Chief Keef has yet to release his debut album but the 17-year-old rapper, born Keith Cozart, continues to find his name splashed across the headlines. In the latest round, he found himself at the center of an ABC special tied to the increasing violence in his hometown, Chicago.
Last week, the Chicago Sun Times reported that Keef is facing jail time after conducting an interview with Pitchfork at a gun range, while he was still only 16. The interview has since been retracted, but according to reports, the interview violated Keef’s 18-month probation stemming from charges of pointing a gun at an officer.
Before Keef’s camp even offered up comment on his legal woes, the rapper was profiled in a new ABC “Nightline” special, “Hidden America: Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up.” Host Diane Sawyer began by reporting the grim details of Chicago’s inner-city gang wars, noting that 419 people were killed across a dozen neighborhoods in the city in 2012, outnumbering the number of U.S. troops who have been killed in Afghanistan in the past year.
Sawyer and her colleagues teamed up with the anti-violence group CeaseFire (also known as Cure Violence) to invite 38 gang members to sit down and discuss the escalating wars that have been claiming innocent lives. Almost unanimously, participants said that it would take nothing short of a miracle to control the violence.
Eventually, the narrative leads to Chief Keef and his hit single “I Don’t Like” — now with over 17.3 million views on YouTube — noting that social-media outlets like Twitter and YouTube, plus the competitive atmosphere of rap, have only fueled the violence.
The special pointed directly to Keef’s rivalry with rapper Lil Jojo, who was gunned down in early September after tweeting his location. When news of Jojo’s death broke, a tweet from Keef’s account seemed to mock the 18-year-old’s death, but after a flood of backlash, Keef later said that his account was hacked and he sent out condolences to the grieving family.
“In my era, we beefed with guys probably five, six blocks away,” Cease Fire volunteer and “violence interrupter” Lamont Evans told ABC. “Now with all the technology, you can beef with a guy in a whole other state,” adding that gang wars have now turned into “beef over rap.” It’s unclear where Keef stands on these issues as we’ve yet to hear the 17-year-old publicly comment. (MTV News reached out to a rep for Keef and was waiting to hear back at press time.)
Fellow Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco, who has always been outspoken about political and social issues troubling inner city communities, was quoted as saying that he was scared of the culture that Chief Keef represents. That comment seemed to rub Keef the wrong way, however, and it started a heated back and forth between the rappers on Twitter, with plenty of input from concerned fans. But Keef would later say that all of those tweets — like the insensitive comments about Lil JoJo’s death — were all the fault of a hacker.
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