News/Local
News News/Local

Chief Keef's success, personal problems closely tied

Chief Keef is living the dream.

Over the past few years he has risen from obscurity to prominence as an aspiring rapper. He's a household name with a multi-million dollar deal with Interscope Records. His videos rack up views in the millions, major magazines have hailed him as a game changer in Chicago's burgeoning drill rap scene and, at 18 years old, he already has collaborated with Kanye West, 50 Cent and Rick Ross.

Keith Cozart, the rapper as he appears on legal documents, is a more complex story.

The Chicago teen who grew up in Englewood has been in and out of juvenile detention and Cook County Jail, for offenses ranging from drugs to weapons charges. He has been to rehab, ordered to pay child support and, as of this week, questioned in connection with a shooting that occurred at the Northfield residence rented by his manager.

But the stories are one and the same. Wednesday's news that Cozart may have been connected to a shooting added one more item to a long list of legal troubles that have followed the young artist during his rise to fame. As Keef made headlines earlier this month with the debut of his anticipated "[Bleep] Rehab" video -- which racked up more than 13,000,000 views on the World Star Hip-Hop website alone -- the news was paired with the revelation that he was earlier arrested for DUI.

Cozart, and his alias Keef, have made it, they say. No longer does he live in the violence-ridden streets that are featured prominently in his lyrics. He's no longer on his own. Despite that, though, he continues to find himself in the spotlight as much for his music as he does for what happens outside the studio. Is it possible for Cozart's troubles to stifle Keef's rise?

"It's getting to the point now where people are like 'OK, Keef, really?,' said Tyrine Howard, deputy editor for Chicago hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive. "They don't want to see another [negative] headline a week from now. That takes away from everything."

Zan Adams, a 19-year-old activist from Bronzeville, has seen the fatigue Howard alludes to. He is co-founder of the group Reclaiming Inner-City Streets and Elevating Chicago (RISE Chicago), which is fighting for a South Side trauma center and ways to combat youth violence.

"(Fans) are starting to tell me, 'This guy is stupid. What's wrong with him,'" he said. "He's got his money, why is he doing this?'"

Adams has been pressing Cozart and other Chicago rappers to collaborate on an album free of lyrics that glorify any sort of violence. He's even had meetings with Cozart's label, GBE. He hopes to make the collaboration a reality this summer, but with the most recent news of a possible shooting, he's unsure.

"If things like speeding arrests keep happening, I'm not going to say 'I don't want to know you,'" he said. "But if shootings keep happening, I'm torn."

Howard said Cozart's actions have to be put into perspective.

"I think people need to take into account where he's come from, and he's young," he said. "Could you imagine being 17 to 18 years old and having the success he's had? You come home from school and record a song with Kanye West? Especially if you don't have the proper guidance around? That's a lot to take in."

Howard said Keef's repeated run-ins with the law risk fatiguing his fan base, but so far, they are holding strong.

"It's interesting, it may seem like people become disinterested with his music, but that's not the case," he said. "The younger crowd can be as fickle as they come, but they still love his music."

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Chicago's ban on plastic bags starts to take effect at many big stores Saturday, but an alderman who helped craft the law already is talking about changing it in order to thwart a few large retail chains that he says are trying to skirt the new rules.

  • State police: Man shot while riding in van on Eisenhower

    State police: Man shot while riding in van on Eisenhower

    A man was shot multiple times while traveling in a minivan on the inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday morning, authorities said.

  • Lollapalooza liquor gardening: fact or fiction?

    Lollapalooza liquor gardening: fact or fiction?

    It may sound like an urban legend: Music festival-goers bury bottles of booze in Chicago parks, plot a GPS location for the goods and uncover them days later when the festival comes alive.

  • Chicago plans to cut O'Hare noise by rotating runways at night

    Chicago plans to cut O'Hare noise by rotating runways at night

    The Emanuel administration on Friday will propose an experiment at O'Hare International Airport to rotate the runways used late at night, possibly on a weekly basis, to spread out jet noise, the city's aviation chief told the Chicago Tribune.

  • Almost 6 acres of land added near Fullerton Avenue Beach

    Almost 6 acres of land added near Fullerton Avenue Beach

    Along Chicago's lakefront at Fullerton Avenue Beach, cranes rolled along a causeway that only a few months ago was part of the lake itself. Every day this summer, roughly 40 construction workers are filling in Lake Michigan with dredged material and gravel, which will eventually add up to 5.8 acres...

  • Doughnut panic

    Doughnut panic

    I'm not ashamed to admit that for the past several years, I have mapped my walk to work around which doughnut shop I'd like an excuse to stop at on the way. There's nothing like the thought of a crunchy, craggy old fashioned doughnut or the sweet, yeasty chew of a classic glazed doughnut to help...

Comments
Loading
86°