Gun violence in rap is nothing new, but Chief Keef (née Keith Cozart) has been singled out among critics of the music genre. Keef’s raps are notable because he hails from Chicago, a city where gun violence is so rampant that President Obama mentioned it in his speech about gun control following the Newton, Connecticut tragedy. Keef also stands out because he is a polarizing figure; he was criticized for allegedly mocking the death of 18 year-old Lil Jojo and he was kicked off Instagram when he posted a picture of himself receiving oral sex. He is currently under house arrest for pointing a firearm at a Chicago police officer and facing court charges for violating probation.
Despite the controversy, Chief Keef is well on his way to becoming a household name in hip hop. He received over 20 million views on YouTube, appeared at Lollapalooza and has been cosigned by established rappers like 50 Cent. To many, he’s considered the face of Chicago’s emerging “Drill” scene, even inspiring an article in The New York Times. Perhaps that’s why Interscope moved forward with the release of his first major label debut, “Finally Rich,” this Tuesday, a move which is drawing ire.
A Chicago-based blogger for NBC Chicago 5, Edward McClelland, is making headlines for an op-ed piece called “Another Reason I Don’t Like Chief Keef.” In the article, McClelland went so far as to boycott the release in light of the homicide crisis in Chicago and the Newton, Connecticut tragedy. He even called Keef’s album a minstrel show:
“Since last week’s murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, though, I haven’t had the stomach for any violent entertainment […] While I was watching this Sunday’s Bears game, ads for the movies Gangster Squad and Django Unchained came on TV. Both ads packed two or three shootings into 30 seconds. I don’t want to see either. A culture that glorifies the sexiness of the man with the gun is one reason we have 300,000,000 guns in America. I also don’t want to pay $14 for the minstrel show of listening to a real live South Side thug. I don’t want to support a scene that makes gangbanging a resume builder for music success.”
McClelland is not alone in his criticism. Chief Keef is frequently criticized for celebrating violence in a city that has the worst murder rate in the nation. The timing of his first major-label release just makes it more deplorable. There’s no good time to glorify gun violence, but in light of the homicide crisis in Chicago as well as the Newton, Connecticut tragedy, the release of Chief Keef’s “Finally Rich” can be seen as irresponsible, insensitive and highly inappropriate.