Last year the city of Chicago reigned supreme in not only social media but in the news headlines. Art imitated reality as the city’s Drill scene blew up, and so did the seemingly never ending mayhem in the streets. Through it all, 17-year old MC Chief Keef, whose urban legend often overshadowed his own musical output (no matter how polarizing it was), broke through and earned a lucrative deal with Interscope Records in mid 2012 .
However, the man who was behind it all, Keef’s manager Rovan “Dro” Manuel — quickly saw things spiral out of control a few weeks ago. Keef, still a minor, was sentenced to 60 days in a juvenile correctional facility for a parole violation stemming from a now infamous video on Pitchfork where he’s seen shooting guns at a shooting range. Dro and Keef’s empire is now at a standstill as rumors and more questions loom. APlus (@a_plus) speaks with Dro about the state of Chicago, that infamous Pitchfork video and more below:
A PLUS: What is the biggest misconception people have about Chief Keef?
DRO: That he’s a bad person, I guess, in the eyes of the Chicago [Police Department]. He’s not the first to put reality-based lyrics [in his music], as far as like talking about what’s going on in the inner-city for real. I think that it’s kinda messed up that they wanna blame him for all the murders, all the crime and all this other stuff that’s going on in Chicago. Keef is a minor. You can look back 18 years in the same neighborhoods where he was growing up and see that they were doing the same damn thing, know what I mean?
I read the Complex feature David Drake wrote where GBE management team member Peeda was quoted saying, “The final decision is always going to be Keef’s.” Do you agree?
Chief Keef has a team. He has a team of people that help him with decisions. But in this day and age, we believe like Whitney Houston said, “I believe the children are our future.” So we, as a team, let Keef make some decisions on his own. Sometimes you gotta let kids learn the hard way or get burned sometimes before they can wake up and smell the coffee. I think Keef makes some pretty good decisions, you know? He’s the youngest label owner in history, I believe. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
He’s got a lot of stuff he needs to learn. It’s not like he came from a neighborhood where it’s 90-percent Jewish and schools are teaching him this-and-that. He didn’t come from that.
Speaking of his neighborhood Englewood, are there any programs in place that helps at-risk youth?
Nah. Chicago hasn’t paid attention to Englewood since they thought they were getting the Olympics. That’s when they brought it out to the public like, “there’s all these murders happening in Englewood everyday,” and that kinda backfired on them. Whoever was in charge of the Olympics was like, “why would we bring the Olympics there if there’s so much violence?” After that, they haven’t brought it back up until Chief Keef.
So after the bid was unsuccessful, they once again turned a blind eye to the situation.
Exactly. And that’s what makes me upset. And all of the other rappers that come from Chicago, they know that. They act like they don’t know that, but they know that. These problems have gone on here for a long time.
When I think of Chicago Hip-Hop, I think Common, Kanye and Lupe and on a street level, Bump J. To me, it seems like they were trying to hide those problems from us.
The streets of Chicago is nothing like what they were saying it was like. You couldn’t find two people on the South Side or where they’re from that can really actually say that they grew up like that. Like Lupe’s first single…what was his first single?
Yeah. You tell me one person on the West Side of Chicago in the hood that’s riding around on a skateboard. That’s not happening. No disrespect to Lupe, but you know, let’s keep it real and that’s what Keef’s all about, keeping it real. That’s not what the streets are like in Chicago. You know that, because you know about how many murders is going on here. These little kids are not playing with skateboards, they’re playing with guns. And now that we have someone that’s talking about it, maybe more people will look at it and maybe we can do something to fix the problem, instead of just pushing it under the rug and going about our business.
So what exactly happened on the day Chief Keef was scheduled to fly to Las Vegas to shoot the “Hate Being Sober” video?
Aww man. I don’t know exactly what happened with that. The label hooked it up and they set it up with Keef and they didn’t set it up with Keef’s team. So, when it came time to fly out, he missed the first flight. Then he missed the second one. And then it was just like, you know, “Well we gonna come do it at another date, if that’s fine with you.” [Laughs.] It was nothing other than that, you know, all the rumors…
It was miscommunication.
Yeah, miscommunication. And a lot of people in the game looked at videos and do videos a lot different than we do. We just wake up one day and just feel like doing a video and we do it. Not you know, “We’re gonna do this on the 17th of this month, and we’re gonna do it at this time, and we’re gonna” — we haven’t shot videos like that. That’s not how we do it. It’s like, “Call up D. Gainz or call up such-and-such, let’s shoot something today.” We wasn’t ready to shoot nothing, we wasn’t in that mood, you know what I mean?
A lot of people say, “Why are all of Keef’s videos shot in his crib?” If something’s working for you, why would you change it?
Exactly. And now you see–well, I see, I don’t know if people notice it–there’s sprinkles of that style of videos in everybody’s music videos now. Everybody’s shooting videos in the kitchen with the cabinets open and looking like they shot it with a [Canon] 7D or 5D. I’m not gonna mention no names, but I see a lot of people doing that now, putting that sprinkle in their game.
What’s next for GBE? Are we getting a GBE album soon?
It’s done. We got a whole bunch of albums done. We got Ballout coming up, we got Tray Savage coming up, we got Gino Marley, you know we got Fredo. The GBE album is done. We got it mixed by our man Yah who mixes all our joints. We’re gonna talk to the label and see what they wanna do and if [they don't want to release it], we’ll do it the way we do us.
Is it true that if Keef doesn’t sell 250,000 copies of Finally Rich, Interscope has the option to drop the contract?
I’d imagine they would have some kind of clause like that, but with us doing what we did without promotions, videos, nothing, we’ve already sold 170, 180 [thousand copies] and we have until December. So, I’m not worried about that, no one’s worried about that. We’re gonna beat that with our eyes closed without doing anything.
Do you think Pitchfork is the reason Keef is locked up right now?
Pitchfork and whoever set that interview up, not saying any names, but yeah. I think so.
Did they have any understanding of Keef’s probation?
I don’t know what they had when they booked that or whatever, but I’m pretty sure they did. You can’t cry over spilled milk, you gotta roll with the punches.
How do you think Keef will act when he comes home? Will he have a better frame of mind, more focused and more aware of what’s going on?
I think he [will]. I got a message from him that he’s had a wake-up call. This is a wake-up call for him. It wasn’t even his fault that it happened, but it happened. I think he’s gonna come out a different person. I think he’s gonna come out with some new music, a new attitude…he’s gonna get out and do some shows, and hopefully go up the charts. And shoot the video for “Hate Being Sober.”