Keith Cozart (born August 15, 1995), better known by his stage name Chief Keef, is an American rapper and record producer from Chicago, Illinois. During his teenage years and while under house arrest, Keef's music videos were met with acclaim from local high school students. His increasing popularity led to him being the subject of a brief bidding war among labels. Ultimately, Keef signed a major record deal with Interscope Records and later signed with 1017 Brick Squad. Keef also became the CEO of his own record label, Glory Boyz Entertainment, which later developed into Glo Gang.
Keef's debut album Finally Rich was released on December 18, 2012, and featured singles such as "I Don't Like" and "Love Sosa". Since achieving commercial popularity, Keef has continued to experience ongoing legal issues. Despite being dropped from Interscope in late 2014, Keef continued self-releasing mixtapes through his Glo Gang label. Although Keef had originally planned Bang 3 to be released as his second album, a then-track from the album, "Nobody", developed into its own project. Keef released Nobody as a full-length album in December 2014, while continuing to delay the often-pushed back Bang 3.
Life and career
Early life (1995–2010)
Chief Keef was born Keith Cozart in Chicago, Illinois when his mother was 16, and is named after his deceased uncle. He lived at the Parkway Garden Homes, located in the Washington Park neighborhood on the city's South Side. Keef is estranged from his biological father; when he was a minor, Keef's legal guardian was his grandmother, whom he lived with during his residence in Chicago. He began rapping at a very young age, regularly listed as 5, using his mother's karaoke machine and blank tapes to record his music. During his childhood, Keef attended Dulles Elementary School and the Banner School, a therapeutic day school. Keef dropped out of Dyett High School at age 15.
Early years, Finally Rich, and subsequent mixtapes (2011–13)
In 2011, Keef first earned local attention from Chicago's South Side community with his mixtapes, The Glory Road and Bang. In December, Keef fired gunshots from a Pontiac Grand Prix in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood. Police showed up at the scene and the incident resulted in Keef being arrested and charged with unlawful use of a weapon. Keef was consequently placed under house arrest at his grandmother's house for 30 days, followed by another 30 days of home confinement. It has been noted that by the time this incident occurred, Keef had already achieved local South Side popularity, and that much of his early fan base consisted of high school students in the area. While under house arrest, Keef posted several videos to his YouTube account. These videos were at the forefront of Chicago's hip hop subgenre, drill. The attention he received increased during the short time between the release of his mixtapes, Bang and Back From the Dead, and music videos, including "Bang", "3Hunna" and "I Don't Like". Once his house arrest ended, WorldStarHipHop released a video of a child hysterically celebrating Keef's release from house arrest, affording Keef further virality. Early in his music career, Keef's song "I Don't Like" became a local hit in Chicago, which was described by a local party promoter, as "the perfect Chicago song because 'niggas just hate everything out here.'" It also caught fellow Chicago rapper Kanye West's attention, and West created a remix of the song with rappers Pusha T, Jadakiss and Big Sean. In response to these events, David Drake of Spin writes that in 2012, Keef "suddenly shot up out of obscurity."
In the summer of 2012, Keef was the subject of a bidding war with many labels to sign him, including Young Jeezy's CTE World. While 2013 proved to be a relatively quiet year, in terms of his music output, Keef began the year by signing with Interscope Records, as a separate deal promised his own label imprint, Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE). The deal was worth $6,000,000 over a three album layout, as well as an additional $440,000 in advance, to establish GBE. The deal also set up rights for Interscope to pull out of the contract in the case that Keef's debut album failed to sell 250,000 copies by December 2013. Chief Keef's debut studio album Finally Rich, was released on December 18, 2012. Featured guests on the album included rappers 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and his fellow Glory Boyz member Lil Reese.
On March 26, 2013, it was announced that Keef would be a part of XXL Magazine's 2013 Freshman Class. On May 8, 2013, Gucci Mane announced via Twitter that Chief Keef was the newest member of 1017 Brick Squad Records.
Keef was featured on "Hold My Liquor", the fifth track off Kanye West's album, Yeezus, released on June 18, 2013. Keef's contributions to the track were praised by musician Lou Reed, with Reed stating, "'Hold My Liquor' is just heartbreaking, and particularly coming from where it's coming from – listen to that incredibly poignant hook from a tough guy like Chief Keef, wow."
On his 18th birthday, August 15, 2013, Chief Keef celebrated by releasing the mixtape Bang, Pt. 2. Bang, Pt. 2 was highly anticipated as the first project following his debut album, but received a mixed to negative critical response. On October 12, 2013 a further mixtape, Almighty Sosa was released. Like Bang, Pt. 2, Almighty So also received mixed to negative critical responses. Following his October 2013 jail term (see ), he began working on his second studio album and a biopic.
Bang 3, Nobody, and The Cozart (2014–2016)
Keef began experimenting with the production of his music in 2014, which Meaghan Garvey of The Fader noted as being fitting for Keef, as the rapper has "always been more concerned with vibe than meaning, and production is his most efficient tool to create a mood without getting bogged down by pesky syntax." In January, Keef announced working on a new mixtape entitled Bang 3. In February, Keef revealed the cover art to his upcoming mixtape Back From The Dead 2, which served as the sequel to his critically acclaimed mixtape, Back From The Dead. During the month, Keef stated that his former lean addiction and bad mixing contributed to the lack of quality music on his two mixtape projects Bang Pt. 2 and Almighty So and that he was also disappointed in both projects. Later in the month, Keef announced an EP before his second studio album Bang 3, entitled Bang 4, as a preview. The following day, Fredo Santana announced that he and Keef were going to release a collaboration album. In March, Keef released the first official single from Bang 3 entitled "Fuck Rehab" featuring his fellow Glo Gang artist and cousin Mario "Blood Money" Hess, which marked Hess's final appearance on a song before his death on April 9, 2014. On March 14, Keef released the official music video for "Fuck Rehab". Although Interscope executive Larry Jackson announced that Bang 3 would be released on June 10, it was again delayed.
In October 2014, Keef was dropped by Interscope Records, but confirmed via Twitter that every project he had planned, including the release of the long-awaited Bang 3 would still be released, as he planned. Young Chop criticized Interscope's decision to drop Keef. Despite being set for a Christmas 2014 release, Bang 3 did not materialize. Keef's mixtapes, Mansion Musick, which was set for a November 28 release, and Thot Breakers, which was set to release on February 14, 2015, were also noted to not release as scheduled. However, Keef was successful in releasing Big Gucci Sosa, a 12-track collaborative mixtape, with Gucci Mane, as well as Back From the Dead 2, which was made available for digital download from iTunes. Keef experimented with the production of his own tracks, self-producing 16 of the 20 songs on the mixtape. David Drake of Pitchfork Media, stated, "For his first steps into rapper-producer territory, he shows promise—though it's tough to imagine most of these beats working outside the context of a Chief Keef album, as they are primed to frame his vocals." Rolling Stone ranked the mixtape 25th on its list of the 40 best rap albums of 2014, with the publication commenting, "The bleak world from which he came still shapes his sound; it's a bleak and lonely record, with few guests and a darkly psychedelic shape formed by drugs and likely PTSD. Yet he finds a gleeful humanity inside the world's rotten core, with bluntly potent, economical rapping that gets strong mileage per word." In November, Keef announced Nobody, a "Glo Producer album" that featured guest vocals from Kanye West and Tadoe. The album was set to be released on December 2, but was ultimately released on December 16. The album's title track was noted for being one of Keef's more emotionally driven outputs, with Chris Coplan of Consequence of Sound writing, "the track itself feels like the apex of a night spent binge-drinking." Additionally, the album was awarded a 7.0/10 score by Pitchfork Media's Meaghan Garvey.
On February 18, 2015, Keef released Sorry 4 the Weight, a 20-track mixtape. Elliott Pearson of The Alibi commented "Sorry 4 the Weight is another consistent chapter in the rapper’s singular Midwestern gothic repertoire, and if 'What Up' is any indication, he’s made serious progress as a beat-maker too." The mixtape was largely a solo effort, featuring only Andy Milonakis and Glo Gang labelmate, Benji Glo. In 2015, Keef's track "Faneto" was noted for slowly building momentum since its October 2014 release. On April 24, 2015, Keef announced his next album, titled The Cozart, adding that it would be released soon.
In May 2015, Keef signed with FilmOn Music, a division of media tycoon Alki David.
On July 11, 2015, Marvin Carr, better known by his stage name, Capo, a longtime member of Keef's Glo Gang label, was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago. Upon killing Capo, the drivers of the vehicle reportedly struck a stroller with 13-month-old Dillan Harris in it, killing the baby instantly. Keef later announced via Twitter that he would be holding a free benefit concert to tribute Capo, as well as encourage concertgoers to donate to Harris' family. Additionally, Keef announced the formation of the Stop the Violence Now Foundation, in an attempt to decrease crime in Chicago. Due to outstanding warrants in Illinois, Keef was scheduled to attend the concert via hologram from a sound stage in Beverly Hills. The concert, organized by HologramUSA and FilmOn Music originally intended to be held in Chicago's Redmoon Theater, faced a series of delays after Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's office claimed Keef was "an unacceptable role model" and that his music promoted violence. Keef's representatives then worked out an arrangement with promoters of the Craze Fest event, located in Hammond, Indiana, in an attempt to hold the concert there. Keef's hologram was able to plea for peace in Chicago, stating, "Stop the violence, stop nonsense, stop the killing. Let the kids grow up," before performing "I Don't Like". Fearing that the concert was a threat to public safety, Hammond mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. successfully organized for the city's police to shut down the generators powering Keef's hologram. McDermott was quoted saying, "I know nothing about Chief Keef. 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." Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn criticized Emmanuel and Hammond for their decisions, claiming they infringed upon Keef's First Amendment rights.
In March 2016, Keef tweeted that he was retiring from rapping. The announcement came as Keef's recorded output was slowing down. However, later in the year, he was featured in MGK's song, "Young Man". Keef also released a 17-track mixtape Two Zero One Seven in January 2017. In this way, Keef has joined a long line of rappers, including Jay Z, Lupe Fiasco, Nicki Minaj and others, who claim to retire and quickly return to making music.
As part of his signing with Interscope Records, Keef's label imprint, Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE), was established. Keef, along with his manager, Rovan Manuel, each owned 40% shares of GBE. Keef's cousin and fellow rapper, Fredo Santana, Keef's uncle Alonzo Carter, and Anthony H. Dade, owned the remaining 20% of GBE. Various associates of Keef's would be signed with the label, such as rappers Lil Reese, Fredo Santana and producer Young Chop. The label had already been active since 2011, however only released mixtapes and was not a full on record company. After releasing Keef's Finally Rich in December 2012, the label was set to release an album by Lil Reese in the coming months, along with various mixtapes. However, on January 3, 2014, Keef said that Glory Boyz Entertainment was "no more," and was starting a new record label named Glo Gang. Prior to his death, Blood Money revealed in an interview the members of Glo Gang to be Keef, Tray Savage, Ballout, Capo, Tadoe, Justo, and himself.
At the age of 16, Keef had his first child, a daughter, born Kayden Kash Cozart and nicknamed Kay Kay. Keef was served with a request for child support by the child's mother. In November 2013, DNA documents revealed that Keef had fathered a 10 month old daughter, and was subsequently ordered to begin paying child support. In September 2014, Keef announced the birth of his third child, and his first son, whom he named Krüe Karter Cozart. In May 2015, Keef was sued by another woman, claiming that Keef is the father of her child. Due to never originally responding to the legal documents, Keef was ordered to court, with a warrant for his arrest placed as the consequence for his absence in court. Despite these issues, LA Weekly reported that, at least on Instagram, Keef, "appears to take fatherhood seriously." In August 2015, Keef caused controversy after naming his newborn son Sno "FilmOn Dot Com," inspired by his current record label, FilmOn Music, to promote his album Bang 3. Nevertheless, following a paternity dispute over the child, FilmOn Music retracted the name rights until the paternity is settled.
Two of Keef's cousins, Fredo Santana and Tadoe, were signed to his Glory Boyz Entertainment label. Keef's stepbrother was shot dead on January 2, 2013. Another of Keef's cousins, Mario Hess, also known as Big Glo, who performed under the stage name Blood Money, was shot and killed in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood on April 9, 2014. Hess had been signed to Interscope Records just two weeks prior to his killing. In an interview with Billboard, Keef explains how Big Glo's death influences his life, "When that happened that was the biggest lesson. It told me 'You gotta grow up.'"
After being evicted from his Highland Park home, Keef relocated to Los Angeles. In an interview with Noisey's Rebecca Haithcoat, Keef told Haithcoat his favorite part about Los Angeles is, "the quiet." After moving to Los Angeles, Keef began indulging in his new-found hobby of art collecting, once he discovered the paintings of art teacher Bill da Butcher, while in rehab. Once acquainted, da Butcher began working on paintings personally meant for Keef. Keef believed that his move to Los Angeles benefited him; in an interview with Billboard, Keef stated "I got away from all the unnecessary trouble. It's better out here [in L.A.] than in Chicago, because I got in so much trouble. I like living out here. I think it improved me. It changed me, and [inspired] me to go somewhere bigger."
On January 27, 2011, Keef was apprehended on charges of heroin manufacture and distribution. As a juvenile offender, Cozard was determined "delinquent", rather than guilty of his charges, and served time on house arrest.
In December 2011, Keef left his grandmother's home holding a coat over his hands in front of his waistband. A policeman stopped to question the rapper, who dropped the coat, flashed a handgun and ran away. Officers chased then 16-year-old Keef, who turned around several times and pointed the gun at them. The policemen "discharged their weapons," but missed. They caught him a half-block later and recovered the pistol, which was loaded. Keef was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm on a police officer and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He was also given a misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest. He was held in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center until a judge sentenced him to home confinement at his grandmother’s house.
On September 5, 2012, Chicago Police stated that Keef was being investigated for a possible connection in the shooting death of fellow rapper and Englewood resident, Joseph Coleman, who performed under the stage name "Lil JoJo". This came after Keef had mocked his death on Twitter, which he later claimed was the result of his account being hacked. Coleman's mother has openly claimed that Chief Keef paid to have her son killed.
On October 17, 2012, Cook County prosecutors asked a judge to remand Keef to juvenile detention for alleged parole violations stemming from a video interview he held at a shooting range which included him discharging a firearm. A hearing was set for November 20, 2012, which was subsequently pushed back January 28, 2013, and then moved up to January 15. The website that posted it, Pitchfork Media, was ordered by the court to provide the interview's footage after they removed it three months prior. On December 31, 2012, Keef was issued a judicial summons for a new and unrelated alleged parole violation. Prosecutors claimed that he failed to notify his juvenile parole officer about a change of address. A hearing was set for January 2, 2013. Although prosecutors requested that he be jailed, Cook County judge Carl Anthony Walker allowed him to remain free, citing that he had not been presented "any credible evidence."
On January 15, 2013, Keef was taken into custody after a juvenile court judge ruled that the aforementioned gun range interview video constituted a probation violation. Two days later, Keef was sentenced to two months in a juvenile detention facility and was additionally made a ward of the state. He completed serving the sentence on March 14, 2013.
On January 17, 2013, Keef was sued by Washington, D.C.-based promotion company Team Major for $75,000 for a missed show. According to the firm, Keef was supposed to perform at the IndigO2 Arena in London on December 29, 2012 but never showed. Neither Keef nor his label has given any kind of response as to why he missed the date. He ignored the lawsuit and the court sided with Team Major, ordering Keef to pay $230,019 to Team Major by default.
On May 20, 2013, he was arrested in an upscale hotel in DeKalb County, Georgia for allegedly smoking marijuana in public and for disorderly conduct. He was released later in the day. Eight days later, Keef was arrested for driving 110 mph in a 55 mph zone in his hometown Chicago, and also for driving with an unlawful amount of passengers. He was later released on bond. He returned to court on June 17, and pleaded guilty to speeding. He was ordered to pay a $531 fine, serve 18 months of probation, complete 60 hours of community service and undergo random drug tests.
On October 15, 2013, Keef returned to jail for a 20-day sentence due to a probation violation after testing positive for marijuana. On October 24, 2013, Keef was released ten days early for good behavior. However, again on November 6, 2013, Keef was sent back to jail on another probation violation. Then following a stint in rehab, Keef was arrested on March 5, 2014 in Highland Park, Illinois for DUI of marijuana, driving on a suspended license and cited for having no proof of insurance.
On February 4, 2014, Kim Productions filed suit against Keef to recover losses they allege they incurred after he failed to appear at a RapCure benefit concert in Cleveland, Ohio in June 2013. The suit alleges that Kim Productions provided Keef with a $15,000 deposit for the performance. Despite the advance, the lawsuit further alleges that as a result of Keef's failure to appear, the concert had to be cancelled.
In June 2014, Keef was evicted from his Highland Park home. Although Bal Bansal, the owner of the house, maintained Keef was a good tenant, and that his departure from the home was voluntary, police confirmed it was an eviction.
Keef is often seen as a representation of the "Chiraq" gangsta rap culture that is present in Chicago. Additionally, Chief Keef is often referred to as "Sosa" by himself, his peers, and the media. The nickname, "Sosa" is a reference to the drug dealer "Sosa" from Scarface the movie. LA Weekly reported that Keef's Glo Gang entourage respects the rapper. One member of the Glo Gang, Ballout, stated, "We learned all that from Sosa, we be in the studio with him so much," calling him, "a rhyming machine. A music genius. Black Justin Bieber, if you ask me." The New York Times stated that Chief Keef "symbolizes," Chicago's drill music scene, and is the "best known of the young generation of Chicago rappers." In November 2012, Lucy Stehlik of The Guardian, described Keef as drill's, "alpha male." David Drake of Pitchfork Media writes, "Chief Keef is in rarefied air for street rap—a creative voice with an original, cohesive aesthetic," adding, "to the grassroots, among a new generation of stars, he sits at street rap’s aesthetic center, not its margins."
Keef has drawn comparisons to 50 Cent, as The New York Times writes, that like 50 Cent, Keef makes thuggery, "a major part of his early-career persona." Lupe Fiasco, who has been involved with a controversy with Keef, has been referred to as an "antagonist" to Keef's more gangsta-rap persona. The New York Times writes, "Lupe Fiasco is a stern and didactic teacher, but it’s arguable that Chief Keef’s music is far better at ringing warning bells." Another rapper, Common, has praised Chief Keef's contributions to rap, stating, "I think Chief Keef brought something that nobody else was doing and he brought it raw. He brought it real. With that, I have to respect that as an artist that he has come and brought that." Other rappers, such as Rhymefest and Lupe Fiasco, however, have been critical of Chief (see controversies section below).
Hip hop feuds
In June 2012, Chicago rapper Rhymefest authored a blog post critical of Keef's image and message, describing the rapper as a "bomb" and a "spokesman for the Prison Industrial Complex". The post was also critical of rappers Waka Flocka Flame and Rick Ross, citing similar reasons. Rhymefest reiterated these views in a subsequent interview with Salon.
In an August 2012 interview with Baltimore radio station 92Q Jams, Lupe Fiasco stated that Chief Keef "scares" him and went on to describe the other rapper as a "hoodlum" and representative of Chicago's "skyrocketing" murder rate. A tweet from Keef's account threatening Lupe Fiasco was posted on September 5, but then Keef claimed that his account had been hacked and that the previous tweet was inauthentic. On September 13, 2012, Fiasco released a video interview in which he made amends to Keef.
In November 2014, rap group Migos and Glo Gang member, Capo, were involved in a physical altercation in a Chicago restaurant. Later, Keef uploaded an image onto Instagram featuring the alleged stolen chain belonging to rapper Quavo of Migos. Though this incident escalated the already existing tension between members of Glo Gang and members of Migos, the feud between the two groups was later seemingly ended.
On September 15, 2012, Keef uploaded an obscene photograph featuring the rapper receiving fellatio from a female fan onto the image sharing application Instagram. Keef shortly removed the image from his account. However, his account was subsequently banned for violating Instagram's terms of service. Keef has since created another Instagram account, and has had his activities on the app mentioned by various outlets.