4NEM : 4US
Chief Keef's latest showing, reignites and solidifies the Chicago legend’s versatility.
Hello my friends, do you know who doesn’t discriminate, is never talkative, and simply does not have a fuck to lend for your problems? The airport bartender. Who stratings pouring at 7 am, where Modelo is perplexingly still considered an international beer; aren’t we citizens of the world?
The airport bar my bar of choice today is called Facades, right off of terminal K19 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. After drinking a few sips of my $10 beer a stooper takes over, catalyzed by the morning alcohol and induced by the anxiety surrounding my increasing financial insecurity.
I sat at the barstool, earbuds in, with Chief Keef's new Album 4NEM', an album that utilizes hyper-real, lucid instrumentals that match the infectious, nostalgic energy debuted on his 2012 single, “Finally Rich”. With a synth heavy beat selection, Keef takes the traditional arm-hair raising chord loops and layers them with poppy textures and bright accents to create a new sound.
Found in his first new studio album of the year after years of mixtapes, ranging in quality, my favorite being The Leek series. These mixtapes are tender to maintain the fire beneath his monumental rise to fame and accolade which, in retrospect, had a larger influence on my teenage years than I thought it would. Watching the “I Don't Like'' music video in middle school showed me someone five years older than me garnering national attention for his antics. It was awesome.
The rising horns and large spaces that accentuate acapella hooks are accented by Keef’s adlibs, yells, moans, and vocalizations inflate already hyped locker rooms before the game Keef’s opening tracks. Songslike, “Bitch Where” “Tuxedo”, and “See Through” are an evolution of Keef’s signature violent punchy low-voiced flow; Keef uptakes his voice into a raspy yell grabbing listeners attention as he paints pictures of racing Hellcats down Lake Shore Drive.
“Like it's yo Jobb”, a renditioning of Three3 Six6 Mafia’s “Slob On My Knob”, represents the hyper real energy of this project, taking an existing product we enjoy and recognize and hollowing it out, injecting Keef’s own talking shit style flow into it. Drillifying the instrumental, creating a new product that has all the signifiers of Three3 Six6 Mafiai’s song, while creating his own meaning. Usually these reproductions are without substance, devoid of meaning, simply to capitalize on the signifier’s value. As a surprisingly ethical actor in this space, Keef has experimented sonically throughout his career, such as his pitched ad libs found on “Finally Rollin 2”
In slower songs like “Ice Cream Man”, Keef breaks out into a more melodic vocalization, which highlights his proficiency in finding his niche in an automated production style. Reminiscent of songs off “GloTavern”, “Wazzup” follows “Ice Cream Man”, continuing a storytelling style that is lower energy than his screaming, almost like a mirror pep talk. Autoned voices float as characters in his head, Jungian projections of his possible future relationships, novel ways of spending money, previous trauma, friendship, drug use. These themes are explored further in his last melodic track of the record, “I Don’t Think They Love Me” where Keef reflects on the social implications in his rise in capital, he feels hollow, surrounded by material possessions. Mobilizing these plot points from “Ice Cream Man '', what keef is offering to these women and his listeners is not related solely to his material possessions, but also the ‘coolness’ of his influence. This growth is not only sonically, but exemplifies a positive view of self; to arm chair psychoanalyze his change over years of listening.
Finally, bonus track “Picking Big Sean Up”, so hard. With elongated vocals and instrumental gaps filled by Keef scatting and libbing over the track. Having deployed a multi faceted scream which invoked demonic, hype, humor energy, the albumends an awesome project that I will be revisiting for seasons to come, $10 beer in hand or not.
In what is definitely Keef's Best project in a couple years, challenged only by his 2018 EP, Ottopsy which was the first front to back banger record from Keef since 2015 era and his 2019 album Glotavern with Zaytoven, 4NEM record was a welcome addition to his catalog.
Following standout singles released this year from MikewillMadeit, veteran producer of trap and drill classics stretching from the aughts to the plague years. “BANG BANG” and it’s accomponing video indicated to me that we are entering a motivated, modernized era. Hopefully leading to more amazing music in the future.