Let me preface this by saying I love Kanye West, and I love Chicago Hip Hop.
This is truly an exciting time for Chi-City street music. As LEP Bogus Boys, King Louie and the notable 16 year old Chief Keef, have all in the last 12 months truly found themselves in great positions in hip hop. For the latter, Keef garnered even more national attention last week by having Kanye West remix one of his standout tracks, “I Don’t Like”.
Being the music nerd I am, I totally rushed to my Internets to give the track a listen and brushed up on my Keef knowledge. After some generous listening, I found the track and Keef to be normal street fare. Although it’s obvious the youngster has talent, the golden nugget of a story however, is Keef scoring this remix while on house arrest.
We all know that everyone loves a good backstory, but Chief Keef’s is violent yet poignant. At present, Chicago is one of the bloodiest cities in America. Obviously, this is nothing to celebrate. Keef’s music and West’s remix is garden-variety street fare. NBC Chicago even reports Keef’s arrest (for allegedly pointing a gun at police officers) isn’t “necessarily a bad thing”. When you consider the current climate of hip-hop this statement rings true.
Here’s where I become seriously torn:
On the one hand, a 16 year old on house arrest having the opportunity to work with Kanye West is truly amazing. On the other, West (along with every powerful force in hip hop) is looking for the next big thing to exploit. Keef could “fall off” after a few bad songs, much less an album, making him even more of a statistic. I hope this doesn’t happen.
Similarly: On the one hand, Keef living out his musical aspirations should keep him out of trouble. On the other, he’s rapping about (and glorifying) the same sh*t that most likely landed him on the track to house arrest in the first place.
See where I’m going here? Good. Let’s go further…
Remember that awesome song, “Murder to Excellence” from that Watch the Throne album where Kanye waxes poetic about the horrible violence overcoming our Chicago streets? Where was that Kanye when he was remixing Keef’s record? Where was the Kanye that donates money to Chicago Public Schools and (seemingly) tries to prevent kids just like Keef from going down the “wrong path”?
Personally, I do my part for Chicago youngsters every week I’m in town, and it’s like pulling teeth to get (bigger) local media outlets to report about it. In my experience, ABC Chicago, CBS and WGCI have all “tried” to run stories regarding my youth mentoring program, Charm Lab, but have all ended up giving excuses as to why they didn’t run it (much love goes out to all the media outlets who give indie stories more shine).
This doesn’t surprise me either — I am a medium fish in a large pond. I am far from a “mainstream” act. To see an outlet like NBC do a story on Keef and glaze over the issues of violence isn’t surprising, but it does eat at the very soul of what we as Chicagoans so desperately want and need — safe streets and protected kids.
Hip Hop isn’t responsible for street violence, but Hip Hop’s hands are far from clean.
I can’t even blame Kanye for re-making a hot Chicago street track from a young, and up-and-coming Internet star. He’s got to remain relevant at a time where the changing of the guard is extremely evident. And we can’t expect artists to make the same songs over and over. This includes Kanye. But seriously, Damn. With all of the shitty violence going on in the streets, there’s way more for us as hip hop voices from Chicago to talk about. Clothes, hoes, cars, drugs and guns… still? Really? Where’s Common (Sense)? Oh yeah…Hollywood!
Please, for the kids. Stop the Insanity.
In conclusion, dear Readers: with all these interesting things to be torn about, one can’t deny how talented Chicago is. And that is very cool, and very news-worthy. Here’s hoping we as music nerds get a full range of topics from such an interesting pool of home-grown talent.