Today marks the arrival of Finally Rich, the Interscope debut from infamous local rapper Keith Cozart, aka Chief Keef. Cozart’s rapid ascension nearly fits the contours of the calendar; he was an unknown outside of the south side until January 2 when a video of a young fan jubilantly screaming upon hearing the news that Cozart had been released from jail hit WorldStarHipHop and went viral; on March 12 Cozart released his second mixtape, Back from the Dead, and was the focus of an in-depth Gawker profile that launched a major-label bidding war; in June he signed a cushy deal with Interscope that gave him his own imprint, a movie deal, and his own line of Beats By Dre headphones; and now Finally Rich comes out several days before the prophesied Mayan apocalypse, and chances are some of Cozart’s critics think the timing fits such an occasion.
Cozart’s moody, apocalyptic, and violent music helped him garner an enthusiastic fan base and a bad reputation, which he’s brazenly—even recklessly—embraced even in the face of tragedy; his (alleged) Twitter response to the murder of aspiring south-side rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman sparked an international controversy. To say Cozart is polarizing feels like an understatement; to some he offers a keen reflection on the desperation that’s crippled large portions of the city, to others he’s the amoral symbol for all that’s wrong with Chicago. Both perspectives foist weighty concepts—street-rap bard and evil villain—on a 17-year-old partially because of how effective he is at maintaining his pop persona.