Chief Keef: Hail To The Chief (2012 Online Cover Story)

Chief Keef: Hail To The Chief (2012 Online Cover Story)Illustration by Simon Jones and Liz Barclay

May 27, 2012; The Wild 100s, Chicago

Keef and his grandmother have been moved by his management to a spot in the 100s on Chicago’s far South Side, likely for their own protection. A videographer doing a documentary on Chicago hip-hop wants to interview Keef. He hasn’t been given the address for the rapper’s new location; instead, he meets Peeda Pan at a Walgreens parking lot nearby. Dro’s phone is dead, and Peeda can’t get in touch, so he hangs out in the parking lot waiting to get word as night begins to fall. Shortly after Peeda Pan arrives, a police SUV rolls up behind him and sits in the parking lot, idling.

While waiting to hear from Keef or Dro, Peeda discusses Keef’s potential moves. Birdman had recently stated that he would do anything to sign the rapper, and Young Jeezy and Waka’s Brick Squad are both rumored to have deals in the works. For the first time, Peeda hints at a name that hasn’t come up in the press to this point: Interscope Records.

Still no word from Dro. Peeda gets back in his car and leads the way to a quiet residential block. The phone rings. He’s on the move again, this time to the Loft. The “I Don’t Like” and “Love Sosa” videos were shot in the Loft, the same place where Young Jeezy first met the young rapper. The windows on the Loft's front door are covered in black, and a wooden two-by-four is used to brace the door shut from the inside. At the top of the stairs on the second floor, about half-a-dozen people are scattered throughout the spacious apartment. There is little furniture. A flat screen is up against the wall, and couches intersect in the middle of the main room. The attached kitchen has a marble island. Dro and Tadoe are both there, and everyone is talking in low voices. Each face is a mask. In Dro City, there was a sense of camaraderie. In the Loft, there’s an unspoken divide.

Suddenly, Keef and Lil Reese sweep into the room. The second they arrive, the room falls completely silent. There’s an uncomfortable, tense stillness. Keef sits and almost immediately nods off, still upright. Reese talks, briefly, but keeps his eyes up. At that moment, the complications of the scenario are laid bare, triggering numerous questions: Who has power, in this room, right now, and what unspoken truths keep those people in charge? How does Chief Keef’s sudden rise to fame throw these relationships into an imbalance?

What keeps you from robbing the first smaller person you see walking down the street? It’s the social contract, that sense of empathy, the understanding that we are all, at times, vulnerable. Our safety depends on the unstated assumption that we can trust other people not to take advantage of our weakness. But what happens in a place where that contract gets shredded? And how powerful is music that can affirm a feeling of humanity in that void?

Fifteen minutes after he arrives, Reese walks over and snaps a bandana playfully against Keef’s head. Keef wakes up, stands up, and he and Reese walk toward the front door without saying a word, the interview forgotten. They get into an all-black SUV with black-tinted windows; Keef’s is the only one open. He looks up, waves up at onlookers in the Loft, and as the black window slides shut, the SUV pulls away and Chief Keef disappears.

This feature is a part of Complex's "Finally Rich" Week.

Related: Where Did Chief Keef Come From? 

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