We need to talk about Chief Keef’s “Faneto.”
The song was officially released, per SoundCloud, in October 2014. It has been played on that platform over 57 million times, and the March 2016 music video has now been viewed over 23 million times. Then, four years after its release, the song saw a resurgence in 2018, and it’s been on a fucking roll over the past six months.
“Time will tell, but ‘Faneto,’ from last year's underrated Back From the Dead 2, has become an unexpected—and very atypical-sounding—minor hit, one with serious momentum,” writer David Drake pointed out in his Bout to Blow column for Complex in January 2015, three months after the song dropped. The column included a Vine clip of a party in Cicero, Illinois, a 20-minute drive from the heart of Chicago, Keef’s hometown. Even then, the magnetic energy of the song was palpable.
In April 2015, the Chicago Reader published a story that called attention to the unexpected, “slow” rise of the song, which had been out for well under a year. Now, here we are, in 2019, and “Faneto” is just as hot as ever.
“The beat felt strong, so that’s the kind of song I wanted to have: It just sounded like a young, successful man.” - Chief Keef
I first noticed the song gaining a word-of-mouth-generated second life last summer. My ears perked up in June, when Beyoncé and JAY-Z released their joint album, Everything Is Love. On the project’s lead single, “APESHIT,” JAY opens his verse by flipping bars from “Faneto”: “I’m a gorilla in the fuckin’ coupe/‘Finna pull up in the zoo/I’m like Chief Keef meet Rafiki—who been lyin’ ‘King’ to you?”
JAY’s reference to “Faneto” begins with the song’s opening lines, which have already become the stuff of legend. Four years later, Chief Keef looks back on the inspiration behind those bars and remembers the whole song—lyrics and production—coming together all at once. “I was at the Record Plant,” he tells Complex. “I had a room locked out for a couple weeks. I was bringing my computer there every day, making beats and rapping over each beat I was making. One of them ended up being ‘Faneto.’ The beat felt strong, so that’s the kind of song I wanted to have: It just sounded like a young, successful man.” Mentioning JAY’s flip of his opening lines, Keef adds, “JAY-Z inspired me to do all this shit anyway. It’s always a good feeling to hear people reference my songs and lyrics.”
After hearing JAY’s “APESHIT” verse, I pinned the lyric in the back of my head, thinking how dope it was that Hov had shouted Keef out so directly, in such a momentous song for he and Bey—and I kept it moving. Then, three months later, a news story started spreading about students at Clemson University, way over in South Carolina, who were listening to “Faneto” at a house party and jumping up and down in excited unison. According to reports, the floor beneath the turnt-up students collapsed, in dramatic fashion.
“By the time I had put one foot out the door, I felt that something was weird, and that’s when everyone just collapsed and the guy behind me disappeared,” 20-year-old Raven Guerra told ABC News. “Everyone was on the floor and people were screaming and there was wood sticking up from the floorboards.” Approximately 30 students were injured (including some with broken bones and bloodied faces) but the story quickly transformed into an example of the power of “Faneto.”
The next month, in November 2018, the song was reimagined with an orchestra assembled by Audiomack. In addition to other hits like “Love Sosa” and “Belieber,” Keef spits alongside a “trap symphony” that turns his street anthems into celestial experiences. His delivery for “Faneto” takes on new life over tense, plucked strings, as opposed to his own frenetic and heart-thumping production. But the fact that the song made it into the hands of classically trained musicians is a feat in and of itself.
“Faneto” moments keep popping up in my timeline. From a “Swag Surfin” versus “Mo Bamba” versus “Faneto” challenge (spoiler: “Faneto” wins) to recent memes that somehow hilariously deal with the heaviness of expunging one of Chicago’s most revered musicians, this song keeps making its way to the center of both pop culture and the culture.
Asked why he thinks people are still reacting to the track so strongly five years later, Chief Keef says it all comes back to the day he first made the beat. “They feel it when it comes on,” he explains. “When I made the beat, I ain’t even know how I wanted to do the drums. I tried something different. You can hear like, how the claps fall. I just went with it, and people fucked with it.”
Long live “Faneto.”