You’d have to go back quite a bit to find an artist that’s caused more controversy in, and outside of, the hip hop community than Chief Keef. At only 17 years young, he’s already signed a $7 figure deal with Interscope, and built one of the biggest buzzes going in the industry right now before dropping his studio debut album ‘Finally Rich.’. However, despite reaching a level of commercial success that few artists, regardless of medium, ever find, he still has just as many outspoken critics as he does loud supporters. Even more impressive (or concerning –depending on your stance) is the fact that he’s been able to do it in less than two years of making music. With his about to drop studio debut, Finally Rich, we’ll get a good look to see if his fans are behind him enough to justify Interscope’s gigantic advance.
There’s probably not enough room in this review to even scratch the surface of the debate that surrounds Chief Keef. His carefree, and almost lighthearted, lyrics that sometimes seem to blatantly glorify the gang and violence epidemic in his hometown of Chicago have led several prominent musicians and politicians to publicly denounce his work. This criticism has only been amplified due to his social media antics – which have ranged from the 17 year old posting explicit pictures of himself on Twitter, to cracking jokes about the death of a young rapper from his neighborhood. While there’s probably more than a slight bit of truth in the outcry that surrounds him, that’s not what we’re here to discuss – thankfully.
But, we will address the criticisms that some have for the other aspects of his music. There’s no shortage of hip hop fans that have been just as loud in their “hate” for the kid’s music, but for very different reasons. His technical lyrical approach, which is honestly about as simple as you could possibly get, has drawn a lot of negative feedback as well. If you’re a close-minded fan of introspective writing, witty wordplay, or ridiculous deliveries, there’s probably some truth to that criticism as well. If you’re one of those people, just stop reading, as there’s nothing on this album that you’ll get down with at all (minus a beyond solid 50 Cent verse on the album’s most promising single).
However, if you’re not the pretentious type, and just want to listen to something that bumps, and requires absolutely zero thought to enjoy, there might be enough here to keep you happy. But, even if you’re one of those people, it’s hard to imagine this album living up to hype it’s developed. While it definitely has its moments, and two or three singles that are almost too catchy and infectious to be denied, a vast majority of this music is just mediocre – or even worse – when compared to other stuff that serves the same purpose.
Lyrically, to be blunt, Chief Keef sounds like an ignorant 17-year-old kid, and that’s completely forgivable, since he’s 17 – and most people are pretty ignorant at 17 (no offense to our younger readers, you’ll think the same thing one day). Granted, Nas wrote Illmatic at 17. But, Chief Keef is not Nas, though he doesn’t have to be.
While his ability to rhyme in coherent or cohesive thoughts is next to non-existent, which does take away from the album’s experience quite a bit, there are moments on this project where he shows a ton of potential as an artist. At points, like throughout the entirety of the album’s 2nd single “Love Sosa” – and this might sound strange coming from a record that has its roots in trap music – shows that he can ride a melody and deliver a hook as well as any rapper ever has. The same could be said for his work on what will probably the album’s biggest mainstream hit “Hate Bein Sober (feat. 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa)” – though it’s probably because it’s almost musically identical to “Love Sosa” though – and at times on the bonus cut “Kobe”, and the song that started Keef’s buzz “I Don’t Like”.
But, outside of these few choice moments – and the features from 50, Wiz, and one from Ross on the updated version of the previously released “3Hunna” – there isn’t much that could be described as anything but barely passable, or worse, from a lyrical standpoint. It’s definitely not due to the fact that he’s keeping things simple, or his subject matter, but he just doesn’t bring the personality or energy that other guys who rely on similar styles do. When you’ve got artists like Waka, Gucci Mane, and a resurgent Juicy J making music that’s designed to bump hard, and do little else, but in a much more entertaining way, it’s hard to say much positive about Kief’s approach.
In fact, there are a handful of tracks here where Keif completely destroys the solid production behind him. In all honesty, you could probably give him 5 spots on a “10 worst songs of 2012 list” and be completely justified. “Laughin To The Bank” might be the worst song that’s ever seen a major label release, regardless of genre, and that’s no exaggeration. There are a few others like the album’s title track “Finally Rich” and “Got Them Bands” that truthfully sound like Keef recorded the vocals without even hearing the beat – they’re that out of sync. We won’t go any more in-depth about Keef’s inability to put words together…but, when you spit “I’m cooler than a cooler”, more than a dozen on a track, you should rethink what you’re doing.
However, even though Keef’s performance is incredibly inconsistent, at best, that isn’t to say that this album isn’t going to mark superstardom for one of its biggest contributors. GBE’s (the label run by Chief Keef) own Young Chop, who produced almost half of the album, including all of its major singles, is about to become one of the most in demand producers in the game – and it’s all because of what he does here. His ability to add some strong elements of melody into the now well-established trap formula, combined with some downright ridiculous percussion skills, makes for a sound that while extremely aggressive, is accessible and catchy at the same time.
While Keef might derail a good portion of what Chop delivers to the project, his beats definitely shine through and even help make a few of them enjoyable despite what’s going on lyrically. Outside of Chop, Mike Will provides an excellent beat on “No Tomorrow”. The rest of the production is a definitely solid, outside of the all around horrendous, and previously mentioned, “Laughing to the Bank” is pretty solid too.
Overall, the Finally Rich album, is a project with a few strong moments, and some consistent and at times world class production work. However, for every good track, there’s at least two others that was misguided at best. Unless you’re a huge fan Keef, or a Trap music fiend, it’s hard to recommend this one.
It’s not that Keef isn’t talented, but it’s probably just too early for him as an artist to be getting the attention that his singles rightfully have drawn. He’s just too inconsistent at this point to carry a full commercial release, and while substance definitely isn’t the most important aspect of this type of music, it’s utter lack of variety or coherent direction is tough to get over.
One day, he very well could be making some truly interesting music, and if he can develop his style a bit, while maintaining his ability to deliver a hook and ride a beat, he could live up to his hype. But, until then, most hip hop fans would probably be better off passing on the album, and just spending a couple bucks and grabbing his singles instead.