Photographers: Jeff Forney; Daniel Shea.
Lumbering up the charts by mixing simple hooks with plenty of gun talk, Chief Keef's career rolled out like he was Soulja Boy enrolled as a No Limit soldier. That's an interesting combination, and his signature hit, "I Don't Like," was even attractive from a safe distance, but wave a gun in the air like you just don't care and there's a number of grieving mothers anxious to call you out. Add to that the fact that Chief Keef can work a pistol with ease at the age of 17, that he came out of America's new murder capital of Chicago, and that his cocksure, knucklehead music was embraced by other -- arguably impressionable -- teens, and his music threatened to undo the good work Common, Lupe Fiasco, and other Second City heroes had done. If the idea of his debut album, Finally Rich, makes your moral compass spin off center, then know that it's everything awful that you expected, nothing more, nothing less. Keef boasts that he's rap's new boss and yet offers nothing new or game changing, and the justification for his cold steel lifestyle is "the game in a mother" delivered in intelligible mumbles. For anyone following his rise through mixtapes, these things are expected, but for those who held out hope that his debut would provide some inexcusably guilty pleasure in a Neanderthal style, well, there's probably an EP's worth. "I Don't Like" and "Love Sosa" deliver, but collaborative tracks are a problem with folks like 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, and Rick Ross finding no chemistry with Keef, and as bands get snapped, bottles get popped, and somebody's loved one gets capped; there's no relief or pause in the onslaught, making this an endurance test in one sitting. Producers like Young Chop and Mike Will Made-It envelope Keef's primal lyrics in suitably primal beats, pushing the album away from major-label land and into more suitable mixtape territory, where the grime and narrowness feel appropriate. In the end, it's raw, irresponsible, unforgiving, and often infectious, but the controversial Finally Rich isn't a step forward on any counts. Consider this the guiltiest of pleasures, if considered at all. ~ David Jeffries