Chief Keef performs at Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago on Aug. 5. (Mike Rich / Redeye )
The teenaged Chicago rapper Chief Keef might join Travis Morrison in the pantheon of musicians whose careers Pitchfork has singlehandedly derailed, according to Chicago-area prosecutors Wednesday.
Chief Keef's young career has already been marred with violence and gun crimes. He filmed the no-budget video for his hit single "I Don't Like" while on house arrest after pointing a gun at a police officer, and was roundly criticized for seeming to mock the killing of a fellow Chicago rapper and alleged gang rival Lil Jojo (one of many killings in a wave of violence to hit Chicago this year) on Twitter.
But his current troubles stem from an interview he did with Pitchfork's "Selector" series, in which the site's videographers meet rappers in unusual locations for some light recreation and freestyling. In a spectacular display of bad taste, they met him at a New York gun range, where Keef fired some rounds and gave a lackadaisical performance. Pitchfork has since taken down the video and acknowledged it was insensitive to crime victims in Chicago.
Bad freestyling isn't a crime, but handling a gun might have been one for Keef, born Keith Cozart. As part of his sentencing in the same crime that landed him under house arrest, he received 18 months of probation in which he couldn't associate with gang members or handle a firearm.
The Pitchfork video, while clearly meant as a casual media stunt, might nonetheless be a probation violation worthy of jail time, according to Cook County assistant state’s attorney Jullian Brevard in the Chicago Sun-Times. He's also suspected of associating with Black Disciple gang members last month. Prosecutors have asked for him to be placed in juvenile detention, and a judge will decide the case at a Nov. 20 hearing. Keef will remain free until then.
“He is still blowing off this court. He is still doing what he wants to do,” Brevard said to the Sun-Times, alleging Keef's “whole image is that he is a tough guy.”
Keef's attorney Dennis Berkson admitted the video was "stupid" but said Keef was only following his adult manager's career advice and shouldn't be held accountable. Keef also pledged to earn a GED by August, another condition of his probation, and failed to do so. The judge, Carl Anthony Walker, said at an initial hearing that "I really believe this minor should be placed on electronic home monitoring.”
Prosecutors have requested Keef be placed in juvenile detention in Chicago, as an example of celebrity justice and for his own safety, out of fears of sparking reprisal incidents from Lil JoJo's alleged Gangster Disciples crew. Keef currently lives in Los Angeles.
Keef's career has also included a Kanye West remix of "I Don't Like," a deal with Interscope and several high-profile shows. Whether a return to detention for another gun crime would sidetrack that rise or bolster it remains to be seen, but it's certainly a reason to run unusual gun-themed interview requests by one's managers.
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