“Stop the violence, stop the killing, stop the nonsense. Let the kids grow up!” rapper Chief Keef declared to an amazed crowd via hologram on Saturday night at Craze Fest in Hammond, Indiana. Barely taking a pause, as if he knew he didn’t have much time left, he yelled out, “Chicago, you ready for a show?” Everyone cheered. “Let’s go.”
He didn’t go for very long: The cops unplugged the 19-year-old emcee after only a few minutes. The concert was to serve as a benefit for fellow Chicago rapper Marvin Carr (aka Capo), who was killed in a shooting this month, and Dillan Harris, a 13-month-old child who was killed by a driver fleeing the scene. But under orders from Hammond’s Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police broke up the shindig.
Despite his pleas for peace, Keef has been called an “unacceptable role model” by Emanuel, who feels that the rapper’s music “promotes violence” and poses “a significant public safety risk.” He’d banned a similar concert from going down at Chicago’s Redmoon Theater earlier in the month, which had prompted Keef to try Craze Fest as an alternate venue.
The incident provoked all kinds of free-speech arguments. Eric Zorn, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, wrote in his op-ed piece titled, “Sorry, the constitution protects Chief Keef too,” that Emanuel and McDermott’s actions were dubiously legal and definitely unjustified. “Do you really want the government deciding who’s a good enough role model to be allowed the freedom to speak?” he wrote.
Now, perhaps as revenge, Keef, who until this point has been known primarily for posing with guns on Instagram and rapping about killing people, has decided to take his Emanuel challenge to the next level, announcing Monday on Twitter that he is going to run for mayor, tweeting, “Yall gonna love me in the Office.”
Setting aside the fact that there isn’t a mayoral election for another four years (Emanuel recently won his second term just this past April), Keef isn’t exactly your typical mayoral candidate.
Though he’s only 19, Keef, who grew up in Englewood in the South Side of Chicago, has fathered at least three children and gone to jail six times (plus been under house arrest twice) for crimes involving drugs, speeding, and violating parole.
He is notorious for his social media gaffes: In September 2012, in response to the news that fellow Chicago rapper Lil JoJo had been shot dead, he trolled the dead guy on Twitter. He later did what every celebrity does when they post something stupid and claimed that his account had been hacked. Lil JoJo’s mother, however, was unconvinced and accused Keef of hiring a hit man to kill her son. Soon after, Keef was kicked off Instagram for posting a photo of him receiving a blowjob from a groupie (he has since opened a new account).
Keef became famous in 2012. He had just turned 16 and was under house arrest for the first time for pointing a loaded gun at police officers. He’d already gained a degree of notoriety—videos he had posted on YouTube received enough attention that Kanye West produced a remix of Keef’s song “I Don’t Like,” with rappers Pusha T, Big Sean, and Jadakiss guesting. Later that year, Keef signed to Interscope Records and created his own label, Glory Boyz Entertainment (which later became Glo Gang). His first album, Finally Rich, was released at the end of 2012 and featured star rappers like 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy, and Rick Ross. In 2013, Keef appeared on XXL magazine’s “Freshman Class List.”
Keef is often cited as one of the best artists of the Chicago “drill” style of rap characterized by its gritty and dark lyrics about the harsh realities of living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America. Keef’s website claims that his music “accurately and honestly reflects the violence, hopelessness and frustration, as well as moments of joy and victory, of the environments that Keef and hundreds of thousands of other poor and working-class kids live in all over the world.”
But many see Keef’s music as more of a call to violence than a thoughtful reflection on the plight of the urban poor. He has been accused in the past of inciting violence in his fans, though like all such charges, the connections between his music and their actions are somewhat dubious. For instance, in 2013, one of three teenagers who was charged with murdering an Australian tourist in Oklahoma had tweeted a lyric from a Keef song just two days prior: “With my n----s when it’s time to start taken life’s.”
Whether Keef really has decided to take a more peaceful path is debatable, but at any rate, don’t write him off as a mayoral candidate just yet. After all, if Rob Ford has proved anything to the world, it’s that liking drugs and threatening people doesn’t mean you can’t become the mayor of a major city.