After almost three years without releasing a solo project Chief Keef returns with one of his best projects to date with ‘4Nem’. After being propelled into the mainstream almost a decade ago Keef had struggled with the expectations of being rap’s next big superstar. Instead of following that formula, he decided to release an abundance of projects to simply be himself. For better or for worse, we’ve received some incredibly creative projects from Keef over the years and – while there have been a lot of misses – ‘4Nem’ is a welcome return to form for the Chicago native.
Listening to this project from start to finish you can see the sort of headspace Keef was in, while exploring the influences he’s had growing up until now; Gucci Mane inspired flows, ‘Flockaveli’ style production, it’s all very Southern. Keef has never shied away from his Southern influences but on this album, he truly puts his own twist on the sound. ‘Bitch Where’ is a triumphant synth-heavy opener, it’s almost like Keef’s finally made it after all these years, he can finally relax and kick his feet up after all these years as he raps “Made it out the Chi’, if I didn’t, wouldn’t see today”. The victory lap continues on ‘Tuxedo’ with horns blaring louder than a fire alarm as Keef and his cousin/frequent collaborator, Tadeo, impressively trade bars over the rattling hi-hats.
While Keef has never been known for his lyrical ability some lines are so ridiculous that they sort of work given the albums ignorance and light-heartedness. “Pulled up black and white truck, moo moo moo” is a questionable highlight on the album but honestly there’s a bar like this found on almost every track. ‘Hadouken’ is arguably the strongest track of the bunch as it showcases Keef’s ability to utilise his voice in ways we don’t often associate him with. Throughout the track, he strains his voice to the brink giving the track a murderous and ominous edge. There’s lunacy to the track that makes Keef almost unrecognisable as if the album was hijacked by a possessed spirit.
While there are some great moments on this project there are some less impressive blips where Keef’s attempt at trying something new falls completely flat. ‘Like It’s Yo Job’ interpolates ‘Slob On My Nob’ and while it’s an undeniable classic it has become incredibly played out and Keef’s version is no exception. There are some more relaxed and melodic moments on the album but they’re some of the weakest, ‘Ice Cream Man’ feels as if it was put there just to give us a break from the relentless energy but had the opposite effect, ruining the momentum entirely.
To label ‘4Nem’ as a resurgence for Keef would imply that he’s fallen off, and while that’s by no means the case it is a continuation and reimagination of what makes Keef a truly great artist. He plays by own his rules – in the past, that has sometimes resulted in something not so easy on the ear, but on ‘4Nem’ there are some standout moments and they definitely outweigh the few experimental misses.
Words: Chris Saunders
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