At the age of 25, Chief Keef has already inspired a generation of artists. Since breaking through as a major label star, the reluctant icon successfully transitioned to an independent artist who has released an overwhelming amount of material over the years. Throughout his career, he’s also been followed by controversy, which is easier to understand when you become aware of the trauma he’s endured. Even his last major brush with death set the catalyst for a certain fallen troll’s diminished reputation.
So, when I got an opportunity to catch up with Chief Keef for a rare interview, I couldn’t turn it down. Keef is known to be elusive, but the chance to get a better understanding of a man who survived a brutally unforgiving upbringing and a cutthroat music industry was worth the challenge.
The opportunity for the sit-down revolved around Keef’s then-upcoming performance with digital concert production house DreamStage. Set to stream both stateside and abroad simultaneously, it would be the company’s first crack at hip-hop. Before that, their live performances were mainly classical. Since large gatherings aren’t happening anytime soon, digital live performances have become the new norm, and selecting Keef as their debut into the urban market for $15 bucks was an inspired choice, especially when paired with new Chicago torchbearer Polo G.
To help build awareness for the concert, I was told to meet Keef at a music video set in Los Angeles, and speak about his plans for the show. This would also give me a chance to get some information about his upcoming collaborative project with Mike Will Made-It, which has already seen current single “Bang Bang” reach over four million YouTube views. The music video shoot would be for the project’s next single.
Taking the 45-minute trip to Sunny Valley from Inglewood, I arrived at the La Tuna Locations studio zone parking lot. A few hours past sunset, Keef was shooting a scene in a room appropriately titled Abandoned Haunted House. The scene was fairly standard for him, besides the horror film vibe. There was an outlandish level of prop firearms, bricks of fake cocaine, stacks of faux cash, and Instagram models. There was even a poolside scene where he shot some suited-up white guy point-blank in the head.
On set, I was introduced to Keef’s manager, Peeda Pan. Upon meeting, he informed me that I would get time with the elusive drill progenitor once the scene was wrapped up. As we waited, Pan talked about having issues getting Popeyes Chicken for Keef in the middle of nowhere. Then he disappeared.
For the next three hours, I waited. Between shoots, I watched Sosa and his Glo-Gang entourage hang out, talk shit, laugh, smoke blunt after blunt, and roll dice. But by the time hour four hit, Pan informed me that the interview wouldn’t take place that day.
Apparently, Keef wasn’t in the mood for interviews and was already hours late on a production headed into overtime. I figured it was my time to exit. Pan promised dinner and a chance to interview Keef at his mansion the next day. He advised me to call him around 9:00 a.m. the next day.
The next day, I reached Pan on the phone at 9:00 a.m. He asked me to call him again, around 2:00 p.m. Then, at 2:00 p.m., he asked me to call at 5:00 p.m. After that, he stopped picking up the phone for the rest of the day.
According to DreamStage’s marketing head, Keef’s management team wanted me to watch him buy a new Camaro. I wouldn’t hear anything from them for a few days, until they proposed the idea of me attending the actual DreamStage performance at Thunder Studios in Long Beach, and finally interviewing Keef there.
On the day of the show, I showed up an hour early to get a lay of the land. I hung out in the lounge outside of the soundstage while everyone waited for Keef to show up. No Jumper’s Adam 22 was there conducting interviews with opening acts, while displaying his cup-and-ball skills. Eventually, I was allowed into Keef’s greenroom. There was a single TV where people could watch the broadcast, and several dozen gaming table and chair set-ups. Water, juices, and fruit chili platters were the only refreshments available.
After snapping some photos of Keef’s performance, I waited around again. Between production staff, DreamStage employees, entourages, and a handful of press, the performance felt more like an orchestrated production than a live concert. Keef performed fan favorites like “Love Sosa” and “Faneto,” alongside newer releases like “Bang Bang” alongside his hype man Ballout and a backing track. Gun motions, dread shakes, and light bounces to beats were standard performance moves between pulls of his freshly-rolled blunt.
I spent the rest of the 45-minute set inside the green room, waiting for the interview. Finally, Pan gave me the heads up to go outside and meet Keef for the interview once the show concluded. The crowd of people from inside moved near us in the parking lot, attracting Keef’s attention. I stayed by Pan, who managed to give me a short introduction to Sosa.
At that point, I realized Keef hadn’t even been aware that a one-on-one had been set up.
“No interviews,” he said.
Pan whispered in his ear again, and Keef reluctantly let me begin asking questions.
This is your first performance since the quarantine started. How does it feel to collaborate with DreamStage for a performance simulcasted all over the world?
Weird. But it’s cool, though.
You dropped the “Bang Bang” joint with Mike Will Made-It. Can you recall you guys linking?
Me and Mike Will Made-It are automatic. We have been good since I first came in.
When should we expect the collaborative project between you guys to drop?
Next year. January, February, March. Could be out before April.
How have you been keeping sane during the quarantine?
I’ve been doing this since before it was cool.
So what have you been doing with yourself?
[At this point, Pan interjects into the conversation and suggests Chief Keef talk about his recent E-sports gaming initiatives].
Glo Navy Gaming, I be playing Call of Duty. I’ll buss yo ass or whoever ass want it.
Regular multiplayer or Warzone?
Nah, Warzone too slow.
Do you have a go-to gun?
My favorite gun in the game? Can’t tell you.
What’s your killstreak set-up like, though?
You asking too much, though. Go to something else.
Are you signing gamers for Glo Navy Gaming now?
Yeah, we already got a family. We good.
Just like that, the interview was over. After weeks of delays, I had a total of three minutes with Keef in a crowded parking lot. It was far from the sit-down interview that had been promised, and I wasn’t afforded the time to ask about things like the evolution of the drill movement or his interactions with 6ix9ine. But the experience fit with the long-whispered myths that painted Chief Keef as a reclusive artist who only does what he wants.
After all that time waiting, I’d like to say that I have a better understanding of Keef. It seems he wants to live a simple life in the San Fernando Valley, where he’s free to start an eSports team and work with artists he respects. One thing is for sure: Chief Keef lives life on his own terms. He’s earned it.