Valentine's Day

Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” Is Truly the Great Romantic Ballad of a Generation

It's not only because it has "Love" in the title, though that helps.

by Phil Witmer
15 February 2017, 8:49am

"Today I begin to understand what love must be, if it exists... When we are parted, we each feel the lack of the other half of ourselves. We are incomplete like a book in two volumes of which the first has been lost. That is what I imagine love to be: incompleteness in absence." – Edmond De Goncourt

"I don't know her name but I want her brain
Bitch so bad should've seen her whole frame
I just spun out in a new Range, in her mouth, I just came"
– King Louie, "My Hoes They Do Drugs"

The Romantic-era poet William Blake once wrote that "Those who control their passions do so because their passions are weak enough to be controlled." Almost a century later, an individual in a WorldStar video (RIP Q) would be captured professing these equally powerful words. That this speech became a mere prelude to Chief Keef's "Love Sosa" already speaks volumes on the kind of totem that this 2012 Chicago drill classic has become in the annals of true romance. When the man in the passenger seat threatens to beat the asses of those who don't believe Chief Keef is about that life, we feel his frustration, but also his utmost pride and loyalty to Glo Gang. And that's sort of what "Love Sosa" is about, yes, but above all else, the song's true form is a ballad, one that summarises better than any other what romance and love mean to this generation.

Let's start with the production. Largely droning on a resolutely badass B-minor chord, with an occasional stop by a G-major for flavour and also that reliable vi to IV harmonic movement, Young Chop's beat for "Love Sosa" is one of the producer's masterworks. Its dramatic minor key hearkens back to not only the great flamenco ballads of the Andalusian steppes, but also the elegiac fado music of Portugal. Just take in Carlos do Carmo's "Lisboa, menina e moça" as an example. Listen to do Carmo's dulcet tones, the trot of the guitarra portuguesa, the longing lilt of the strings. Now imagine that but it's arranged by an alternate universe Hans Zimmer who was not only cloned from Max Steiner's nose hairs but is also really good at FL Studio and lives in South Chicago. That's what this song feels like and it's still only one iota of what makes "Love Sosa" a romantic's dream song. Much of the remainder lies in the troubadour who performs it.

Chief Keef is an emotional boy. He feels a lot of things, from exuberance to betrayal to bravado to placidity to regret. That doesn't make him special, but it does make him valuable. Whereas other rappers would pivot between braggadocious and rueful from song-to-song, Keef explores all manner of moods within the confines of a seemingly one-note concept. Mostly, "Love Sosa" concerns the universal adoration of Keef by his haters and random women. But it's not just loyalty and sexual desire here. "God, y'all some broke boys" doesn't sound as though Keef is just scoffing at everyone who isn't GBE, he's actively disappointed at the fate of his rivals. They could have been as adored as he is, but they're not. How tragic. Drake said it best that "jealousy is just love and hate at the same time." In "Love Sosa," love surpasses sex, romance, and friendship to reach that hallowed ground: mutual hate-following, a relationship truer and more unbreakable than any other.

Just as true is how it's the song's now-iconic video that lets "Love Sosa" soar to the heights reached by the great balladeers of history. How high is that, you ask? 300. No unit of measurement, just… 300. Anyways, the story behind the video. D Gainz, the unofficial videographer of the Chicago drill scene in its heyday, had grown distant from Keef in the weeks leading up to the release of "Love Sosa," citing the rapper's busy schedule and his possible involvement with the murder of Lil JoJo. Yet, Gainz was so taken by the song ("When I heard it, it was so catchy," he told Complex, "I can't even lie, the shit [was] so raw.") that he posted a Facebook status about it that somehow summoned a phone call from Keef a few weeks later. That spontaneity, borne out of genuine lust for a piece of music, is felt in the final product, as well as the bond that Keef and the other Glo Boys share with each other. In the present, GBE has become less tight-knit, but this video remains as a testament to this one-time allegiance of love. And that's the gooey centre of "Love Sosa." The roughest romance of all is what we share with our real friends and the pain of their subsequent absence. Maybe the real glory was the boys we met along the way.

Romanticism can be defined as the prioritisation of emotional expression in art over nearly everything else. The Romantic painters of the late 19th century used shadow-swept landscapes and heroic figures, while Russian Romantic composers defied conventional notions of harmony and rhythm in their pieces, so intense were the feelings they sought to convey. Understandably, the movement died out because the 20th century gradually showed that human society is terrible and it became necessary to communicate that ordinary ugliness to audiences. Much like the Platonic "man" of Twitter, one can do both. "Love Sosa" is the product of both a tough, hellish lifestyle and the need to make that life into something outsized, an ode to passions of all strata. It's also a deceitful, petty song that's perfect for a "holiday" that's triply so. Today is Valentine's Day, and lots of poor decisions are about to be made by many people. The best choice you can make is to put this song on and revel in whatever it makes you feel. Meet your own llama, if you'd like.

Art by John Garrison.
Phil will one day find the Rimsky-Korsakov of rap. He's on Twitter.