Pitchfork has retracted a video interview featuring Chief Keef at a gun range after rival rapper Lil Jojo was gunned down Tuesday night. Police are investigating whether a war of words between the two rappers had anything to do with the murder. Given the high degree of media attention over Chicago’s alarmingly high rate of violence, it would seem that Pitchfork made the right decision. Via Pitchfork:
Pitchfork’s roots are in Chicago and many of our employees and several contributors live in the city. The horror of the gun violence that has plagued our hometown is something we all take very seriously. Many people have pointed out that this episode could be seen as trivializing gun violence, and we feel they have a good point.
In the wake of this controversy, Whet Moser relays a fascinating, Chicago-centric analysis of what the Chief Keef phenomenon really means in a current Chicago Magazine story:
His songs are lyrically, rhymically, and emotionally diminshed, which is why they sound so airless and claustrophobic: “for all its familiarity, the mixtape is noticeably alien, with the young Keef leaving behind Flocka’s headbanging intensity for a delivery and presence that is unsettlingly calm and unemotional.” It’s not even fatalistic, because that would imply a self-consciousness, a moral consideration, that isn’t there in the lyrics. It just is, over and over again. Not for nothing is the scene he’s from called drill-hop, both meanings of the word drill implied.
This is what scares people about Chief Keef. Whether it’s Cozart himself or the persona he creates through Keef, he sounds gone and done at 17, with no distance from the violence of his lyrics, distance that would allow at least a ray of hope in…
The only thing rap music contributed to Joseph Coleman’s murder is a contextual framework that allowed his beef with Chief Keef, Lil Reese, and the GBE crew to escalate, in visibility and probably in severity. With higher profiles to protect, things such as the video Coleman’s brother CashOut made, where he flashes gang signs and apparently has a phone conversation with Keef’s mother about their supposed sexual relationship, probably mattered more. The stakes were higher.
But the problem here isn’t the amount of crime and violence in the music JoJo, Keef, and the rest of those involved have made. It’s the fact that for whatever reason the city of Chicago—its government and its people—have abandoned the south side to a plague of violence that’s become so inescapable that it’s practically the only subject the musicians from those neighborhoods have to talk about.
This isn’t rap beef. This is gang beef in a rap setting. If you want to see something really depressing, you can trawl around social networks and find the same kinds of shockingly cold-blooded videos and tweets going back and forth between gangbangers who don’t have burgeoning rap careers or anything else that would cause anyone from outside the neighborhood to care—the kind of young people who turn into nameless weekend-fatality statistics. They don’t even get any music out of it.
In classic hip-hop fashion, however, gang beef has escalated into rap beef. Fellow Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco was quoted in Moser’s piece with some mildly critical, ultimately sympathetic commentary, to which Keef tweeted this threatening response:
Lupe fiasco a hoe ass nigga And wen I see him I’ma smack him like da lil bitch he is
Keep it classy, Chi-town… Oh, right, it’s already too late for that.