When DJ outfit Groupie Love, aka rapper Vic Mensa and producer Smoko Ono, played Emporium in Wicker Park late Monday night I managed to catch a little bit of their set. I didn’t stick around long enough to catch Mensa roll out “U Mad,” his latest unreleased collaboration with Kanye West, but I did see Mensa bust out a track Chief Keef dropped at the beginning of October called “Faneto.” Released a few weeks before Keef’s public fallout with Interscope “Faneto” has slowly evolved into an underground hit—it’s garnered more than six million plays on YouTube alone. “Faneto” has also become a soundtrack for six-second Vine videos, a magnet for MCs looking for a song to remix and hop on, and an energy-acceleration button for DJs eager to get crowds to turn up.
I didn’t think much of the song months ago—it was part of a deluge of new material the rapper started to unload as his relationship with Interscope came to a public end, and listening to those stylistically scattershot tracks in one sitting often made it hard to properly engage with each song on its own. But repeated listens reveal that “Faneto” has something to it. Keef’s mumbled rapping comes out in short bursts, and at times it feels like he’s interrupting himself in order to get to the next line quicker; the track is built on a looped sample of bursting ornate strings that’s spiked with sideswiping percussion, which charges Keef’s unstable flow. “Faneto” is strange and feels like it could rupture at any moment, which gives the track its energy and excitement; when I caught the crowd at Emporium belting out the lyrics of “Faneto” and felt the beat in my chest, it all made sense.
Music writer David Drake noticed the song’s slow growth as a minor hit—and its potential to be even bigger—back in January. In that month’s edition of Complex’s “Bout to Blow” column Drake pointed out Keef’s ability to pull listeners into his field of gravity no matter what odd direction he may be going in. Keef’s taken some unexpected turns since his 2012 breakout, and while it would be easy to write the rapper off after he broke away from Interscope, he’s still making music that kids find irresistible. In his piece Drake pointed out a Vine video showing thousands of people rapping in unison while a DJ played “Faneto” during December’s “College Craze 3” party at the Olympic Theater in Cicero—it was a sign of things to come.
The “College Craze 3” Vine is one of many six-second loops highlighting peoples’ love for the song. Late last month local rap blog Kollege Kidd compiled hundreds of clips of fans going nuts to the track into a 62-minute YouTube video called “Chief Keef Faneto: The Movie,” which the site published under the title “Is Chief Keef’s ‘Faneto’ Bigger Than ‘I Don’t Like?’” The video doesn’t exactly make a case for either song being bigger than the other considering it’s all about “Faneto,” but it was enough to get the attention of bigger music outlets such as Fader and Stereogum—and, in a way, that could help the track cross over (although that might have already happened: the video’s netted more than 80,000 views in less than two weeks). At the very least “Faneto: The Movie” shows ASAP Rocky rocking Keef’s track, which isn’t a bad cosign.
I couldn’t make it through all 62 minutes of “Faneto: The Movie,” as there’s only so much poorly shot video I can watch in one sitting. But the handful of minutes I have seen show off the beat’s durability—the instrumental thrives on repetition, and once it’s in your head it’s easy to want the song to go on past its three-and-a-half-minute run time. For that we have remixes: just last week DJ Pharris dropped his monster “Faneto (Remix),” which transforms the song into a ten-minute epic and features contributions from Chicago heavy hitters Lil Bibby, Lil Herb, King Louie, and Lil Durk. Take a listen to it below, and prepare to hear “Faneto” bursting out of car windows more frequently.