Walking into Chief Keef’s home is more like walking into a Chief Keef shrine. The young rapper’s mini-mansion hidden in the more north part of the Los Angeles valley is filled top-to-bottom with portraits, paintings and landscapes all showcasing the rapper—there was once Alexander the Great, and now there is Chief Keef.
Behind every great ruler, is his PR firm, or in this case, Bill da Butcher, the rapper’s nearly in-house fine artist from Southern California who has literally transformed Sosa’s image. Have you met Sosa Montana? 007 Sosa? The United States of GLOmerica?
Sleepless nights and extended days have brought Sosa and Bill the Butcher together to collaborate on over 20 pieces, and without Keef’s curation and Bill’s technique, this book—as well as Keef’s new found purpose—wouldn’t have been possible.
So before we get into Chief Keef, you’re Bill the Butcher, that’s gotta have something to do with Gangs of New York right?
I watched that flick ages ago…part of it and I thought initially it was kind of corny and so I went back to it and was like wait a minute thought the characters were kind of cool. Bill the Butcher is fuckin’ badass.
Did you ever think that Bill da Butcher would get into hip-hop?
No. That was not something I expected. I was actually doing a lot more realism and surf art and things like that cause I grew up surfing and that whole culture. I had an art show in Orange County and Newport Beach and a recording engineer saw my stuff and wanted to purchase some of my stuff and that led one thing to another…
That’s how you met Keef?
Yeah. Sosa wanted me to dial him in with some cool stuff so I did a couple of quick sketches for him and he liked it right off the bat. Then I did my first painting of him. It’s basically his Glo Man with a brick wall and I made it all 3D so it looks like its receding into the brick and I looked up some Southside tags and just threw in some graffiti—thought would kind of remind him of being back there. It’s now hanging over his bed. Then he said, “Hey I want to fill my house with your work! Every wall is your wall, it’s all you. I love your work, everything you do is exactly what I like, just go!”
It’s cool to see it develop painting him as the characters he idolizes, like Tony Montana. Now recently we’ve gotten into modern street art. A clash between say Picasso and street art; pulling those two flavors together. He said, “That’s exactly the style I wanted to go with from the get-go, I just didn’t know how to describe it to you but you’ve hit it, I want to do everything along those lines with that whole sort of cubist modern, kind-of streetwear, spin on it.”
Yeah there’s a cartoonist aspect too it which is great. The bloodshot eyes are such a great detail.
He loves the cartoon comic type style of things. I’ve done drawings for him that are dialed in, totally realistic proportionally, drawing all the little creases in the dreads and all the shading then show him like, “I just knocked out a really nice portrait of you!” Then he says, “That’s cool but what about this…?” He really just wants something much more cartoony, a comic. That’s what he’s drawn to.
Do you listen to his music?
Yeah. I listen to it a lot when I’m working. It kind of gets me into that zone where I’m hearing all the noises, all the sounds, all the symbols; all the pop of words. The harshness of the lyrics and all that, kind of gets that energy into what I’m doing. It definitely comes out in the work and its nice cause it ties everything together when you’re listening.
Is it easier to do work here as opposed to at home or in your own studio?
Yes and no. If I sit down in my home which is where I would work, it works but I have life going on there too; there are distractions that happen. Yesterday was amazing cause I came up at 3:30 p.m. and I didn’t leave until about 1:30 a.m. in the morning and I took one break. I was just working on this piece the whole time and it was great, uninterrupted time. We just hung out and talked. He would come out and be like, “Hey what do you think about this? What do you think of that? I like this,” you know, bounce ideas. Which is nice cause I’m here with him and it makes the process very organic. I have to kind of be embedded in the environment if I want a more authentic turnout—I’m directly influenced by the environment.
Painting here at Keef’s means he’s kind of curating the whole thing.
Yeah, definitely. There will be times when he says go with this or go with that, or I want to see this. Sometimes I’ll be hesitant but then when I do it, I see where he’s coming from.
He has a vision and it’s followed through.
He’s definitely got a creative mind. He sees how he wants it to look. The big piece over his bed started out with the original drawing; it was one navy ship with him, the Glo Gang anchor, and different colors of yellow. He was holding an AK in one hand and an Uzi in the other with his name ‘Chief Keef’ up above. He was like, “Ok cool I want it to fill the whole wall.” So I’m thinking yellows, whites, and all that but he had said he wanted the boat pink, “Pink is my favorite color, pink, I want it pink.”
Do you have a favorite piece?
I don’t know, it’s funny because I’ll do a piece and I’ll sit on it and I’ll think to myself I really like how that piece came out and it’ll sort of be my momentary favorite then I’ll do another one and that one becomes my favorite. I like the Full Metal Jacket/Keef Soldier one that I just did.
That Haters Gonna Hate piece, I’m really stoked about, I like the Bang 3 because it was big, that one really challenged me to step into the whole thing. It was a stepping stone piece for me. I had done a couple small pieces for him before, but they really weren’t outside my comfort zone. He said he wanted to do Bang 3 and I was thinking oh shit I have something to adhere to, its gotta look dialed in, but I still gotta bring my own thing to it. The size of it and everything, working with different materials and the medium was a big thing for me. I think it came out really well and I’m pleased.