Early standout singles like “Hate Bein’ Sober” and “Love Sosa,” both featured on Keef’s 2012 debut Finally Rich LP, offered an grim glimpse of life in the trenches of South Side Chicago, filtered through a futurist lens. Transporting listeners into a dystopian world that is to the Windy City what A Clockwork Orange is to Britain, the record navigated ultraviolence with equal parts elegance and indifference. Its then 17-year-old protagonist girded dependable Shock Rap tropes with weirdly Baroque instrumentals that employed synthesized horns, string sections and organs.
His ascent to Hip Hop stardom seemed unstoppable, aided by collaborative efforts with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West and an inclusion in XXL magazine’s 2013 “Freshman List.” Unfortunately, a persistent stream of legal troubles and contractual disputes have proved to be a commercial stumbling block. Though he’s yet to replicate the success generated by Finally Rich, Keef has whet the appetites of his cult following with a prolific output of exploratory mixtape releases, from the impressionist, avant-garde stylings on 2014’s Nobody to the Bubblegum Pop bliss of 2017’s Thot Breaker.
His most recent mixtape, The Cozart, even includes a few Eurobeat-inspired cuts that wouldn’t feel out of place in the background of an intense Dance Dance Revolution session, an artistic decision that’s somewhat questionable, but also strangely alluring. Who are we to stand in the way of innovation?