Top aide to Russell Simmons to meet with embattled rapper Chief Keef
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org October 11, 2012 1:44PM
In this photograph taken by AP Images for GivingBack Fund, Producer Russell Simmons at the "Big Game Big Give" fundraiser hosted by Dewar's Signature benefitting The Giving Back Fund during Super Bowl weekend on February 6, 2010 in Miami, FL. (Casey Rodgers / AP Images for GivingBack Fund)
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:26AM
The top political adviser to hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons said he planned to meet embattled Chicago rapper Chief Keef on Thursday to deliver a message that he should use his voice in a positive way.
Michael Skolnik, who appeared at a panel discussion on gun violence for Chicago Ideas Week, said he and Simmons see Chief Keef as a reflection of the dangerous community where he lives.
“I want to listen to him,” said Skolnik, who arrived here from New York on Thursday morning.
“Russell has always encouraged — and I have as well — any person with celebrity to use it for the positive, because that’s the greatest gift you have, right?”
Simmons was the co-founder of the groundbreaking hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings in 1984, and his net worth is estimated at more than $340 million from a variety of business interests.
The 17-year-old Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, drew national attention last month when his name became embroiled in the Chicago Police Department’s investigation into the Sept. 4 murder of an aspiring Chicago rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, 18.
Coleman was a reputed member of the Gangster Disciples and posted a rap disrespecting the Black Disciples street gang. Chief Keef has shown an allegiance to the Black Disciples in his Twitter messages and music.
Members of Keef’s encourage were feuding online with Coleman for months before his slaying.
Hours after Coleman’s fatal drive-by shooting in Englewood, Keef’s Twitter account carried a message that included the hashtag #LMAO, mocking his death. The acronym stands for laughing my ass off.
Later, Twitter messages from the same account denied that Chief Keef sent the message, saying his account was hacked. Another said: “My prayers go out 2 Jojo’s family on their loss.”
Then the rapper 50 Cent took to the radio airwaves last month to defend Chief Keef. They share the same label, Interscope Records.
Police sources have said detectives were investigating any possible connections between Chief Keef and Coleman’s murder, but the police have not accused Chief Keef of any criminal wrongdoing in the case. The investigation is continuing.
The saga has captured the attention of music writers and rap fans around the world. Many of Chief Keef’s fans turned against him after the Twitter message was exposed.
On Sunday, the New York Times featured a story about Chief Keef’s place in the hip-hop world, calling his work “raw, difficult-to-consume stuff” from one of the genre’s “most promising stars.”
Skolnik acknowledged he’s not comfortable with everything he’s seen from Chief Keef.
“Do I like guns?” Skolnik said. “No. I have never picked up a gun in my life. Do I like that Chief Keef has photographs of him with guns? Not necessarily. But he is a reflection of young people’s reality — and that is why young people listen to him.”
Chief Keef gained notoriety last year after he was arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at a police officer.
Skolnik stressed that he and Simmons have no business interest in Chief Keef. Simmons, 55, is now out of the music business, Skolnik said.