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Your Chief Keef Hologram Reader

You know what's funny? When I wrote Mayor Rahm vs. Chief Keef a week ago, there was hardly a peep. But now that the hick Hammond police force has done essentially the same thing as Rahm, the pundits are outraged. Let's take a look at the coverage.

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"Whether or not cutting the power to the Chief Keef portion of Saturday's Craze Fest was a direct violation of anyone's First Amendment rights hinges solely on the contract Hammond and the promoter signed, legal experts say," the Tribune Co.'s Gary newspaper reports.

Well, two legal experts say. Two legal experts who aren't familiar at all with, um, the contract.

"Steve Sersic, attorney for the Hammond Port Authority, which oversees the Wolf Lake Pavilion, described the contract between Craze Fest promoters and the city 'as a license agreement that provides the city can revoke the license at any time for any reason, or no reason at all.'"

Wow, that's some contract. Who would sign that?

"The contract also has an addendum that says the promoter must follow safety directives issued by the Hammond police, fire or any other emergency management services.

"It didn't enumerate Chief Keef specifically, nor any of the performers, Sersic said Tuesday. But since the directive was given after the contract was signed that Chief Keef wasn't to perform, the promoters ended up losing their license, he said.

"It doesn't matter if the directive came a week before, a day before or an hour before - they were told not to play Chief Keef, but they did," Sersic said. "Not only that, but they said they wouldn't, so they're actually doubly in breach of the contract."

Show me that contract! Seriously. Hasn't anyone FOIA'd it yet?

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The same reporter - via city officials -described the contract differently in a previous article:

"Craze Fest promoters can be upset with the city of Hammond all they want, but Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said they had the right to pull the plug on rapper Chief Keef's hologram performance Saturday night.

"McDermott said Sunday the contract promoters signed with the city allows it to approve all acts who perform on Wolf Lake Pavilion stage."

Aha. So city officials approved this.

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"I know nothing about Chief Keef," McDermott told the New York Times.

Glad to know you made an informed decision.

"All I'd heard was he has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people - a history that's anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He's been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we're not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door."

Rahm Emanuel is now the nation's Minister of Culture.

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"[R]egardless of who is in the right in the eyes of the law this entire episode feels like a big win for Keef - or at the very least a publicity coup," Leor Galil writes for the Reader.

"The story's gone national, with Keef becoming a symbol for free speech activists in the process, and it's easy to see him staying in the spotlight, at least as long as the rapper and his camp push the hologram issue with no sign of the mayor's office relenting. That might not last longer than a couple weeks, but a couple weeks is more than enough time to give a boost to Keef's latest project. His forthcoming album, Bang 3, is due to come out August 18 on FilmOn TV and MondoTunes, which signed Keef to a $2.5 million deal for two albums. Greek billionaire Alki David owns a majority stake in MondoTunes and nabbed Keef the deal; David also founded Hologram USA, which has been behind Keef's aborted virtual performances."

In other words, Rahm may have done Keef a big favor!

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"So in a month that, so far, has seen 274 Chicagoans shot, 45 fatally, Mayor Rahm Emanuel snapped into action and blocked a hologram appearance by rapper Chief Keef because he worried it might be dangerous?" Neil Steinberg writes for the Sun-Times.

First, that's a typical month of violence, is it not?

Second, well, yes.

I disagree - vehemently - with Emanuel, but it's not difficult to follow his logic: A hologram of Keef could be seen as dangerous if it incites violence among warring posses.

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"'An unacceptable role model,' in the words of a mayoral representative.'

"That's a joke, right?"

No, this column is a joke. Look, that was a stupid thing for anyone in City Hall to say - and I bet whoever it was wishes they could take that one back and keep the focus on public safety. But this is just as stupid:

"The mayor is now vetting the role models for black youth in Chicago."

Not just for black youth. Most rap is bought by white kids - like those who live in Steinberg's leafy Northbrook suburb.

As the aforementioned Galil wrote, "While Keef has reentered the public consciousness in a big way, he never lost his grip on rap fans, for whom he supplied a steady stream of stylistically scattershot mixtapes and singles. And Keef's still making hits: most recently his 2014 track 'Faneto' grew into an underground phenomenon that spurned countless remixes. His voice isn't quite everywhere, but it still feels somewhat present - I heard at least one DJ drop Kanye's remix of 'I Don't Like' at Pitchfork Music Festival."

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Speaking of role models, by the way.

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"Yes, Keef, who once upon a time went by Keith Cozart, is vile," Steinberg continues, "his persona an image of black manhood as crafted by the Klan, his songs soporific, a bunch of gyrating toughs flashing guns and wads of cash while flinging their fingers around."

Sigh.

1. Yes, his given name is Keith Cozart. Like no one else in show business has a stage name or invented persona.

2. I find Rahm Emanuel, Neil's biking buddy, to be vile. I find Keef to be an artistic product of his environment to whom attention must be paid. After all, the environment he's a product of is an environment created by Rahm and the rest of this nation's greedy, power-hungry elite.

3. Seeing Keef's manhood as a KKK-like image of black manhood says more about Steinberg than Keef or the KKK.

4. Soporific? Not all of Keef's songs are winners, but they hardly induce sleep. Notice that the link merely goes to Chief Keef's YouTube page - not a particular song.

5. Gyrating toughs and wads of cash - have you never seen a rap video before?

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(David Drake, echoing Galil, writes in the Tribune:

("In the early days of the Chief Keef media hype - back around the time of Kanye West remixes and his emergence on the national scene - many were dismissive of his music, suggesting that the attention he'd drawn was more about what he represented to outsiders than the work itself. For many onlookers, the idea of Keef probably did mean a lot more than the actual music. But there were those who listened and heard something there.

("One was funk legend George Clinton, who talked about the rapper's breakthrough record 'I Don't Like' in terms of his own song 'Get Off Your Ass and Jam' in a 2013 interview with VladTV.com.

("But more than his gift for a good hook, Keef had a preternaturally strong rapper's voice, at once laid-back in the manner of his idol, Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane, but with a more dynamic delivery that popped effortlessly from the speakers.")

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"The mayor's office said a Keef concert 'posed a public safety risk.' So does the St. Patrick's Day Parade. So does traffic. So does Lollapalooza, but that's a bunch of white kids, so the risk is acceptable."

True, though the mayor would argue that the risk of those other events is far less than that of a gang shootout breaking out. The real answer is how unlikely that is to have happened - and that, yes, even then certain risks are acceptable in a democracy.

"Everything is a public safety risk. All the oppressions of Communist China are done in the name of security, protests and concerts and books banned because they might disturb domestic harmony. Given that the Chicago police kill more civilians than any other big city force in the country, I'd say a little musical pushback is to be expected."

Now that last line is a line I like - except that, just to be factual, Chicago police are fourth when it comes to killing civilians. I know it's not as sexy to ignore the per capita figures, as most of the Chicago media has for years when it comes to crime stats, but it's the accurate, truthful and journalistic thing to do.

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"You want to know the worst part of this? This elevates Chief Keef, a flash-in-the-pan with cognac dribbling down his chin like pablum."

I think Galil has answered the flash-in-the-pan charge, but even if that was true, it's hardly the worst part of this. Rahm Emanuel and Hammond officials are the worst of it.

"I never had a charitable thought about Keef before."

Nor he you!

"Not exactly the brightest bulb, Keef was the guy tweeting photos of himself smoking an enormous blunt in what was clearly his Northbrook home while simultaneously claiming not to be living there."

Gee, what a dummy! What's next - smoking pot on the roof of the White House?

"And now he's Patrick Henry."

Keef is no more elevated into Patrick Henry than the Nazis were elevated into Thomas Jefferson after rightly being allowed to march in Skokie. Everyone still knows who everyone is.

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"Anyone going to a Chief Keef concert at least has to be aware of the chance of trouble."

Has there ever been?

Also, don't go to Jason Aldean shows.

"Why doesn't the mayor help kids whose only risky behavior is sitting in their bedroom when the bullets come through the wall?"

1. Why don't you ask him on your next bike ride?

2. And yet, you endorsed him.

3. The way to protect kids sitting in their bedroom when bullets come through the wall is to understand the likes of Chief Keef.

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I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'm going to recommend Mark Konkol's column on DNAinfo Chicago as an antidote to Steinberg in gaining a fuller understanding of who Keef is.

To wit:

Take a closer look and you'll find that Chief Keef, who documents his life from a California mansion with a pool and tropical flowers on Instagram and Twitter, doesn't seem to be wrapped up in the thuggish life he left behind in Chicago anymore.

Rather than posting pictures of his gang-member pals pointing semi-automatic pistols, Chief Keef now shows off his impressive arsenal of paint ball guns - and short videos of him in action on paint ball battlefields - that have become his new hobby. He told Boombox.com that pop star Justin Bieber recently challenged him to a paintball war.

Chief Keef also posts pictures of his son Krue Karter and daughter Kay Kash, who has her own Instagram account. On Friday, Chief Keef endorsed a fancy $1,000 baby stroller you might find at a Roscoe Village Starbucks.

Go read the whole thing.

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Now let's get back to the legal to and fro.

"Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, who has been outspoken regarding race relations in the city, said Monday if the contract indicated Chief Keef couldn't perform at Craze Fest, its promoters were wrong to allow the hologram of the rapper to be shown," the Tribune's Gary paper reports in yet another article.

"He's aware that much of the rapper's music glorifies violence, and he said no one in the city administration would approve it being brought in."

If you're gonna ban every artist who "glorifies" violence, your gonna ban acts from a whole lot of genres. After all, Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

But here's the killer:

Higgs gets the impression, however, that Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, could be trying to change his message to one that fosters peace. And if that's the case, people should give him a chance to be heard.

"I could be wrong, but I think he's trying, and he's doing it in the way he knows how - through his concerts. And if he is, we shouldn't eliminate him from the process," Higgs said. "None of us are perfect, so I think Father (Michael) Pfleger (of St. Sabina Church in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood) and the ministers in Chicago should give him a chance. It's only fair.

Just not in Hammond.

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"As well, the contract 'preserves the right to refuse lewd or indecent performances,' but what happened with Chief Keef didn't fall under that description, but one of safety, police said Saturday.

"With recent violence associated with (Chief Keef), the police thought showing the hologram had the potential to incite violence," Sersic said. "The perspective was that if there was any reasonable chance of even one person getting injured, why expose anyone to it? Plus, with like-minded acts the whole day, there was no intention to suppress any sort of speech. It was completely a safety issue."

The potential to incite violence doesn't stand a First Amendment test, as we shall see. Plus, like-minded acts the whole day hurts your case, not helps it.

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"Even Chief Keef has rights," Eric Zorn writes for the Tribune.

"He's a rapper from the Englewood neighborhood who glorifies guns, gangs and illegal drugs. He's had numerous run-ins with the law and is considered a toxic element of our culture by establishment people like me."

Ugh, who would ever identify themselves as an establishment person? You're the enemy! Especially of (real) journalists.

But Zorn is right.

He infuriates. He baffles. He frightens. So let me put it another way: Especially Chief Keef has rights.

The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression protects the infuriating, the baffling and the frightening from the impulses of those who'd silence them if they could.

That guarantee is why the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups can obtain permits to march and rally in provocative locales. It's why you're never more than a few clicks away online from misogynist, racist, seditious yet perfectly legal claptrap.

It's so obvious as to be maddening.

"The courts have consistently held that the government can't shut down a speaker because they think he's merely dangerous," said Martin Redish, a constitutional expert at Northwestern University School of Law. In this context, "speech can be suppressed only if it advocates imminent violent behavior and is deemed likely under the circumstances to lead to such behavior," he said.

Okay, fine, but what about that (yet to be seen) contract?

"[Y]es, concert promoters violated the letter of their agreement not to allow a performance by an artist not on their contract. But the purpose of enforcing that provision under these circumstances was purely to deny a platform to a particular rapper whose material is similar to the material of other artists. Therefore, Hammond flagrantly trampled on Chief Keef's rights by quickly disabling his hologram and sending fans home early."

Even if the contract says the city needs no reason to cancel a performance? My thinking is that the contract itself may not be constitutional: Could the city cancel a performance because they don't want a black or gay artist performing, given that they supposedly don't even need a reason?

[The ACLU's Ken] Falk pointed to the emphatic opinion in Collin v. Chicago Park District, a 1972 federal court ruling upholding the right of the National Socialist Party of America (Nazis) to rally in Marquette Park. The park district had blocked the event based on a previous Nazi rally in Gage Park that "led to a public commotion (that) could have led to a riot or breach of the peace."

But the court concluded that "under none of the constitutionally permissible tests for prior restraints based on violence can the denial of a permit to plaintiff be upheld."

Is Hammond's contract the equivalent of a permit? I would think so.

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Whet Moser, writing for Chicago, notes that Cicero and Harvey banned Keef a year ago. And Chicago's history, also noted in part by Steinberg, is hardly clean on the matter.

"Chicago specifically has gotten away with killing a concert to 'prevent a breach of the peace.' You may have read a recent piece in the Tribune about how a huge 1970 music festival in Grant Park, featuring Sly and the Family Stone - 45 years ago today - turned into a riot that injured 162 people, mostly police officers. It led to the preemptive cancellation of six rock concerts - just on the basis of them being rock concerts."

That was upheld by the district court here, but commenter Samuel Henderson writes:

"This is some good and timely analysis, but it seems a little strange to put a district court case up against a Supreme Court one. Are there really no appellate cases that have upheld a city canceling a concert based on - well, whatever it is that Hammond based its actions on?"

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Side note: I dig the way Chicago notes a change in its post. Check it out. Though I also like this solution for more extensive edits:

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Also, not government, but . . .

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Finally, Eugene Volokh's analysis for the Washington Post is getting a lot of attenton. Volokh writes:

"Nor does any change in the playlist justify the police shutting down the event, when the objection to the change was the inclusion of someone whose viewpoint the city disapproves of."

But has he seen the contract?

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Bonus commentary:

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It's really depressing that lessons are seemingly never learned. We've been through this before - over and over. We read books about it in high school. We lived through the Tipper Gore hearings. Judas Priest was sued for allegedly inciting suicide. There are whole genres of white supremacy music. There is also "Sweet Home Alabama." There was Public Enemy. Jim Morrison. NWA. "Brown Sugar."

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People upset with Keef's lyrics sure don't listen to a lot of music.

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P.S.:

Memo to the media: He's not fucking running for mayor. Christ.

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Previously in Chief Keef:

* South Side 16-Year-Old Gets Shot, Blows Up.

* Rhymefest Vs. Chief Keef.

* Chief Keef's Deadly Rap War.

* More Shit Chief Keef Don't Like.

* Chief Keef Loves Soda, Ain't White.

* Chief Keef: Baller Of Confusion.

* Free Chief Keef!

* Save Chief Keef.

* Chief Keef: Psychedrillic.

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Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on July 29, 2015


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