Up In Smoke: Spending a Drug-Fueled Saturday With Rapper Chief Keef

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Last Saturday in Soho, teen rapper Keith “Chief Keef” Cozart parked his SUV as a lick of marijuana smoke snaked from a half-rolled-down window. Inside, a smiling face wrapped in mini-
dreadlocks: Chief Keef was in town for a headlining show at the Best Buy Theater.

The car inched up the block to the Beats by Dre store for an in-store signing celebrating the unveiling of Chief Keef’s signature headphones. Mr. Keef and members of his Glory Boyz Entertainment posse headed indoors, where they complained about New York weed.

“It’s weak as fuck,” Mr. Keef told the Transom. Luckily, NYC has many delivery services, and several drug deals were soon completed.

This was Mr. Keef’s first public appearance in New York since the release of his debut album, Finally Rich, an odd title given that he’s only 17 years old. (Last year Mr. Keef signed a $6 million dollar deal with Interscope.)

Then again, Mr. Keef is lucky he’s rich, considering his criminal record. At 16, Mr. Keef, who hails from Chicago’s South Side, was sentenced to house arrest for pulling a gun on a cop. Last summer, when a rival rapper was shot dead, Mr. Keef seemed to brag about it on Twitter. A few weeks later, he did a photo shoot with Pitchfork at a gun range, violating his parole, and spent two months in juvie.

The initial arrest likely helped his career. Stuck at his grandmother’s house, Mr. Keef recorded dozens of songs with GBE, including the hit “I Don’t Like,” which received more than 25 million views on YouTube.

Mr. Keef has even been arrested twice in the past two weeks. First for smoking weed at a five-star hotel in Atlanta while celebrating Spring Breakers star Gucci Mane’s album release. (Mr. Mane recently signed Mr. Keef to his informal Bricksquad crew.) A few days later, back in Illinois, Mr. Keef was arrested for going 110 mph on the highway. A video shows a cop pulling a stack of money from Mr. Keef’s vest pocket. “Uh, that’s eight thousand,” the rapper is heard telling the police.

While he may enjoy driving fast, Mr. Keef walks at approximately 0.02 miles an hour. He doesn’t speak much, but when he does, he’s usually smiling, cracking a joke. When asked about his beef with Katy Perry, who tweeted that his new single “Hate Bein Sober” made her have “serious doubt for the world,” he smiled and shook his dreads: “I don’t give a fuck,” he said.

Back at the hotel, a young lady in tight acid-washed jeans was waiting in the lobby. Mr. Keef—take-out pizza in one hand, the girl’s hand in the other—rode the elevator up to his room, emerging a few hours later: showtime.

People assume backstage at a rap concert is like what they hear about rock concerts—booze, drugs, groupies. But there were no women or booze at the Best Buy Theater. There was, however, an 8-year-old kid named Godfrey whom Mr. Keef had met outside when the kid’s mom ran up to him and told him she couldn’t afford a ticket.

Around 10:30 p.m., NYPD’s hip-hop task force burst into the quiet dressing room. Four cops in streetwear huddled Mr. Keef and his manager, Dro, into the bathroom. No reason was given. Things worked out, though, and Mr. Keef took the stage an hour later, along with his entire posse and even little Godfrey, who danced around the stage without his shirt on.