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Chief Keef & The Making of The Internet’s Latest False Idol

Posted by Nathan S. on 03/13/12 | Filed under Features
Chief Keef
(Image via Gawker)

We live in strange times. In the digital age the idea of something (aka meme) is often far more important than the thing itself, and hip-hop is no different. Kreayshawn has found herself the subject of millions of words typed and YouTube views not because anyone's interested in her - but we are interested in someone like her, what her fame means and what it says about hip-hop.

The ironic part about complaining about the Lil B, Kreayshawn and Rebecca Blacks of the world is, of course, that it's only our complaining that's keeping them alive. If we were to simply ignore them, or more accurately their meme, they would disappear as quickly as they arrived.

All of which is an very elaborate and in retrospect pretty stoner-ish way to introduce Chief Keef, the 16-year-old Chicago rapper that you're now required to have an opinion on because his meme has gone viral. It all started with a music video, "Bang", that's essentially identical to the thousands of shaky YouTube videos of aspiring "rappers' that hit the interwebs everyday - the vast, vast majority of which will just as quickly fall into the depths of obscurity from whence they came.

But "Bang" managed to rack up a decent number of views, which prompted a small handful of blogs to post the video commenting on how many views it had, which in turned further racked up the views, which in turn prompted Gawker (that paragon of hip-hop journalism) to write a profile on Keef commenting on how many views it had, which in turn racked up the views further, which in turn prompted me and my brethren to write about how over-hyped Gawker's article was, which in turn racked up the views even further, which in turn legitimized the hype ("Holy shit, almost one million views! You can't make up those numbers, Keef's a legit force!")

Follow all that? If not take a minute to go back and re-read it, because that's exactly how the internet can turn obscurity into fame overnight in a bizarre justification for its own existence / slow death spiral. Why are we talking about Keef right now? We' about him because other people are talking about him....which gives us a lot to talk about.

This is in no way a commentary on Keef himself - he's essentially one powerless person like the rest of us being eaten up and consumed by the internet's ravenous appetite for new shit. I sincerely hope he manages to spin this into something positive.

But the truth is, there's a 99.9% chance we'll never hear from him again after, say, Thursday. The only - or I should say main - reason people are checking him out now is because they don't want to be left out. They want to know their meme, to get all the Chief Keef insider jokes and references that will be populating Twitter and Facebook this week.

And while that's certainly a recipe for YouTube views, it's not a recipe for longevity. For that you need to actually consistently produce something people find valuable - a basic concept that still hasn't changed, even in the digital age. Gawker and YouTube may be able to run this hip-hop shit for a second, but you still need to be more than a meme to become hip-hop's "Next Big Thing".

p.s. - For a different but more powerful take on Chief Keef, check out TSS.

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