The year was 2012, the month was March and to me it was a normal day. I went to work and instead of working, I would normally talk rap with a few of my coworkers. The normal back and forth about what’s hot, what’s not, and who is up next. This one day in particular was different because for the first time, I was one of the people who was being put on to something new. My coworker “JB” told me about this young kid from Chicago that had the streets on lock and I should check him out. Now of course I was completely flabbergasted because I didn’t know who the kid was, so my response was “Word?!, Nah gotta check him out for myself and get back to you tomorrow, whats his name again?” A look of frustration came over JB’s face because he couldn’t remember his name. Then about 10 minutes later he screamed out “BACK FROM THE DEAD!”, “That’s the name of the mixtape, you can find it on DatPiff or just look for it on YouTube, you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
Needless to say that ringing endorsement was all I needed to get me excited about the prospect of new young artist that appeared to be taking the rap underground by storm. I rushed off the clock at work, turned my phone one and went straight to YouTube to get the full introduction. As soon as I typed in “Back From The Dead” I was blown away by the amount of views this kid and his crew had already amassed. An entire column of videos with astounding numbers for the time, They were already viral. No video had less than one million views with hundreds of comments. The kid was Chief Keef and the Crew was 300 or GBE as I would soon come to understand in the following weeks.
The most popular video that I viewed at that time was Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” and It was gaining in popularity. admittedly I was resistant because as a 25/26-year-old, all I saw was a young kid and not taking time to see what kind of impact he and the crew would go on to have. When I got home from work later that night, I continued my research and began to learn the names of the crew members and many of the names that were shout out in the song. Aside from the track’s lone feature that was Lil Reese, the other names that I learned were…Lil Durk, SD, Tadoe and Fredo Santana. It was something abrasive but appealing to the music, alarming but authentic. No it wasn’t the train wreck that some tried to make it out to be, but it was indeed a symptom of the socioeconomic issues that plagued many of our inner cities.
As the weeks and months went by, I began to notice something remarkable. I began to see kids from my hometown and the surrounding areas of Northern New Jersey emulate the other kids they saw on the internet from the mid-west. The slang, hand gestures, clothing, and even musical styles starting bubbling from my state. At first I was taken aback and became angry because I felt that we needed to carve out our own identity musically and mimicking another region would prove detrimental. The longer I looked though, I soon realized that it wasn’t just my state of New Jersey, but states like New York, Connecticut, various states in the south and the west were all doing the same thing. The influence of GBE was sweeping the country.
Everywhere I looked and listened I saw kids all grouped together screaming “Gang” or “Squad” along with the corresponding hand sign to differentiate the terms. Every neighborhood became a block named after someone who may have passed away or it may have become their “world” so to speak. Words like “Clout”, “Opps”, and “Savage” can all be directly attributed to the Glory Boyz. Others phrases like “In The Cut” and “Glo Up” also became a apart of the American lexicon. Even in the present day, you would be hard pressed to find a single person that doesn’t refer to anyone that is overzealous in any arena as a “thot”.
Unfortunately, much of this retrospection comes on the heels of the untimely death of Derrick Coleman other wise known as Fredo Santana. throughout this weekend, I saw the love pour in from many of the same places that he helped to influence. In a world where hot takes and hyperbole have become the new normal, somehow Fredo being labeled as a legend does not seem out-of-place. The truth of the matter is that for him, his family and friends, the label of legend is supremely fitting. Glo In Peace Fredo Santana.