Chief Keef - The Fader

GEN F: Chief Keef

Photographer Peter Hoffman
June 18, 2012

The video for Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” looks like a trailer for an unfinished Larry Clark film. In the clip, 16-year-old Keef is mostly shirtless, surrounded by members of his Glory Boy Entertainment crew, including (the also shirtless) SD and Fredo Santana. They dance, pass blunts, aim a gun at the camera and generally do the things kids do when they’re at home alone, listening to music too loud.

Like a number of the videos from Keef’s Back From The Dead mixtape, the clip for “I Don’t Like” was shot at Keef’s grandmother’s, the apartment he was confined to after serving a short jail sentence at the end of 2011. (Accused of aiming a gun at a Chicago police officer, Keef was charged officially with “unlawful use of a weapon.”) Over the ominous bells and 808 rumble of a beat by frequent collaborator and recent Warner/Chappell signee Young Chop, Keef lists the handful of things that have already managed to dampen his young life: bootleg designer clothing, obsessive females, snitches. Every line in Keef’s raps feels bulleted, to the point where you can imagine him slamming a wooden teacher’s pointer against a nylon projection screen to punctuate each bar.

In person, Chief Keef is much more subdued than the captivating street lord he plays on YouTube. We met in late April at the Paramount Hotel in midtown Manhattan, Keef having flown in that morning with an entourage of 15 for meetings with both Atlantic and Bad Boy Records. He is almost two months out from the release of Back From the Dead and only days removed from his domestic confinement, a house arrest monitor still resting atop his Air Jordans. Extracting information from Keef is like trying to fill a jar with water by shaking dew from tree leaves. Most of his replies max out at about seven or eight words and are delivered dismissively, in the manner of a student answering a school monitor after being caught in the parking lot during class hours. When I call him on it, he claims it’s a strategy. “They gon’ like you more if they don’t know shit about you,” he says. “That’s how I work. I really don’t want everybody to know me.” A man travelling with Keef called Success attempts to take the wheel. “You gotta ask him about what he likes to spend his money on,” Success says. “That’s what’ll get him to talk…about spending money and fuckin’ bitches and how rich he gon’ be. You gotta realize we niggas that came from nothing, bro.”

Keef tells me he loves fashion and shows off an 800 dollar Burberry raincoat he’d purchased earlier that day. Even though he’s been working on music consistently since he’s been home, he doesn’t have release dates for any of his upcoming projects, including a joint mixtape with Soulja Boy and upcoming collaborations with Young Jeezy and Yo Gotti. He seems to be handling things as they are presented to him, like when reality-TV-standout-turned-internet-rap-phenom Riff Raff flew to Chicago to record and shoot the video for “Cuz My Gear,” a song that is deeply indebted to Soulja Boy, but doesn’t actually feature him. I ask Keef if he knows when the heavily publicized, Kanye West-commandeered remix for “I Don’t Like” is slated to drop, and he replies that he doesn’t [it was subsequently released in early May]. “That’s crazy how I don’t know,” he says under his breath. “That’s that shit I don’t like.”

GEN F: Chief Keef