• Ibe Bey

ALBUM REVIEW: Chief Keef, 4NEM

Updated: Feb 18

Grade: B+

A couple weeks ago one of the best rap albums of the year was sneakily released by none other than the notorious Chief Keef; the pioneer of drill music and a living legend at only 26. 4NEM is technically Sosa’s fourth studio album since his 2017 release, Dedication. 4NEM came out at an interesting time, since the last two years have been really big for drill music. We saw the rise of New York and UK drill scenes in 2020, and 2021 proved to be a big year for Chicago drill, with Lil Durk becoming one of the biggest rap artists of the year on a mainstream level. However, if we look back just 10 years (it’s weird as fuck writing this), drill barely even existed and music was a completely different landscape. That was, until, a young 16 year old from the Parkway Gardens housing project would change music forever. 4NEM is a love letter to this era, with Sosa returning to the sound he invented, and showing us that no one else does it better.


Drill has gone through a number of evolutions since Sosa and Young Chop changed rap. We first had drill in its most raw and nihilistic form, reflecting the brutality and sadness of everyday life in Chicago’s trenches. It turned out that this sound actually captured what life was like in a lot of the hoods in the US, and soon Chief Keef blew up along with tracks like “Love Sosa”, and “Don’t Like''. However, it would be a long time before the industry would catch up to this wave. Fast forward to now, and drill is the most dominant sound in hip hop if not all of modern music. With this growth, the sound of the genre has been changed and in some cases, distilled, to the point where people consider almost anything with trap drums to be a kind of drill.


I mention the modern quality of drill music because 4NEM doesn’t give a shit about any of that. This album feels like it could have easily been released in 2012. The horns, the wild hi-hats, the massive bass, the hilarious punk attitude, it’s all present. Sosa has linked up with his old producers like Hollywood J, and Basskid, giving each track that wide, authentic drill sound. The horns are menacing and sit up high in the register, giving it a kind of perfect artificial feeling, and letting us focus on the even higher hi-hats, with the snare and Sosa’s voice sitting right in the middle. It's a classic drill sound, and stands out so much from the muddy, bass heavy beats we’re used to today. I love when a risk pays off.


Damn near every song on this record is either notable or just straight up fire. Just going in order you have an amazing opening run starting with “Bitch Where”, an E T H E R E A L track that truly feels like a celebration. Backed by a beautiful horn/synth combo, Sosa raps, “Made it out the Chi, if I didn’t, wouldn’t see today / It’s a setback, everytime I see the cage / You got warfare? If you do then we can play / It got real dark, I’m like bro I see the way.” There’s no drums, just Chief Keef almost acapella style for a rap song, reflecting on how far he has come. The phrasing of these bars are also amazing and so unique. I could go on and on about this one song, but there’s an amazing drop about halfway through that gives me chills. And the tag at the end? *chefs kiss*. The mixing on this entire album is insane too. “Bitch Where” then perfectly transitions to “Tuxedo”, a classic Sosa drill vibe with one of the best beats on the album and a feature from Glo Gang affiliate Tadeo. The next track, “See Through”, produced by Basskid, is a genius beat, with another super long build up to a smooth ass drop. I love how raw Sosa is here, “I got problems I don’t wanna fix, but I need to / When you broke who fucking cares? When you rich they need you!” The next track “Say I Ain’t Pick Yo Weak Ass Up,” is another amazing beat, this time more traditional but the bars here are nonstop and the energy is amazing and Sosa’s adlibs here are fucking amazing. “Like It's Yo Job” actually grew on me a lot. At first I just thought of it as another Three 6 cover, which it sort of is, but Sosa is just so damn funny and ignorant here, it's perfect and really matches the energy of the original. “Ice Cream Man” was the next track and I mention it because it honestly just sucks. It’s Sosa crooning with some of the weirdest background singing I’ve heard and ultimately a big miss. The next song, “Wazzup”. feels like a much better attempt at this and is actually catchy. Next we have “the Talk'', which I think is the best song on the album and one of the best songs Sosa’s made in a while. We missed this when it dropped a few months ago, so our bad, but holy shit is this song amazing. Where do I start? The beat? Amazing. Fire. Big fucking bass, simple, and menacing. The bars? Bro... The fucking bars! Like just listen to this track. I feel so dumb even trying to put into words how dope it is. Just go listen to it, and you will understand what I am saying. That’s about half of the album right there. There’s more good songs and a couple of flops, but this is definitely the climax of the record in my eyes. The only time we reach a similar peak is “Hadouken”. It’s definitely a front heavy album but the tracks on the back end are sleepers that will definitely be seen as good in the future.


If you made it this far, you're probably a Sosa fan, and therefore aware of the tribulations in Chief Keef’s career that has resulted in him being a less popular name than he was before. However, you’re also aware that Sosa does what he wants, and is always on his own wave, so can we really even call it falling off? Regardless, Sosa has come back with something that is truly for the fans. For years, people have been begging him in comment sections and Reddit threads to bring back that old Sosa. 4NEM feels like his answer to this, but in typical Sosa fashion, on his own time and at his own pace. I’m really grateful for this record and I hope it’s the start of a new run for the O Block legend.