Chief Keef knows how to put on a show: Review

Photo courtesy Shaun Llewellyn.

Chief Keef

October 30, 2019 at Paradise Rock Club


Chief Keef’s Boston show was an otherworldly experience. Stepping through the doors of Paradise Rock Club was akin to falling through the looking glass and being transported to a mirror reality located somewhere squarely in the center of the uncanny valley. Despite arriving a good hour after the doors opened, the cozy venue was sparsely populated save for a few key characters. In front of the stage, an admirable group of college students were trying desperately , but ultimately unsuccessfully, to turn up to “Rubbin Off the Paint” by YBN Nahmir playing from the DJ’s laptop while 10 or 12 of Sosa’s friends hopped around on stage filming the crowd, pretending to be performing for their Instagram Live. On the other end of the venue, the merch stand was offering a selection of two long-sleeved shirts promoting Chief Keef’s 2018 release Back From the Dead 3, even though this tour was promoting his upcoming album Almighty SO 2 and he has released five projects since BFTD3. The sole other item for sale was a plain black T-Shirt that just read “Chief Keef Tour Merchandise” in white writing. I made fast friends with two other college students at the merch booth, one of whom introduced me to his 45-year-old girlfriend who was apparently a very big Chief Keef fan and his sole reason for attending. Our conversation was cut short, however, by the DJ’s ear-drum shattering inquiry of “ARE Y’ALL READY FOR SOSA?!”

We rushed over to the stage, but despite cheers of assent from the enthusiastic crowd, it seems Sosa was the one not ready for us. The next two hours were filled with more 2018 Rap Caviar B-tracks from the DJ’s laptop and a group of four unadvertised openers with the unique ability to constantly talk over each other while plugging their Instagrams and shouting out friends and acquaintances such that not a single word was decipherable. Gun to my head, I could not tell you the group’s name or the name of a single member, let alone the name of a song they played. I even searched them after the show specifically for this review and Chief Keef has not listed them on his website, tagged them in any posts, or otherwise acknowledged them in any discernible way. They seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage, but their lack of experience working a crowd and performing live was quite apparent. Throughout all this, the DJ continued to probe the crowd about whether or not they were “ready for Sosa” as if he expected another response besides acquiescent yelling.

When the main attraction began, the atmosphere changed dramatically. Glo Gang members Tadoe and Ballout were the true openers and delivered a short but memorable set including an impassioned cover of Lil Durk’s “Dis Ain’t What U Want” that was the perfect segue for Chief Keef’s grand entrance with “Faneto.” As soon as Sosa uttered his first “gang in this bitch,” the crowd erupted into an explosion of movement and energy as every single person in the room sang along. A mosh pit was formed almost instantly and I was bodychecked by a massive man dressed as Woody from Toy Story who sent me flying, but I can think of no better way for the concert to have begun. What followed next was perhaps the best show I’ve ever attended. Chief Keef may only be 24 years old, but he’s been performing for nearly a decade and that experience is palpable.

He performed crowd pleasers like “Sosa Chamberlain,” “Earned It,” “Everyday,” and  “Love No Thotties” that snapped the previously zombified crowd into a wild frenzy. The spliced remix of “Hallelujah” that morphed into “Ballin’” halfway through was a definite highlight. My personal favorite moment was when he instructed everyone to pull out their phones and wave their flashlights, as if he was about to slow down the tempo, before roaring into the fiery “Understand Me” that sent some of those phones flying as the crowd jumped and shouted to the beat. Even the songs that many crowd members didn’t know that well, like “Macaroni Time,” “Uh Uh,” and “Mailbox,” were matched with fantastic energy. Perhaps it was the combination of the close quarters, small group of people, and loyalty of Chief Keef’s fanbase, but the passion never died down for a single second.

However, the best part of the show was the last two songs. I relished the opportunity to hear some of my favorite deep cuts, but when the first note of “Love Sosa” sounded and every single person in the venue including the bouncers and the bartender began screaming the lyrics, the experience was unmatched. As he closed off with “Don’t Like” and I locked arms with complete strangers to yell at the top of our lungs, enumerating our mutual grievances in unison with Chief Keef, I felt like part of a greater, inseparably intimate energy. I am confident that in that moment we could have solved any global issue, be it world hunger or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with ease simply because our minds were so connected on a cosmic level. Chief Keef easily made up for a long wait time and poor openers and put on an unforgettable show by the end.

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