Cut Chief Keef some slack. The Chicago rapper is in an unfamiliar position. For someone who spent the early portion of last year doing a victory dance, he sounds like a shade of himself. Bang 2, released on Chief Keef's 18th birthday, lacks the magic that launched him onto the national map. It's his most uninspired project to date.
Chief Keef (real name: Keith Cozart) rose to prominence on the back of his straight-outta-nowhere, suddenly-everywhere hit "I Don't Like," which racked up millions of views on YouTube. Since YouTube popularity is now the arbitrary measure of industry potential, Interscope Records offered Keef a recording contract, a label deal, and a line headphones called--I kid you not--Beats by Keef. At 16, and while on house arrest for a 2011 weapon's charge, Chief Keef was already one of Chicago's hottest new rappers.
Then came Keef's major debut, Finally Rich. Stanchioned by big name guest appearances (50 Cent, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, etcetera) and potent production, it positioned Keef as gangsta rap's next star. It definitely had some memorable moments, notable among them the Kanye West-assisted "I Don't Like" remix. Subsequent winners like "Love Sosa" and "Hate Being Sober" squashed any one-hit wonder tags.
Then came the drama. Let's see: There was the sinister dig at a dead rapper on Twitter that painted him as a monster, followed by social media feuds with Lupe Fiasco and Katy Perry, capped by a two-month jail stint for violating his probation during a gun-range interview with Pitchfork TV. The series of legal brouhaha at once solidified Chief Keef's street pedigree and threatened his hip-hop career. One by one, the distractions were sapping his momentum.
Fast forward to 2013 and Chief Keef is trying to make up for lost time. In doing so, Sosa hs released a grip of new tracks. His latest batch, Bang 2, has none of the infectious tunes that colored Finally Rich. Instead, Keef serves up a middling mixtape comprised of forgettable lyrics and second-rate production. No one has ever confused Keef for a lyricist, mind you. By his own admission, it's not something he's particularly interested in or good at. It was the likes of Keef and Soulja Boy that inspired Lupe Fiasco's "SLR (Super Lupe Rap)". Still, Keef has been able to compensate for that deficiency so far with his sing-song flow and patented one liners. Without those elements, there's not much left to admire.
On Bang 2, the follow-up to his 2011 mixtape, Keef steps to every song as if he's in a hurry to get to the next one. The tape is rife with incomplete thoughts and lazy, self-indulgent ideas (see: "Bank Closed," for instance, which finds a terribly Auto-Tuned Chief Keef warbling endlessly about nothing). At times, he ignores the beat entirely (see: "All Time," which finds him rapping with a maddeningly offbeat flow). Moving to a different tune can be a strength, but not when your idea of a rhyme is "I ain't gotta count it/I got a money accountant."
Bang 2 comes down so hard on the wrong side of Soulja Boy it's a wonder Keef doesn't simply resort to incomprehensible animal sounds ("Chirp, chirp, your b*tch knows my name/HAW HAW HAW").
If you like your hip-hop brainless and boilerplate, if you've never experienced the thrill of mushmouth rapping, then bang out to Bang 2.Release Date: August 15, 2013