TO STRIKE HARD WITH A LOUD BLOW / A RUSH OF RADIANT FEELING
“Bang bang.” Exiled to Los Angeles, forever leaking and delaying and recording from self-imposed house arrest, Chief Keef is perpetually coming back from the dead like the profitably incandescent ghosts of Tupac and Michael Jackson. His is the lil glow, the demon-toon voice that trolls buried in the mix, the hologram croon from nowhere and no-body. This is Almighty Sosa’s first studio (physical, sellable) release since being dropped from Interscope, but in a preservation of his holographic (non-physical, disentangled) indie-auteur status, the sprawling (unnatural, ungraceful) double album is also available in its entirety online. Contradiction and discontinuity define Chief Keef’s music, living in the valley between his stick talk and his “stop the violence” campaigning, between his goofball puns and his haunted-house production.
The long-time-coming Bang 3 finishes a trilogy that has no binding agent but Keef’s own increasingly outsider voice, which itself mutates at an almost unsustainable rate. Keef carries a Bamm-Bamm slapstick and the weighty stick of loss, beating an unpredictable path of beats, hooks, and wordplay. It’s that play that might be his greatest asset, a ghostly sense of humor and disruption that flourishes especially when he produces for himself, which he does on 11 of these 26 tracks.
His long-standing attachment to Halloween and horror comes alive every time we find Sssssosa on the beat, the tracks echoing like episodes of Goosebumps folded over in an Inception nightmare. It’s the realization of his production work on last year’s phenomenal Back From The Dead 2 (itself released on October 31). Chief Keef’s self-produced tracks sound the farthest from where he started, or from anything like the mainstream, but they bring out new life in his flow and tend toward unexpected turns. “I Just Wanna” degrades twice-over into a pitch- and time-shifting lurch in its closing seconds, and “That Night” pulses with an ascending organ drive littered with steel drums. The sawing bounce of “Facts” is countered by open-air pauses and creeping James Ferraro strings. Shuffling drums and keys on “Green Light” betray a sense of disorientation and displacement as reminiscent of Elysia Crampton’s drifting phase-scapes as they are of the DJ Kenn and Young Chop drill beats that launched Keef’s career.
Actually, “career” is a misrepresentation of his strange detour-trajectory. After a prolific 2015, from the wintry Nobody to the Andy Milonakis-featuring Sorry 4 The Weight, Bang 3 finds Sosa at his most accessible and his most unrestrained. Getting dropped from Interscope might be the best thing that ever happened to Chief Keef, or at least the best thing for his music (his recent partnership with FilmOn remains a mysterious business move that hasn’t seemed to confine him creatively whatsoever). It’s hard to imagine a major-Keef getting away with the chorus on the massive, self-produced Pt. 2 opener “Pee Pee’d”: “I’m so damn ignorant/ I pulled out my ding-a-ling and started pee-peeing.”
For all the funny (“Ha ha!”) one-liners and irreverent choruses, Chief Keef’s old life and recurring losses are frequent subject matter. He raps, “I remember having pistol fights/ Now we’re having food fights” on standout “New School.” Recently deceased family members appear throughout Bang 3 on lines buried in seemingly unrelated verses, rematerializing as fixtures of Chief Keef’s everyday internal life. But his grief rarely sounds like grief. The tribute to his cousin Blood Money, “Ain’t Missing You,” is no dirge; it’s one of his catchiest, a nearly country pop song. He revisits their sweetest memories, “I remember when you called my phone tweaking/ You got your first deal you was geeking,” but the chorus’s bang-bang-click percussive rush haunt the track like a traumatic echo-memory, unabated by memorializing, no matter what Chief Keef says. He ends the song recanting the hook we learned, admitting, “I miss you, Big Glo.” The single was released only nine days before GloGang rapper Capo was shot and killed, an echo that Chief Keef no doubt doesn’t miss (“Cappin” is named after him and dedicated to both him and Blood Money).
Bang 3 is as tonally expansive as any in Keef’s discography and easily sounds the most polished, most listenable. The tracklisting has a crazed internal logic, its 90 minutes exhausting in their clipping hi-hats, snaking synths, and plinking keys (maybe not as crazed as Almighty DP 2, released between the two parts of Bang 3, which is arranged alphabetically). You can hear his range as a rapper, how he still pulls off the burst delivery on “Laurel Canyon” and “Irri” as well as silky, warped Gucci Mane flow on [so much of the album]. Sosa’s ad libs are near-constant, his wheezy echo alternating between interrogative and imperative, or double-tracked in an exaggerated mesh of voice. It’s freaky, funny, and earworming.
So, Chief Keef remains fluent/fluid in the play and unpredictability of someone growing older (20 going on 6,000) without growing up. Instead, he’ll continue to glow up, approaching critical masslessness in holographic disembodiment. His hologram tour is a bizarre, seemingly impossible fantasy, but after Chief Keef was enlisted by the billionaire whose technology resurrected Tupac and MJ, it seems to be a major fascination. Keef’s been back from the dead twice, but the state won’t let him live anywhere near his hometown, even as a ghost. It maybe makes sense that Sosa wants to be transmuted out-of-place, escaping material entanglement, when he was imprisoned in his own home and then exiled from it, when the family he loves can’t be brought back from the dead. But that’s all a projection — Chief Keef defies comprehension with each release, from song to song.
In this incoherent blaze of an album, his animating spirit is audible (play-changing): the rhyming Pt. 2 bookends “Pee-Pee’d” and “Tree Tree” that range from funny banger to widescreen grandeur; the synthetic plucked strings that birth companion Pt. 1 closers “Go Harder” and “Green Light;” the sense of humor that persists despite his losses. “One plus one equals two/ Yeah, you’re right!” Chief Keef has glowed out of the mixtape trappings of his glory boyzhood, barely flirting with commercially viable music. Instead we get what sounds like Tha Cozart having fun, unearthing passing truths, and discovering a confidence in his voice that can give us the pop elegy “Ain’t Missing You” and drill anthem “Yes” back-to-back. It’s his bizarre impulsiveness that refuses to be ordered into a recognizable, tactile shape; his delirious almighty voice that will not whimper. “Bang bang.”
01. Laurel Canyon
04. Superheroes (feat. A$AP Rocky)
05. Singing To The Cheese
06. Pick One
07. New School
09. I Just Wanna (feat. Mac Miller)
11. Ain’t Missing You (feat. Jenn Em)
13. Go Harder
14. Green Light
01. Pee Pee’d
02. Wit It
04. Charge My Car
05. Get That Sack
06. Irri (feat. Lil B)
09. That Night
10. It’s More
11. Og Fiji
12. Tree Tree
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