Documentary Review: Chiraq

By Matthew Jordan

Drill music is a style of gangster rap originating from young Chicago rappers and producers, mainly from the south side. Becoming the most prominent contemporary facets of Chicago hip hop, it is defined by its dark, grim, violent lyrical content and ominous trap-influenced beats. It is also characterized by dark synths and violent storytelling, which gained the attention of major record labels and local law enforcement. Currently, the Chicago police department has banned the city’s most popular drill artists from performing in Chicago due to increased violence and gang tension.

In 2012, the music genre gained its popularity through Chicago’s most popular drill artists today, known as Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and Lil Reese. The violence that is circling around Chicago’s south side is not being blamed by the projects/urban areas or the guns, but the message in the music that is being released. The name “Chiraq” is a term used by the drill artists or the gang members because there are more deaths occurring in Chicago’s south side then deaths that occurred in Iraq. The documentary was made to bring awareness to the American public and the political figures to try to help stop the violence that is occurring.  

We start out by hearing a poem from one of Chicago’s activists who explains what the life of a teenager is like. 15-year-old kids carrying guns, no parental figures around, no electricity or food in the house, but most importantly, no opportunities. Welcome to Chiraq. We follow a host named Zach Goldbaum where he meets up with a number of artists and explains their point on the genre of drill.

Teenagers and drill artists from Chicago refer to their city as Chiraq because to them, it’s a warzone. The city is extremely segregated not only through race but also by social status. The documentary first follows the drill artist Chief Keef. Chief is an artist who had his rise to stardom in 2012 when he was placed under house arrest in his grandmother’s house. He shot a number of music videos there, but his most popular, “Don’t Like”, gained the most recognition. This video led to his fame and stardom made his name worth an estimated $6 million. Despite his rise in stardom, he was mostly criticized for glorifying violence; he was a teenager with a lengthy rap sheet and all he talked about was guns, people he did not like, and killings at a time when Chicago was the murder capital of the United States. One of his most outspoken critics is Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger, a priest and social activist on the southside of Chicago. He explains that he understands that Keef has changed, but he doesn’t understand why Keef still raps about the guns and violence in Chicago when is away from the violence, living in his California mansion, and trying to spread a positive message to the city.

Goldbaum meets up with many other individuals in the documentary, and they all discuss how their city has no order. There is a lack of resources and hopelessness. They receive phone calls about friends being shot and killed just minutes after they had spent time with them.

Although there are multiple gang wars going on, one gang named the Black Disciples have actually stopped their gang and turned it to a positive message, spreading the Stop the Violence campaign. Renaming their gang to OTF (Only the Family), they want to spread that each and every one of us are brothers and sisters. A major contributor to this movement is Lil Durk, a drill artist from Englewood in southside Chicago. He explains in the interview he had with Goldbaum that he doesn’t want to end up like his father, who has been incarcerated since Durk was only seven years old. He would like to be a better father to his children than his father was to him.

Throughout this documentary, I was extremely shocked at how life is in the southside of Chicago. When you hear a 12-year-old boy describing how he is having the time of his life because he doesn’t have to worry about getting shot while playing basketball at the park, it hurts and really puts your life into perspective. I highly encourage everyone to watch this documentary just to get a glimpse of what a southside Chicago native’s reality is like compared to ours. Overall, I give this documentary a 5 out of 5 on the Mat Jordan Fire Fuego Chart. 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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