Street Gang ties in Gangster Rap

Alittle synthetic ritournelle to open, then the couple bass / infrabasses between, spiced by rolls of charlestons, before the contagious refrain … Difficult to resist I Do not Like, composed by Young Chop and interpreted by Chief Keef.

Gangster rap first burst onto the scene in the late 1980’s, in the forefront was the rap group N.W.A, Niggas wit Attitude. They grew up in south central Los Angeles, which is home to some of the most deadly street gangs.

At the age of 17, Keith Cozart (his real name) is one of the most prominent figures of a rap movement in Chicago, in the South Side district, and grouped around the term drill music, which fascinates as it worries and thus attracts the major’s dollars from the record.  Chicago has a lot of street gangs as well, but it is a lot more brutal and less organized than the gangs they have in LA, like the Crips street gang. Published in March 2012, her video now counts nearly 18 million views -with the scores of Rihanna and Justin Bieber, admittedly, but for a rap clip “hardcore” turned with the means on board, we are no longer in the anecdote.

Beyond the music itself, the clip shot by Duane Gaines, known as DGainz, is a direct dive into the universe of the burgeoning Chicago scene. On the YouTube channel, videos by artists such as LEP Bogus Boys (veterans) or Spenzo, for example, reveal the harshness of the neighborhoods in Illinois’s largest city, where artists from 13 to 25 years for the most part. And the King L (former King Louie), Lil Reese, Lil Durk, Fredo Santana, Buck 20 Brick Boyz, YP, or the girls Sasha Go Hard and Chella H raise the counter of the chain of DGainz beyond the 42 (!!!) millions of views.

Lil Reese

The drill music surpassed the local phenomenon, enough to alert one of the pride of Chicago rap, which nevertheless deserted the “windy city” for a while for softer and safe areas in New York or Los Angeles: Kanye West has offered a remix of I Do not Like , on which he has placed a part of the artists of his label GOOD Music, before sticking it to his compilation Cruel Summer at the last minute, to give a current tour to his the last project.

A recognition that opened a gap for Chicago’s young rap performers. Since last spring, Chief Keef signed for Interscope (the record company Eminem, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre but also Lady Gaga) for $ 3 million, it is said. A deal that includes rights for a biopic, headphones and a label deal (Glory Boyz Entertainement) that makes Cozart the youngest CEO of showbiz.

His comrades Lil Reese and Lil Durk have each found a contract with Def Jam, the mythical rap label (Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Public Enemy …), while King L was welcomed by Epic / Sony Music … En less than six months, a real fever came from Chicago took over American business rap.

We can even add the signature of Rockie Fresh (another local rapper, but not necessarily associated with the drill scene) at MMG, the label of Rick Ross, the new rap giant. Lil Wayne who is a member of the bloods, knocked teenager Lil Mouse (13) and the industry is likely to keep an eye on the young Katie Got Bandz, Fredo Santana, SD, Chance The Rapper or the Buck 20 Brick Boys …

The stars leave the ship

Known for its jazz, soul and house music, the third city (and market) of the United States has yet never managed to impose a real rap scene, the opposite of New York, Los Angeles but also Houston, Atlanta or New Orleans. Local rap artists have nevertheless managed to impose themselves individually in the 90s and 2000s, the most confidential among us like Do Or Die, Bump J or Crucial Conflict (embodying rather the ghetto) to the big stars that can be Common or Kanye West through the famous figures like Da Brat in the mid-90s, Twista, No ID or Lupe Fiasco.

In 2012, the situation is a bit bitter for this old guard: Do Or Die, Crucial Conflict and Twista struggle to revive their careers, Lupe Fiasco is bogged down in artistic errors , Common runs the castings in Hollywood and Kanye West does shopping with Kim Kardashian in the stalls of the great couturiers between Milan, London and Paris.

The great figures have deserted the city and despite the efforts and critical recognition of some artists like Mikkey Halsted, Naledge of Kidz In The Hall, Rhymefest, GLC, the most “hype” Cool Kids or the most accessible Yung Berg, rap of Chicago appeared so far pale against scenes from the south, from Houston, New Orleans or Atlanta with his trap music : a leaping rap, doped to infra-low cut for the clubs, but hardcore and direct drive with the street.

It is in this movement that the aspiring rappers of South Side Chicago, the worst corner of the city to recognize their inhabitants as those who do not dare to set foot. The young artists, trapped in themselves in the US city where segregation is most profound, develop their sound and ambitions … The movement remained anonymous until the late Pacman and his cousin Fatzmack named him drill, term came the local slang. If it meant “responding to its attackers or enemies” originally, it has become a convenience to describe everything that seems exciting to its followers.

It is logical that drill defines the music of the LEP Bogus Boys or King Louie, which opened the way to the Keef, Reese, Durk or Katie … A music of the hood (the district), by him and for him. Aggressive, powerful and without filter: it speaks of violence, drug shootings, hustle … One hears noises of guns, one detects the desire to stack tickets … In short, sad street life American, the real.

The Bogus Boys LEP

Not the shadow of a Maybach or a Lamborghini in the videos, and if the clips are filmed on the pavement or in less shiny apartments, it is that the drill music recalls the rap to the bitumen. And vice versa. We are not so far from the Californian rap gangster of the 90’s, the distance, the perspective and the direction of the staging in less …

And like rap gangster, drill music triggers controversy. The ancient glories of the city are even opposed on the subject. Kanye West jumped at the opportunity to reconnect with the youth of her hometown while Lupe Fiasco told a Chicago radio station:

“Chief Keef frightens me. Not him particularly but the culture he represents. The villains, the gangsters … »

The young star responded dryly – even stubbornly – to his elder on the social networks, channels of Chicago’s new rap, which allowed him to make himself known beyond the South Side without the help of the glorious elders :

“Lupe Fiasco is a whore and when I see him, I’ll kick his ass to the little bitch he is.”

The rupture is consummated.

Reality rap

Lupe Fiasco may not be wrong to worry, but as the cliché says, Keith Cozart, says Chief Keef, is mostly the product of an environment. And the landscape offered to Chicago’s blacks is scary.

The Afro-American population of the city is mainly confined in two large neighborhoods, to the west and south, for decades and no sign of change is to be expected. Even worse, the homicide rate rose by 38% in 2012 (240 deaths in June 2012) while stagnating or falling in New York or Los Angeles. And the most affected neighborhoods are … West Side and South Side Chicago, where gangs, which have never ceased to exist, have gone from 500 to over 600 in just two years.

Chief Keef, from the Englewood neighborhood in the South Side, makes no secret of his membership in the 300 Black Disciple Gang. He does not hesitate to punctuate his rhymes of thundering “Bang! Bang! “ Or to mimic shootings on occasion. Last December, he was tightened for illegal use of firearms and found under house arrest at his grandmother’s house.

The online magazine Pitchfork turned an interview of the young rapper in a shooting range and triggered a real controversy that pushed the release to remove the video . Chief Keef smells powder.

When they ask the Chicago rap artists if they realize the significance of the message they convey, their answer is unanimous: “We only talk about what we know.”

Facts tragically justify them. On September 4, 2012, Joseph Coleman (known as Lil JoJo), an aspiring rapper and member of a rival gang of Chief Keef and Lil Reese, was shot and killed in the streets of Englewood at 18.

Like many members of the Chicago bands, this little world mistrusted regularly on social networks. Sign of the times. After the killing, Chief Keef rejoiced at the death of his enemy on Twitter, then retracted awkwardly by evoking the piracy of his account. Too late.


Lupe Fiasco is worried. Barack Obama, a former Illinois senator, is less so. He will have waited until mid-August to react. Limply. The president of the hip-hop generation, the one who receives Jay-Z at the show, quotes Common or Kanye West when he does too much, sent a video message calling for peace in the streets of Chicago on the occasion of a ” an annual parade broadcast locally. Having gone out of line, the band will never be broadcast.End of chapter.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was not expected to quote Chief Keef or to waver at the rise of gang activity in the country’s third city, but from a man who considers Chicago as a city of adoption and has relied heavily on the African-American electorate and the hip-hop generation in 2008, this distance is far more surprising. To the mayor of the city, the former general secretary of the White House Rahm Emanuel, and to the local authorities manage …

At Englewood, elsewhere in the South Side or in the West Side, we do not wonder: we profit. The local rap scene has never been so much talked about, good or bad. It fascinates, disturbs and gives rap one of its primary functions: to shed light on the reality of American ghettos.

Drill music is not a matter of boudoir poetry, it is with sound cut for boxes and nightclubs in which they are not even old enough to enter that Chief Keef and his friends have become millionaires. What no one knows, not even them, is the end of the act: will they be the triumphant heroes or the tragic victims? The decor is dismal but the orchestra is exciting.

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