On the corner of 43rd St. and 9th Ave. in Manhattan at about 5:30 p.m., 17-year-old Chicago rap prodigy Chief Keef (born Keith Cozart) is doing something he actually wants to do: waiting for someone to deliver to him a pair of Nike Air Jordans, size nine, which seem to be sort of a gift to Keef from his handlers in exchange for putting up with a grueling press day. His friend and DJ, 20-year-old DJ Victoriouz, takes the opportunity afforded by the downtime to sell mixtapes out of his backpack on the street next to Keef. By the end of the day, he will have done interviews for six magazines, two radio stations, and 50 Cent’s website, none of which he’s especially relished.
We’ve been riding around in his convoy (a GMC Denali, a Mercedes truck, and an Escalade, which together carry about 15 people) all day, watching Keef get grilled on his sudden rise to fame, Kanye West remixing his song, and his extravagant deal with Interscope. The label gave him his own imprint (making him the youngest major-label boss in history), his own Beats by Dr. Dre headphone line called Beats by Keef, and a biopic. In the back of the Escalade between interviews, where the carpet is covered in ash, Keef takes Instagram pictures of himself with his money.
Keef keeps himself hidden behind his prized Gucci shades (“These got prescriptions, boy,” he mentions) and treats his True Religion jean jacket like body armor, removing it only after he gets comfortable. He’s extremely soft-spoken—a trait he might have acquired by witnessing firsthand the adverse affects of a loud mouth in a dangerous neighborhood—and he gives short, matter-of-fact answers in his interviews. But off camera, Keef is very restless in a teenage way—he bounces between cars when he’s outside, laughing and joking with his friends. At one point he sees a woman on the street and says, “That’s gonna be my wife in two years,” and makes us pinky-swear to check back in with him in two years.
DAVID SHAPIRO: Do you have any siblings?
CHIEF KEEF: Yeah, I got a little brother and a little sister. My little brother’s about seven months, and my sister’s 13. She’s like a celebrity in school. Everybody’s like, “That’s Chief Keef’s little sister!”
SHAPIRO: When did you stop going to school?
KEEF: I guess when I was 15.
KEEF: I don’t know, man, I just started to get lazy.
SHAPIRO: Tell me about your daughter.
KEEF: She’s six months old. Her name is Jasmine.
SHAPIRO: Who’s her mother?
KEEF: That’s my girlfriend. I talk to her every day. We’ve been together for about four years, ever since a friend introduced us. She’s always been there for me.
SHAPIRO: Could you see other women?
KEEF: I couldn’t. I mean, I could, but I would just fuck ’em and forget ’em! Double F. They wouldn’t mean nothing.
SHAPIRO: What do you personally have to do for the Beats by Keef headphones?
KEEF: I don’t know yet. They just made me sign a bunch of papers for it. I wanna see how many I’ma sell!
SHAPIRO: What do you have to do for the biopic about your life?
KEEF: I don’t know, not yet! Same thing as the headphones.
SHAPIRO: Why’d you choose to go by Chief Keef, since you prefer to be called Sosa in person?
KEEF: Well, Keef’s been my rap name. You need to call me Sosa, though. Everybody calls me Sosa.
SHAPIRO: What are you listening to right now?
KEEF: Me! Only me. Whatever my newest song is, I just rock to that.
SHAPIRO: When did you start rapping?
KEEF: I been rapping since I was a shorty, maybe five years old, but I started recording in about 2008.
SHAPIRO: What’s your least favorite part of this press tour?
KEEF: The interviews, man! They just ask me the same shit all day.
CHIEF KEEF’S NEXT MIXTAPE, FINALLY RICH, IS DUE OUT IN JULY. HE TWEETS HERE.