Chief Keef, Still Almighty

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Chief Keef, Still Almighty


Chief Keef has always marched to the beat of his own 808s.

Since exploding into fame as a teenager in the early 2010s, he’s eschewed obvious paths to mainstream success in favor of solitary creation, immersing himself in all his creative yearnings as he’s unloaded multiple careers’ worth of material and cultivated status as a modern rap folk hero. It feels reductive to label any one person the father of drill music, but Keef is something close to it. Projects like Bang (2011) and Back From the Dead (2012) canonized his and producer Young Chop’s penchant for pummeling anthems and unabashed street raps. In 2013, he expanded the scope of his sound with Almighty So, a project that blended his hammering drill foundation with the disembodied melodies that would help define mid-2010s rap. Now — 11 years, many full-lengths, and one lengthy Chicago banishment later — he’s back with the long-delayed sequel. Checking in at over an hour, Almighty So 2 is a maximalist joyride that fuses propulsive blockboy theme songs with bursts of introspection and his customary absurdist humor. Inventive, uninhibited, and fun, it’s Keef in all his prodigious glory.

Produced almost entirely by himself, Almighty So 2 sees Keef trade in the melodic flourishes of Almighty So for pure blunt force; it’s not hard to imagine Waka Flocka Flame assaulting the Luger-esque beats with reckless abandon. With a foreboding bell, gothic choir background, and destructive percussion, the G Herbo and Ballout-assisted “Neph Nem” feels like an opening portal to hell, with Keef’s emphatic flexes and Herbo’s grizzled menace supplying a soundtrack to impending oblivion.

Keef keeps everything interesting with shapeshifting cadences that oscillate between playful and searingly violent. “Tony Montana” is deliriously goofy; Keef’s fluctuating inflections and childish punchlines emit all the looseness and scattershot spontaneity of a mid-blunt roasting session. Slurred and very unserious, “Treat Myself” is as funny as it is imagistic. “Diamonds shinin’ off my charm, I think I Christmas tree’d myself/ I start wearin’ yellow diamonds, it’ll look likе I peed myself,” Keef raps, serving irreverent flexes with all the creative flair of ’06 Gucci Mane.

On the more aggressive end of things are tracks like “Jesus.” Pairing Keef’s harsh, guttural delivery with a distorted choral sample, it’s an unrestrained viciousness designed to destroy your speakers. He laces the aggression with cartoonish imagery, turning an op into a victim of batting practice after giving a sidepiece advice on religion; “Don’t look up to Chief Sosa, look up to Jesus Christ” feels like it belongs on a T-shirt. The endearingly sophomoric humor, the dynamic tonal inflections, the ability to generate unrestrained fury — it’s all quintessential Keef.

For “Banded Up,” he transports Tierra Whack from her typically neonic playgrounds to somewhere hellish, mixing a symbolic, infectious hook with a beat that’s at once militaristic and otherwordly. His hoarse shouts and gunplay talk are an engaging foil to Whack’s agile double-time verse, which could be the most technically impressive couplets on the whole project. Of course, she manages to inject her own Crayola-colored imagination into the mix, too: “Did everything that they said that I couldn’t/ Did everything that they said that I wouldn’t/ I go bananas like cookies and pudding/ I’m ’bout to bubble like soda when shooken.”

Elsewhere, he reunites with Sexyy Red, a fellow Midwestern spitter who feels like one of his spiritual successors. Their collaboration, “Grape Trees,” is a ratchet duet extracted from the cloth of mid-2000s mixtape ephemera, and it feels like a sign that they should go ahead and do an EP together. Sexyy matches Keef’s dismissive playboy ethos with casual confidence, and the hook carries heavy anthemic stature; think “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” for the trap.

Threaded by exceedingly juvenile but entertaining Michael Blackson skits, mixtape DJ adlibs and unfiltered energy, Almighty So 2 is as unhinged as Keef’s artistic compulsions. But between the menace and hedonism, there are added layers of humanity (and less layers on his vocals). On “Jesus,” he raps about the spiritual cost of life in the trenches, using spurts of irony to contextualize the conflict: “I done got my hands dirty tryna keep ’em clean.” Coasting over a pixelated beat for “Believe,” he recounts his fractured childhood with casual resignation and straightforward immediacy: “I’m that kid, I ain’t get to be a kid/ Early age I started selling dope like my people did/ I was in and out my people fridge/ Smart as shit, most of the time had to be an evil kid.”

Chief Keef regrets his lost innocence, but despite numerous court cases, street beefs, and life in the proverbial fast lane, there’s always been an understated purity to his craft. For years, he’s created without regard for hip-hop’s changing hemisphere — he was too busy being influential to worry about trends. As fun as it is nakedly honest, Almighty So 2 is both a clear distillation of pure Chief Keef the artist and the man he’s grown to be. Tethered to nothing but his own creative impulses, he just keeps on marching, with a new generation following right behind him.


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