Thirty-five years ago the economically depressed south London neighborhood of Brixton, which has a high concentration of Caribbean immigrants, erupted in violence that lasted days—a public-inquiry report published later that year blamed what had become known as “the Brixton Riots” on the police department’s discriminatory use of stop-and-search procedures against the neighborhood’s black population. The legacy of that event lived on in Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” a 1982 reggae-fusion hit that crossed over in the U.S. in ’83—at the beginning of the song, he sings, “Out in the street there is violence.” That thought—and samples of Grant’s song—reverberate in Chief Keef‘s new single with CeeLo Green and Tone Trump, “Violence (Army).”
That information was all it took to hook me on “Violence”—which, as its artwork suggests, was originally titled “Violence (War for Peace).” Not only does this bizarre tune sample “Electric Avenue,” but it’s produced by Green, who also lends his brassy voice. The chopped-and-slopped boogie of “Violence” hits at unusual angles that provoke an unusual performance from Keef—he raps his short bursts, somehow always sounding like he’s just about to reach the end of a deep breath he took a minute ago. Green swoops in on the second verse, setting an antiviolence tone that persists for the rest of the track; savagery may be everywhere, but Green suggests channeling that energy into artistic confrontations. “Violence” further broadens the stylistic sprawl of Chief Keef’s already eccentric catalog.