Chicago Hip-Hop: To Live and Die in Chiraq

Chicago's hip-hop stars will redefine the game if the streets don't get them first. The violence, the music and what it means.


When Lil Reese tells you to get out of the car, you exit the vehicle as fast as you can.

The tension began to boil at breakfast when Brandon, a paunchy white kid and perennial sidekick to Chicago's hip-hop elite, promised Reese a free necklace from a jeweler friend in Los Angeles who bills himself as "Your Rapper's Favorite Jeweler." Now, in the backseat of a Chevy Malibu parked on Chicago's South Side, Brandon's generosity has been turned on its head by Reese, a brooding 21-year-old with bushy eyebrows and tattoos that crawl up his arms and onto his neck like lichen on an oak tree. Put simply: If you offer Reese a necklace, he's going to want it now.

"Let me see that piece for a minute," Reese says, tugging at the Medusa-head medallion around Brandon's neck. "No," Brandon says, pushing Reese away. "This is sentimental."

A long pause.

"What the fuck is sentimental?" Reese shoots back.

"Reesie," Brandon pleads, "he's gonna FedEx two chains to you. I promise, yo." His voice clears with sincerity. "On my mother."

Reese is unmoved. "Let me see it now," he demands.

"Reesie," Brandon stammers back.

"I'll give it back when I get those two pieces," Reese continues, his voice growing cold.

"Yo, Reesie," Brandon says. "I'm going to New York and I want to wear my piece."

"Ethan," Reese's baritone booms from the back of the car, "step outside."

That is how I end up standing on the sidewalk on a crisp Chicago morning, listening to a series of strained yelps and choking sounds emanating from the car. I scan the street for our driver, Idris Abdul Wahid, a.k.a. Peeda Pan. As manager of Glory Boyz Entertainment and Chief Keef, Chicago's most explosive rapper, Wahid is a kingpin of the city's young rap talent. He is also the crew's fixer, facilitator, negotiator and all-around handler. At this moment he has parked us here and gone off in search of marijuana for Reese, who appears in no hurry to catch an impending flight.

Chicago Hip-Hop: To Live and Die in ChiraqChief Keef's three-album record deal with Interscope is reportedly worth $6 million.

Behind me the car door is flung open and a red-faced Brandon clambers out with Reese clawing at his neck. He jerks free from Reese's grasp and makes a near-Olympian break down the block. "Don't pull that police shit," Reese hollers after, hands cupped around his mouth.

"What the fuck just happened?" Wahid asks with a grin, emerging from around a corner. But he's less interested in details than in finding the flipped-out white boy. Calls go straight to voice mail, but three blocks later, a taxi appears with Brandon in the backseat. He huffs out, removes his luggage from our trunk, clambers back into the taxi and speeds off. Reese holds a rapacious smile, an internet beat-down video-star smile, one that seems to say, "What the fuck did he expect me to do?"

But Brandon did offer Reese that jewelry, so Reese insists Wahid persuade him back into the car. Wahid gets Brandon on the line and convinces him to meet us at a nearby gas station. When we arrive, Brandon opens the door and eyes Reese with suspicion. He offers a truce: "We cool?" Reese assures Brandon they are in fact cool.

In the spectrum of Chicago hip-hop violence and drama, the event is nothing, a minor blip in the explosive and predatory behavior of the city's rising hip-hop stars, few of whom are older than 21. It doesn't rank anywhere near the events of last May, when Keef proclaimed on Twitter that Katy Perry could "suck skin off of my dick" and that he would "smack the shit out her" after she had disapproved of his new single, "Hate Bein' Sober," or when video emerged of Reese pummeling a young woman until she falls to the floor and is kicked several times as someone in his crew shouts, "Stomp her!"

As Brandon resumes his place in the backseat, he sparks a blunt, signaling a brokered peace. Wahid steers the Malibu toward Midway airport, kush smoke curling in the air. For the moment, there is peace. Or at least as close as it gets in Chicago hip-hop.


Despite constant fights (both real and online), lawsuits and arrests for crimes ranging from unpaid child support to illegal weapons possession, as well as proud, unabashed affiliations with local gangs such as the Black Disciples and the Gangster Disciples, Chicago's crews have not just thrived but totally dominated the hypercompetitive world of hip-hop. It is a decades-old formula for an art form whose most powerful statements germinated in areas experiencing epidemics of violence, drugs and poverty. Queens. Compton. Atlanta. New Orleans. The only difference in Chicago is that this generation has a bigger voice: social media.

"I know a thousand Chief Keefs," superproducer Swizz Beatz declared in October, citing the commonality of Keef's up-from-the-hood story. But what the success of Keef—an 18-year-old millionaire whose road to hip-hop fame was paved largely by YouTube views and street mixtapes—demonstrates to the thousands of wannabe MCs is that they can do what he did. Chicago's moment is a generational departure from previous musical revolutions, as a veritable army of Keefs have a democratized means of production at their disposal. Specifically, their music is distributed and promoted via Twitter, Instagram and visceral straight-to-YouTube videos.

"I'm not sure any of this would have been possible without Keef," says Andrew Barber, editor-in-chief of Chicago's influential hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive, referring to the current Chicago hip-hop renaissance.

The ascendance of Chicago's hottest young star began in 2011 with a series of YouTube videos featuring Keef, skinny with a mischievous grin and half-lidded eyes hidden behind a sprout of twisted dreads. Pounding tracks such as "I Don't Like" and "3Hunna" were produced by Young Chop, who at the age of 11 used a suite of pirated production software to birth the sound that would define his city: icy piano melodies, overblown bass drums and thwacking hi-hats, punctuated by screams and gunshots imbued with danger and ready-to-jump energy. His approach launched half a dozen young stars and invented the Chicago sound now nicknamed Drill. And the stocky, dread-headed teen did it from his mother's South Side house, where, he claims, it took 20 to 30 minutes to produce "3Hunna."

Chicago Hip-Hop: To Live and Die in ChiraqYoung Chop began producing beats in his bedroom when he was 11.

"'3Hunna' got big radio," Chop remembers, "20,000 plays the first day, then a million views on YouTube." By the following spring, Kanye West had remixed Keef's "Don't Like" with heavy hitters Pusha T and Big Sean just as Keef inked a three-album deal with Interscope worth $6 million. His full-length debut, Finally Rich, appeared in December 2012, reaching number 14 on Spin's 2013 year-end list of best rap albums. Rolling Stone said Keef "seems unshakably confident but profoundly directionless. The effect is mesmerizing, and a little scary." Chop signed a deal with Warner Music Group, where he's currently working on Sean "Diddy" Combs's new album, as well as on a flurry of mixtapes and singles for a growing crew of Chicago stars.

What they lacked in marketing budget Keef and company made up for by brilliantly exploiting their youth and internet savvy. Tweets, YouTube videos and Instagram posts were eagerly scooped up and reposted by the likes of Media Take Out, WorldStarHipHop and Complex Media. "These sites see millions and millions of page views every month," says media strategist Ryan Holiday, "and have their own celebrities and gossip. Guys like Keef are doing things just to get attention in this sphere." When Keef endured a series of lawsuits and arrests in 2013, he even earned his own news ticker on TMZ, titled "Saga: What's the Trouble, Chief?" For a moment it appeared the scene might collapse under the weight of perpetual chaos.

"Let's see who gives a fuck about Chief Keef in three years," warned Shot97 radio personality Star in an interview. But 2013 demonstrated just how deep Chicago's hip-hop bench runs. That January saw Justin Bieber, of all people, sporting a black baseball cap bearing the insignia of Treated Crew, a band of rappers, producers and designers fronted by Kanye West's longtime DJ Million Dollar Mano. The embrace arrived despite the fact that Chicago provides, as Mano told me, the "biggest fuckin' uphill battle that every eccentric black man has. We have to jump and chase the chances, because there are none here."

Keef's success opened doors. Lil Reese signed to Def Jam. Lil Durk signed to French Montana's Coke Boys label. Smoked-out Chicago MC Chance the Rapper released Acid Rap, a brilliant mixtape that drew from gospel, Chi-town soul and the nasal twerpiness of fellow Midwesterner and eventual tour mate Eminem. Chance's mixtape went on to make best-of lists in Spin and Rolling Stone and on NPR, spawned a collaboration with Bieber and reached Billboard's top R&B and hip-hop albums charts.

When Kanye drafted Keef for the queasy single "Hold My Liquor" on his Yeezus album and performed Keef's "I Don't Like" at a hometown show with 20,000 fans screaming along to every word, it stood as proof positive of the scene's status as trickle-up tastemakers.

As Barber tells me, "Keef, Durk and Glory Boyz made the world come to them."


It's the sort of cold December day when the temperature struggles to break into the teens and the sky freezes into an impenetrable gray. Merk Murphy, Wahid's longtime business partner and operations manager of Chicago recording studio Complex 2010, has barely settled into a black leather office chair when a frantic, staccato burst of buzzes rings from the intercom. Murphy, an affable 33-year-old dressed in a Day-Glo orange North Face sweatshirt, camouflage pants and a black knit cap, scratches his beard, cocks one eyebrow knowingly and ambles toward the intercom. Because Complex 2010, a basement studio situated at 2010 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood, is the nexus of the city's triumphantly ascendant hip-hop scene, Murphy has grown accustomed to a constant stream of wannabe stars. "Complex," Murphy says.

"Is Carmen there?" crackles the voice of a male no older than 18.

"No," Murphy replies. Silence. "Nope," he repeats.

"Is this Complex?" the man asks.

"Yes, sir," Murphy tells him.

"We're recording for the Chicago Cyphers," the man continues, referring to group freestyling sessions.

"Who did you confirm that with?" asks Murphy, growing interested.

Caught without business at Complex, the man pretends he didn't hear Murphy's question: "Uh, say that again?"

Murphy sighs, knowing this won't be resolved over an intercom, and says he'll come up.

Minutes later he slumps back into his chair with a weary smile. "Crazy shit," he says, shaking his head. "So many people use this address, man. Little cats trying to get their buzz up. I said, 'I don't know what the fuck you talking about. I don't know Carmen. I don't know none of that shit.' I wish I had something for him. It's cold and his crew was ready to spit. He gave me a couple of bars on the spot. Someone named Carmen told him to record his verses. And they were.…" he trails. "I don't want to judge. He's hungry."

Considering the short but storied history of Complex, it's no surprise aspiring MCs would attempt to bluff their way into the studio. The building and its surroundings are steeped in decades of Chicago musical history. Seminal Chicago hip-hop outfit Crucial Conflict recorded here in the 1990s, and legendary blues label Chess Records operated nearby, at 2120 South Michigan Avenue. The Rolling Stones' 1964 paean to the place, simply titled "2120 South Michigan Avenue," got a nod from Chance the Rapper, who recently rhymed, "We invented rock before the Stones got through."

Chicago Hip-Hop: To Live and Die in ChiraqLil Reese signed to Def Jam and relased a mix with Drake and Rick Ross.

None of this is lost on Murphy. "That was the idea behind the location," he says. "That and trying to create a new way for the younger cats. Muddy Waters and Record Row were decades ago. There was no place for the kids." Today's gate-crashers care less about the past than the present. A flatscreen in the lobby cycles through heavyweights who have recorded here: Keef, Twista, Trinidad James, Durk and Reese.

The rise of Complex, which was founded by Murphy along with partner and producer Cayex Illah in 2010, mirrors the ascent of Chicago hip-hop, which has come with the speed and ferocity of a lightning strike. It was only two years ago, after all, that Murphy and Wahid discovered Keef. "I was looking at different Chicago artists on YouTube," Wahid says. "I saw Keef's video for 'Bang.' The second I saw it I told Merk we had to find out who this is."

"Bang" is easy to be blown away by. The minimalist masterpiece combines wobbling synths and gunshot snares as a dreadlocked Keef, just 16 at the time, dominates the camera, cocking his hand like a pistol and rapping, "I don't give a fuck why we going to hell/I'm gonna let this hammer blow like bang."

"Traffic was 100,000 at the time," Wahid continues. "Today that's nothing, but then.… I told Merk to get a number. Nothing happened. Then Dro [Rovan "Dro" Manuel, co-manager of Glory Boyz Entertainment] called me. He said, 'I'm managing an artist now. Guess who.' I said, 'Chief Keef.' He was like, 'How the fuck did you know that?' I said, 'It had to be.'"

Keef had long called his crew from the South Side near 64th and Halsted streets the Glory Boyz. Under Dro and Wahid, it became Glory Boyz Entertainment, and Keef's views on YouTube skyrocketed from 100,000 to nearly 1million in the subsequent months. Today "Bang" has more than 7.5 million views. "We saw Keef at his grandma's house one day," recalls Murphy. "Eight or nine months later he's a millionaire."


The beefs, gang-driven murders and headlines about Chicago's homicide epidemic create an ominous atmosphere around Keef, Reese and Durk, like the hunted-down Biggie and Tupac before their deaths. It's a schizoid existence, lived between Instagram and Twitter, mixtape releases and the real Chicago streets. Glory Boyz member SD insists on parking between cars when he stops for chicken wings near the South Loop one night, so he can eat unseen. When I run into Lil Durk on a frigid December night, he darts behind the counter at Exclusive773, where owner Steve Wazwaz moves everything from Pelle Pelle jackets to rolling papers to the new Nike Air Jordan Gammas—a one-stop shop for the hip-hop scene.

After Durk relaxes and comes out to peruse the shop, Wazwaz holds court behind an elevated counter; it's more like a stage than a corner store. He's a hip-hop merchandising maestro, boasting of moving $15,000 in clothing and $4,000 in electronics each week. Dozens of music videos have been shot here. Even the security guard, a formerly homeless man named Charles "Lincoln" Stevens, has his own hashtag, #LincolnBeLike, on the store's Vine, which has 137,000 followers.

But Wazwaz can't help lamenting the estrangement of Chicago hip-hop from its hometown. "The majority of these rappers are in different gangs, BDs, GDs," Wazwaz says, using acronyms for Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples. "That limits them. The clubs don't want these shows. Six cop cars and a fire truck showed up to my Lil Herb show. I was fined $20,000 after a shooting on my block when Yo Gotti made an appearance." However, Wazwaz couldn't care less about police heat. What arouses his anger is the perceived wholesale abandonment of the South Side as a lawless war zone. "They won't even come to the store," Wazwaz says. "We make our police reports over the phone."

A beefy customer haggles with Wazwaz over a pair of Gammas as we talk, and he lets them go for $100 less than the retail price. It's one of many reasons Wazwaz is a beloved figure on the South Side. By the time I turn around, Durk is long gone, having retreated to Complex 2010.

That night he sits beside Murphy's desk, fidgeting with his phone, in white jeans, white Nikes and a Pelle Pelle jacket. "It wasn't that bad at first," Durk says of his South Side neighborhood, known as O'Block. "Then the murder rate got real, real bad. Gangs got kids involved now. Now you can't even come to them to solve beefs. Everybody wants to be known. When we came up there were rap beefs and murders, and they now try and blame it on rap. But that's just politics to me.

"You gotta separate yourself," Durk continues. "I've separated myself from all that Keef stuff, so if something does happen, they can say, 'Durk ain't got nothin' to do with that.' Police involved now; they try to solve murders, saying it's rap beefs fueling the murders. We got to watch what we say." He pauses and smiles. "Keef says his next mixtape, Bang 3, is gonna raise the murder rate. What the fuck is that? Police could snatch him up. That's why I don't be on Twitter talking. Hell naw. Police watching."

Durk's swipe comes as a surprise after a Twitter altercation this summer, when Keef accused him of disloyalty to their Only the Family crew. "Wat happen to OTF?" Keef tweeted. "U aint rockin wit it?" By the end of the summer, Durk told radio personality Sway he'd squashed it. But here the rivalry seems far from dead. Such is hip-hop in the online era, running at the speed of a stock ticker.

In fact, after Durk lamented Keef's online blundering, one of his own associates, a young rapper named Clint "Rondo" Massey, posted pictures of himself on Instagram that led the Chicago Police Department to issue a bulletin warning that Rondo may be "in possession of a rocket launcher."

Even from a thousand miles away, they find themselves tangled with the law. Reese became the center of a Florida stand-your-ground case this February when an African American teenager was fatally shot by a 47-year-old white man, who defended his actions by saying the teen had been blasting thug music—Lil Reese's "Beef."

Run-ins with the law are a constant among the Chicago hip-hop scene's upper ranks, whether it's Durk doing time in an Illinois jail on a gun charge or police clocking Keef at 110 miles an hour in his BMW one early morning in May 2013.

Chicago Hip-Hop: To Live and Die in ChiraqLil JoJo was gunned down shortly after posting threatening messages and images online.

The most dramatic may be a 2012 incident involving Reese, Durk and a rapper named Joseph "Lil JoJo" Coleman. It began with a confrontation at a suburban nightclub between Reese and Durk, who are alleged Black Disciples members, and JoJo, a member of the rival Gangster Disciples. Soon after, JoJo released a taunting video called "Tied Up," featuring a Keef look-alike bound in duct tape. A follow-up video arrived called "3Hunna K," a death threat directed at Keef's 300 crew. In the video, then 18-year-old JoJo and his affiliates point automatic weapons at the camera. "I can't wait to catch 'em," JoJo warns. "This is not a diss song. Just a message."

On September 4 of that year, JoJo posted a YouTube video with the caption "Caught Lil Reese in traffic again." In the video JoJo taunts Reese from a passing car, shouting, "Why you a bitch, boy?" Offscreen a man shouts, "I'ma kill you!" JoJo tweeted, "Im On #069 Im Out Here" soon after.

That night JoJo was gunned down while riding a bicycle near 69th Street and Princeton Avenue. His murder remains unsolved. Keef raised public suspicion of 300's involvement with a tweet: "Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga Jojo Wanted to Be Jus Like Us #LMAO." He claims his account was hacked and he never posted the message.

The video of Reese beating a young woman surfaced the following month. The series of events contributed to, as music critic Tom Breihan put it, "Chicago teenage-nihilist-rap fatigue" among fans like him.

Indeed, Chicago hip-hop's biggest boosters appeared to be rethinking their support for the scene. Pitchfork Media pulled a video featuring Keef rhyming at a shooting range, which earned him a probation violation. "Pitchfork's roots are in Chicago," the editor-in-chief wrote. "The gun violence that has plagued our hometown is something we all take very seriously. Many people have pointed out that this episode could be seen as trivializing gun violence, and we feel they have a good point." It was a decided tempering of the breathless excitement from Pitchfork and other critics that had helped propel Chicago MCs to fame in the first place.

Even with a body count, the conflicts between Chicago rappers would likely be seen as little more than a continuation of hip-hop's long tradition of violence. But the rise of Chicago hip-hop coincided with some of the most high-profile homicides in the history of the city, earning it the blood-soaked nickname Chiraq. In January 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down on the South Side by gang members who mistook her for a rival. Chicagoan Barack Obama mourned her death, saying, "What happened to Hadiya is not unique to Chicago. Too many of our children are being taken away from us." Michelle Obama proclaimed, "Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her." The gruesome murder arrived after a mind-numbing spate of violence: Five months earlier, eight Chicago residents were shot during a nine-hour stretch in a 16-square-block neighborhood nicknamed Terror Town. In this same period a total of 19 Chicagoans were shot citywide.

Despite the nicknames, Chicago's murder rate has declined from its 1990s peak, when an average of 900 were slain each year. There were 415 murders in 2013. "People don't talk about the fact that homicides are down," says Daniel Hertz, a master's student at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago who runs the blog City Notes. "Most say, 'I'm not sure I believe you.'"

Hertz emphasizes, however, that the past two decades have wreaked havoc on certain South Side neighborhoods. "The great crime decline is a fickle thing," he says. "The North Side saw huge decreases, but most of the rest actually got worse, including some neighborhoods that were already among the most dangerous in the city. This is a complicated state of affairs and explains why, in the face of a 50 percent decrease in homicides citywide over the past two decades, many believe the opposite is true, because in their neighborhood it is." In Chicago's eighth police district, on the South Side, Hertz points out, the murder rate has climbed 48 percent since the 1990s.

Criminologists have yet to get their heads around this, but there are a few theories. Ask MC Katie Got Bandz about the neighborhood she calls home, and her answer will echo that of her peers: "It's gone, but I'm still from there."

Katie grew up in Bronzeville's Ida B. Wells public housing development, which was demolished from 2002 to 2011. Merk Murphy called the Cabrini-Green housing projects home until they came down in 2011 after a decade of demolitions. Lil Durk hails from 65th and South Normal, near the Parkway Gardens project, acquired in 2011 by Wells Fargo and real estate giant Related Companies. "Our projects are gone," Durk says. "Everybody split up into the neighborhoods."

Chicago's gangs have splintered in response. While the city is home to long-established outfits such as the Vice Lords, the Gangster Disciples and the Black Disciples, these organizations have seen their upper ranks decimated by state, local and federal law enforcement, resulting in splinter or faction crews. According to police, Durk belongs to a Black Disciples faction named Lamron, or Normal spelled backward, a tribute to his roots on South Normal Avenue.

"The old regime is gone," Murphy says, "and a lot of these leaders are locked up for decades. It's like what happens when a kid grows up without a father." Lil Reese elaborates: "All my people in the feds right now. Ain't no leaders out here. It's kids moving up, trying to be leaders, and they ain't doing it right."

This leaderless gang scene has created countless subsets of the established crews, thus swelling gang membership. There are an estimated 100,000 gang members in Chicago spread among about 600 gang factions. The increased number of gangs has spiked violence in the neighborhoods where they operate. In 2012 Chicago police estimated that up to 80 percent of murders and shootings were gang-related.

The war-zone atmosphere spawned the nickname Chiraq. Waldo E. Johnson Jr., a professor at the Center for Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, told the ChicagoTribune that the name reflects the anxiousness among the city's African American and Latino males. "They have to be hypervigilant at all times. They don't know when they can let their guard down," he said. "Even soldiers get time to step out of that."


After months of negotiation, I finally reach Chicago's most notorious soldier. "I'm in California on the beach, just chillin'," Chief Keef says, sounding more on vacation than in court-ordered drug rehab. "Oh yeah, my rehab is on the beach. I ain't know the name of the place; it just cost a whole bunch of money to get in."

Keef's world spins on a constant axis of chaos, but the fall and winter of 2013 will be remembered as the period when it all imploded. In November an Illinois judge ordered Keef to rehab after he tested positive for drugs, thus violating the probation mandated after his speeding charge. Soon after, Keef packed his bags and flew to Promises rehab center in Malibu, perhaps seeking refuge from Chicago hip-hop insanity. A month later, Keef fled to another undisclosed rehab center in California because of the "overwhelming media attention" he received at Promises.

Perhaps the attention came from Keef himself: In mid-November, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department eyed year-end murder statistics, Keef outraged critics by posting "#ImFinnaRaiseTheMurderRateUp" on Instagram. In early December Keef clashed on Twitter with Offset, a member of the Atlanta hip-hop trio Migos, who threatened him: "Will be in Chiraq Next Week Pull Up @ChiefKeef." And on January 3 Keef tweeted, "Dis bitch wanna smoke All my weed!"—something the judge will certainly remember when Keef returns for his next hearing.

It seems social media, Keef's greatest weapon as a 16-year-old nobody, has turned against him as a millionaire hip-hop star.

"I was playin' when I said I was gonna raise the murder rate," Keef explains. "I was saying that I'm gonna have everything turned up again. I'm gonna be back to the old me instead of the leanin' motherfucker that would record himself singing on Auto-Tune and shit." Keef's a perceptive critic of his own work; some of his tracks, including 2013's "Go to Jail," are Auto-Tuned into oblivion, and it's easy to see how sipping lean—a mix of Sprite and codeine popularized in Houston—could have contributed to that woozy sound.

The beach has refocused Keef. "Sosa's New Year's resolution was to do everything he didn't do," Keef says, referring to himself by another of his nicknames. "Everything he passed up. Stop passing shit up. Do everything and be me." In 2012 and 2013 he was a notorious no-show at awards ceremonies and his own concerts, landing him in legal trouble. In March 2013, promoters sued Keef, Wahid and Glory Boyz Entertainment in federal court over a skirted London concert. This new Keef, he promises, will be modeled after Lil Wayne, who branched out into fashion in 2012 with his skate-driven Trukfit clothing line. Keef's clothing will be inspired by surfing. "I'm taking lessons and shit," Keef declares. Days later, he posts a photo on Instagram with professional surfer Makua Rothman.

But the lure of social media means more beefs, particularly with Migos. "They went to Chicago, but they couldn't see me," Keef says with a laugh. "Where Chief Keef at? In rehab. Ain't even there. That was some fake shit. Niggas went to Chicago and knew I wasn't there, because if I was there, I would be on their ass. We'd be taking that thick-ass jewelry off their necks. We gonna take them just to take them. We gonna give them to some of the shorties on the block so they can take pictures with 'em. And that's it. That's gonna be the end of that story with Migos."

It's clear it will take more than sunny beaches and surf lessons to shake the old Keef. Rolling now, he promises more beefs in 2014 and says his foes should regard his Twitter feed as an early-warning service about coming assaults from him or his Glory Boyz crew. "I'm back to this old Sosa. Turn up. Get ready. I'm gonna get clubs shot up."

Keef pauses for a breath. "I'm just crazy, man," he says. "I don't give a fuck about what I say, you know? Serious. Actions speak louder than words. Can I really raise the murder rate off a CD? That's a whole bunch of bullshit." He stops and laughs. "Can a murder rate really be raised off a CD? I mean, shit—I don't know. It probably can, man. It probably can."


Photo by Craig Cutler