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Did Chiraq-Area Mayors Send Wrong Message by Pulling Plug on Chief Keef?

By Mark Konkol | July 28, 2015 7:45am
 Keith Cozart, aka Chief Keef, appeared via satellite uplink from California, organizers said.
Keith Cozart, aka Chief Keef, appeared via satellite uplink from California, organizers said.
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DNAinfo/Devlin Brown

CHICAGO — Chiraq-area Democrats don’t like Chief Keef.

That became particularly clear after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration strong-armed a respected theater company into calling off the Englewood gangster rapper’s plan to perform a “stop-the-violence concert” via hologram to raise money for an innocent kid killed in the aftermath of a fatal shooting.

“Not only is he an unacceptable role model, but he promotes violence,” Emanuel spokesman Kelley Quinn told the Sun-Times.

And on Saturday, the Hammond, Indiana police department that answers to Democratic mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. pulled the plug on the rapper’s hologram rap show, too.

“I know nothing about Chief Keef,” McDermott Jr. told the New York Times. “All I’d heard was he has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people — a history that’s anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He’s been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we’re not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door.”

But the government push to keep Chief Keef and his hologram from raising cash for an innocent victim of violence and telling young fans — and he has a lot of them — that it’s time to stop shooting in Chicago sends an unintended and unfortunate message.

Mark Konkol says Chief Keef's concert shouldn't have been shut down:

Emanuel and his Indiana mayor buddy might as well tell kids growing up in poverty-stricken, dope-dealing gang territories like Englewood that if they walk down the wrong path when they're young, even if it seems it’s the only path ahead of them, there’s no hope to find redemption.

Sure, you could argue both mayors have plenty of good reasons for keeping Chief Keef’s hologram out of their towns.

For one, you can’t throw a hologram in jail — and clearly that’s where a lot of Cook County law enforcement officials would like to see Chief Keef.

Plus, the pot-smoking, gun-toting high-school dropout arguably remains the most troublemaking Chicago rapper who hasn’t been shot and killed.

He was just 16 years old when he got arrested for pointing a gun at Chicago police, who shot at the teenage, white-heroin dealing rapper associated with the Lamron* faction of Black Disciples hailing from 61st Street and Normal Avenue in Englewood.

Police will tell you Chief Keef’s raps and social media taunts fanned the flames of a raging gang war between Black Disciples and the Bricksquad faction of the Gangster Disciples a few blocks away.

And after getting released from juvenile jail for violating probation for pointing a gun at the cops, Chief Keef moved to a rented mansion in the leafy suburban paradise of Northbrook, where he continued to have minor run-ins with law enforcement.

Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, currently has a warrant out for his arrest for failing to appear at one of his three child custody cases. That's why he offered to appear by hologram.

All that makes him a pretty easy — and non-sympathetic — target for politicians struggling to curb urban violence.

Take a closer look and you’ll find that Chief Keef, who documents his life from a California mansion with a pool and tropical flowers on Instagram and Twitter, doesn’t seem to be wrapped up in the thuggish life he left behind in Chicago anymore.

Rather than posting pictures of his gang-member pals pointing semi-automatic pistols, Chief Keef now shows off his impressive arsenal of paint ball guns — and short videos of him in action on paint ball battlefields — that have become his new hobby. He told Boombox.com that pop star Justin Bieber recently challenged him to a paintball war.

Chief Keef also posts pictures of his son Krue Karter and daughter Kay Kash, who has her own Instagram account. On Friday, Chief Keef endorsed a fancy $1,000 baby stroller you might find at a Roscoe Village Starbucks.

Chief Keef posted this photo on Instagram, writing: "Stokke best way to go!!!!!" (Instagram)

“Real n----- with the stroller … Stokke best way to go!” he posted on the social media site.

So gangster, right?

Chief Keef first announced plans to hold the hologram concert after 13-month old Dillan Harris was killed by a car allegedly fleeing the scene of a shooting that left his friend and rap associate Marvin Carr, better known as “Capo,” dead.

“Chief Keef, moved by the news of the murder of his friend and fellow artist Capo and the innocent baby bystander, has announced the formation of the Stop the Violence Now Foundation and a free concert in Chicago on Friday July 17 to benefit the victims’ families and other Chicago charities and raise awareness about the out of control situation,” the hologram concert announcement said.

Chief Keef, left, and his friend Marvin "Capo" Carr, red coat, in 2013. (DNAinfo/Jean Lachat)

Immediately, activist priest the Rev. Michael Pfleger took to Facebook to chastise the rapper for being “one of the encouragers of violence.”

Before Hammond police pulled the plug on Chief Keef’s show Saturday, the rapper appearing via hologram urged youngsters to chase their dreams and then said, “stop the violence, stop the killing, stop the nonsense — let the kids grow up.”

I’m not saying making that statement solidifies Chief Keef’s status as an anti-violence activist or conscientious rapper.

In his songs, he still proclaims loyalty to the Black Disciples, brags he’s “from Chiraq where they be killin’ yall” and warns rivals not to mess with him if they “don’t want bullets flying like some karma.”

But maybe — just maybe — Chief Keef’s public anti-violence message shows that a felonious teenager with artistic talent can overcome engrained feelings of hopelessness that fuels the rage in his angry, tough-guy lyrics.

Maybe he’s different than the 16-year-old kid who made the music video in his grandmother’s apartment while on house arrest. Maybe fatherhood, money in the bank and a new address changed his perspective on the sad, scary fatherless existence that nurtured him in Englewood and remains a reality for so many kids just like him.

That’s what his grandmother, Margaret Carter, once told me she always hoped for the rapper after he got “taken from his momma.”

Carter said that Chief Keef’s teenage arrest record and his vulgar violence-ridden songs don’t give strangers a full picture of her grandson.

While Chief Keef was locked up, Carter said she had great faith that her grandson would learn valuable lessons after having his freedom taken way.

“I ain’t worried. Keith is going to be good,” Carter told me just before Chief Keef was released from juvy jail in 2013.

As things turned out, the rapper continued to raise hell for a while.

But Chief Keef's first public attempt to denounce the senseless violence that surrounded him all his life hints that the rappers opinion about what life should be like in his old neighborhood has changed.

When you think about it, Chief Keef’s unlikely rise from poverty and hopelessness isn't all that different from some pretty famous people who did the same including rap music superstars and business moguls 50 Cent, Jay Z and Snoop Dogg, who’s set to perform at Riot Fest in a few weeks.

Any flawed person — and aren’t we all flawed in one way or another — encounters defining moments that can inspire a change within them that leads to redemption.

And every Chicago kid — even Chief Keef — deserves a chance at that.

*Lamron is Normal spelled backwards.

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