The top contender for buzziest newcomer in hip-hop this year is Chicago's Chief Keef, the recording moniker of 17-year-old Keith Cozart. Chief Keef has steadily built a local following through a slew of mixtapes and viral music videos, notably "Bang," "I Don't Like," and "3Hunna," which each racked up millions of downloads and views online.
Rapper Pusha T (one-half of the duo the Clipse) stumbled upon the video for "3Hunna" on the website Worldstar Hip Hop and in turn brought the ascendant Keef to the attention of fellow Chicago native Kanye West.
West was entranced by the youngster's aggressive flow and true-to-life imagery that depicts the often violent and bleak circumstances of Chicago's South Side. When West and his G.O.O.D. Music collective remixed the track "I Don't Like" with Keef’s verse intact, Keef was catapulted from local star to the national stage. Since then, Chief Keef has since inked a deal with Interscope Records and kicked off a myriad of performances including 2012’s Lollapalooza music festival. Chief Keef's major label debut is slated for November 2012.
Though still in its infancy, Keef’s career has already been fraught with controversy. Many have censured the polarizing rapper for his grizzly rhymes, which seem to be reflected in his real life. First Keef was arrested for weapons possession in December 2011 and put under house arrest at his grandmother's home and early this September. Then he was investigated for the shooting death of fellow teen rapper Lil JoJo.
Some have likened Keef's rise to the resurrection of so-called Gangsta Rap and his brash behavior has seeped into social media. Keef incited backlash when he tweeted that Kanye didn’t help jumpstart his career ("Kanye West ain't do s*** for me.") and when he posted sexually explicit photos on Instagram. Still, Chief Keef's upcoming record remains an eagerly anticipated release and an artist worth keeping an eye on.