savagery that white people see when the news speaks of Chicago violence.” Rhymefest goes on to say that Chief Keef is yet another rapper that “gets paid to destroy young minds.”

Rhymefest was not the only rapper that was critical of Chief Keef’s music. Lupe Fiasco stated in an interview that Chief Keef “scares him” and that Keef’s music is partially responsible for the soaring murder rates in Chicago.

While many in the rap community see Keef’s music as harmful to the youth, his antics away from music continue to make his violent and gritty image even more authentic. The publicity that he receives just reinforces the controversial ideals of many hip hop artists that are very popular among young people.

Even with his early success, Keef has had several run-ins with the law. His actions away from the mic just reiterate some of the lyrics from his music. His reckless and ominous image paints him as yet another gangster rapper that personifies the ideals of violence, sex, money and drugs. Just five months after signing his multi-million dollar record deal, Keef is serving a 2 month juvenile detention sentence after violating his probation for possessing a concealed firearm.

While rappers that claim to have gang ties is not a new theme, the teenage Keef has made a name for himself doing what rappers like Eazy E and Lil’ Wayne have done in the past. Whether or not the people that listen to Chief Keef’s music deem it as harmful, his music resonates with its listeners perhaps because of the very fact that it contains such strong and obscene lyrics.