Chief Keef, the Chicago MC behind the summer hit “I Don’t Like,” tweeted himself into a world of trouble recently by making light of the death of rival MC, Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, who had been fatally shot. Though the rapper later claimed his social media account was hacked, many in hip-hop were already repulsed by his antics, causing Hip Hop Wired contributor D.L. Chandler to look at gang culture’s place in rap and to question whether the genre’s reached a new low.
After news of Coleman’s death hit the Internets, Chief Keef and countless other Twitter users tweeted tasteless jokes about the killing. The beef eventually spilled over into Chicago rap veteran Lupe Fiasco reaching out to Keef, who was met by insults from the rapper and his legion of fans. Distraught by the reaction, Lupe wearily vowed to stay far away from the fracas and mentioned that he will be retiring from music.
Gangs have certainly existed well before the rise of these tough-talking teenage rappers. Yet the current spate of releases from Keef, Lil Durk, Lil Reese and baby of the bunch at 13, Lil Mouse, has given gang culture a thriving audio and visual component it has never enjoyed before. The gang-plagued neighborhood of Englewood where Keef and JoJo hailed from is represented heavily in their handful of videos and countless songs. They spoke about their Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples gang affiliation as a thing of honor, and both rappers have loyal followings of young people who look up to them.
Rappers claiming gang ties isn’t a new phenomenon. West coast rap group N.W.A featured Ruthless Records owner Eazy E, a known drug dealer who had reported ties with gang members. In later times, rappers Jim Jones claimed connection to the notorious Bloods gang; Lil Wayne and Birdman both claim Blood affiliation as well. A part of Strong Arm Steady rapper Mitchy Slick’s content is focused on gangbanging in San Diego. While Chief Keef and cohorts didn’t pioneer “banging on wax,” previous acts never had their involvement play out in the media quite like this.
Read D.L. Chandler’s entire piece at Hip Hop Wired.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.