Chief Keef, Still Almighty

Casimir Spaulding

Chief Keef, Still Almighty

Casimir Spaulding

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.


Kendrick Lamar - "Not Like Us"

There wasn’t an official scorecard for the battle, but Kendrick Lamar won his Drake beef the moment he dropped “Not Like Us.” Fueled by irresistible West Coast bounce and some incisive Drizzy jabs, it’s as infectious as it is infinitely quotable. Of course you’ve got to give it props for debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it gets bonus points for Kendrick’s Drakeo The Ruler-inspired flow.

Drake - "Family Matters"

If it weren’t for KDot’s masterful military counter, Drake’s “Family Matters” would have been a lot more talked about. Here, Drizzy directs multiple flows and a barrage of quippy barbs directed at Kendrick, the Weeknd, Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky and others. His cadences are catchy and “Kendrick just opened his mouth, someone go hand him a Grammy right now” is easily one of the funniest bars of the whole beef.

Tee Grizzley - "Swear To God" (Feat. Future)

Future might have disappointed people when they figured out his tweet about “his” mixtape was actually just a nod to this song, but “Swear To God” is fire. Featuring a customarily symbolic Hendrix hook and first-person street raps from Tee Grizzley, it’s a track that makes the most of its collaborators. I swear to God!

BigXThaPlug - "Meet The 6ixers"

Since dropping Amar last year, BigXThaPlug’s been one of the most reliably electric new spitters in the industry, and “Meet The 6ixers” only continues the trend. You could argue that a literal sample of “She’s A Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” is a bit on the nose, but paired with convincingly confrontational bars from BigX, Ro$ama and Yung Hood, it’s an appropriate canvas for a G-Funk-adjacent slap.

Megan Thee Stallion - "BOA"

Don’t look now, but Megan Thee Stallion’s on a little run. After landing a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit with her Nicki Minaj diss “Hiss” at the top of the year and teaming up with GloRilla for the infectious “Wanna Be” a month ago, she’s returned with “BOA.” Here, she directs quippy bars at numerous imaginative opps for a track that’s confident and irresistible.

Skilla Baby - "Free Big Meech"

Skilla Baby pays tribute to a hometown hero with “Free Big Meech,” a track that seamlessly merges slick talk with convincing street bonafides. Authentic and effortlessly cool, it’s Skilla Baby in top form.

Ghostface Killah - "Pair Of Hammers" (Feat. Method Man)

“Pair Of Hammers” is more than just nostalgia. For this one, the two Wu-Tang Clan vets trade vivid bars over a retro beat, suffusing it with a hook that references the Notorious B.I.G’s timeless Meth collab “The What.”

Gunna - "Whatsapp (Wassam)"

Parts of Gunna’s new album, One Of Wun, are monotonous, but “Whatsapp (Wassam)” renders Gunna’s understated cool to its fullest effect. The Turbo beat is both surrealistic and hard-hitting, and Gunna’s flexes are as vivid and decisive as ever.

Sheff G - "Everything Lit"

Less than a month after his jail release, Sheff G returned with “Everything Lit,” an appropriately celebratory return single that sees him pick up right where he left off. Coasting over an understated drill beat, he keeps things light as he serves up bars that evoke lifestyle goals and subtly emphatic authority.

YTB Fatt - "In The Air" (Feat. Rylo Rodriguez)

Pairing Rylo Rodriguez’s melody with YTB Fatt’s reality raps, “In The Air” goes. Cruising over the track, the two get reflective for a song that’s both sobering and emotional. It’s usually best to leave classics alone, but YTB Fatt’s Rylo Rodriguez’s “In The Air” is a worthy nod to Beanie Sigel’s 2005 single.


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