It seems like it was yesterday. Except it wasn’t.
But I still remember the group of guys standing outside the nightclub, hollering and yelling for Chief Keef. They either wanted to be let in, or they they wanted him to out and put up his dukes. Our interview, meanwhile, was going south. I could barely concentrate because, you know, thugs were apparently outside. And he, despite trying, could barely concentrate either.
Some people get a thrill out of being around riots, or crowds or dangerous rap stars. Not me. I get a thrill out of hanging with rap stars so I can tell their authentic story. But, given Keef’s run ins with the law and the fact that various people seem to be out to get him, this meeting was swiftly going awry.
We raced upstairs to get away from the door. We were sitting way too close to the door. Yes. That must be it.
There’s a YouTube video of part of our interview. It’s not the best interview I’ve ever done, but it was the best I could manage given the throngs of people milling about who wanted to punch Keef. He also had a number of handlers who all seemed to disagree on what exactly he was doing, what he should be doing or why he should be doing it. But my task was clear: to find the humanity in this young man and figure out a little bit more about who he is.
You can read that Chicago Sun-Times front page story here or you can see the PDF if you scroll down a bit. And frankly, I was shocked he finally smiled at me. It’s so tough sometimes, to find that sort of artificial friendship that must happen between interviewee and interviewer.
In the end, I got to see Keef perform, I saw everyone wish him a happy birthday, I met a ton of his fans and his entourage, and I got exclusive scoop on his new album. Of course, said album is now on hold since he was released from his record label. But there’s hope yet. I don’t think Keef’s done yet, and there’s plenty more story to be told.
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And because I’m THAT person, here is the original blog entry in totality. But note that the blog and the actual story are very different pieces of work.
Chasing Keef, a profile by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs. This story originally appeared in The Chicago Sun-TImes.
<em>Updated 6 a.m. PST</em>
The good news is that Englewood’s own Chief Keef, born Keith Cozart, showed up early for his birthday concert and he even took the stage 20 minutes before his scheduled showtime. The fans went wild — quite literally — as the event turned into a kind of hip-hop mosh pit.
Though Keef looked spick-and-span from head to toe in white, newly stitched Glo Gang-branded pants, shirt and leather jacket, he still had to deal with negative people trying to follow him into his own Hollywood set.
These men appeared to be older than Keef, not from Chicago and said they were members of the Crips. While hundreds of Asian, black, Hispanic and white fans of all ages waited patiently in line to get into The Attic, these self-described gang members hung out by a secret side door on the famous Hollywood Boulevard to catcall Keef (or ask for his photograph, as his manager interpreted the situation) as he walked in.
Talk about a buzz-killer.
Strong words were exchanged, tempers flared and few people kicked at the door but Keef eventually took the high road and walked away from that crowd. After all, he’s the one who is “finally rich.” Later on, his management said the group were guys who followed him to the club and who all believe they are great friends with the rapper. Some were angry about not getting a selfie and others, say management, felt as though they should also be able to enter a VIP entrance with Keef and got extremely angry and belligerent when told they would not receive the star treatment.
Despite that charged hiccup, the teen rapper, who celebrated his 19th birthday early this morning with friends and a yellow, sun-shaped cake, whipped the crowd into a frenzy in a way that only music drenched in equal parts bass and machoism can do.
Keef, whose fans inside the club were unaware of the growing disturbance outside, performed a number of songs over pre-recorded tracks. The club’s sound quality left much to be desired, but “Love Sosa” was easily recognizable. The sing-songy, oddly catchy chorus is difficult to shake from the brain once you hear it.
Say what you will about Keef’s music, one thing is for certain: Many of the songs actually fare better in a club situation than a private, listen-in-your-car-by-yourself situation. There is an intensity — and vocal clarity — to his presence that is clear as he gets an overwhelmingly male (gay and straight) audience to swing and sway to his beat, like he’s the conductor of a bravado orchestra.
The concert was streamed live via stageit.com, and fans could pay $10 for a view. By show time, only 200 spots had sold, but that number could have jumped once Twitter and Instagram went live with the news that Keef, in what is becoming a rare move, actually showed up to his concert. (This post will be updated with final stageit numbers once they are reported.)
Organizationally the event was a bit frenetic. The place is a nightclub, not a concert venue, and there was no clear stage and no green room. Keef wound up rapping in the middle of the largest room in the club, flanked by his “Glo Gang” — the young men who are either signed to his record label or actual family members. To some, the whole situation looked like a hot mess, especially when the air conditioning couldn’t keep up with what appeared to be a crowd of 600. (Case in point, in the wet heat, all those perfectly flat-ironed blond tresses began to frizz out.) But for the handful of 18-year-old Justin Bieber look-alikes who waited in line at 9 p.m. for a chance to take a selfie with Keef, it was a riotous dream.
People danced on tables and chairs and bars. “Scarface” played on a large movie screen in back of some couches randomly placed on a riser. The kids couldn’t drink liquor, so they had to buy water or soda and weren’t happy about the prices. (Overheard: “Water isn’t free? Well, can I have the ice then?”) But all was forgotten as the rapper pushed and swayed his way to each corner of the room, giving most people a decent chance to record a video or snap an image for Vine, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Security had a tough time keeping the fans off of Keef, but Keef kept diving right back into them.
Apparently the kids really do love Sosa.