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"The haters tryna see a mf Dwn lol Dey gotta b broke and bored wanna upload sum sh— from years ago damnn we winnin it's 2 late...#3hunna," he wrote. "Dis wat doin betta den da next mf bring small s—- it's nothin time 2 turn Uppp f—- it...#3hunna."
I first caught the video late last night when "Lil Reese" began trending on Twitter, along with "Chief Keef" and "GBE" (that is, Glory Boyz Entertainment, Keef's crew), and I watched the clip on infamous rap-video site WorldStarHipHop, which added its own logo to it. I had trouble sleeping afterward. Toward the end of the video, during the worst of the violence, you can hear a woman's shrill cries of "wait"—those will stick with me for a long while. I had an equally difficult time figuring out how to approach the entire issue. A lot of the coverage of Chief Keef and his crew has provoked complaints that it's "celebrating" these artists, but there's a difference between glorifying someone and reporting on him. Music journalists are obligated to keep up with important trends, stories, and people in the music world. Lil Reese and GBE have their critics, but the fact is, they're important—in large part because of the huge base of support they built for their music before anyone outside Chicago knew who they were. They've become one of the biggest music stories of 2012, in Chicago and elsewhere.
In my recent B Side cover feature on Chief Keef, I wrote that the rapper has become a symbol for Chicago (or at least part of it), whether or not anyone wanted that to happen, and to an extent that's also true of Lil Reese and the rest of GBE. This has encouraged the public to take a one-dimensional view of Reese, Keef, and GBE, which is mostly informed by their violent lyrics. With the Lil Reese video making the rounds, I've seen plenty of people suggest that it's a reflection of the city—and with almost no context for the clip, there's little to keep that kind of a knee-jerk response from proliferating.
It's unfortunate to have to remind people that violence happens everywhere, and that it's not just a product of hip-hop that they don't like. But the reactions to this video suggest that the point needs making. In August Pitchfork reported that Surfer Blood front man John Paul Pitts had been arrested for domestic battery, and no one implicated lame indie-rock in Pitts's actions. If Lil Reese did in fact commit the assault the video appears to show, he may yet have to face the consequences—and he should. But even if he's guilty, that's no excuse to extend that guilt by association to an entire community.