Social media fueling Chicago gang wars
Reach of online presence has violence spreading far beyond traditional gang 'turf' boundaries, police monitoring of social sites critical to stemming flow
By Ben Austin
CHICAGO — Just about any teenager in Chicago today can tell you the story of Chief Keef and Lil JoJo, two rappers from the South Side neighborhood of Englewood whose songs serve as anthems for their rival gangs. Keef, an 18-year-old whose real name is Keith Cozart, is the most successful of the city’s emerging “drill” sound rappers (named after a slang term for shooting someone). Last year, while under house arrest for aiming a gun at a police officer, Cozart uploaded some videos to YouTube that eventually landed him an estimated $6 million deal with Interscope Records. The title of one of his early hits, “3hunna,” is a nickname for the Black Disciples gang, and in the song he maligns the Tooka gang, a crew affiliated with the enemy Gangster Disciples.
“F***** Tooka gang, bitch, I’m 3hunna,” he chants. Last spring, Joseph Coleman, then a baby-faced 18-year-old calling himself Lil JoJo, responded to Chief Keef’s musical provocations with his own uploaded song that included the hook “N***** claim 300 but we BDK,” that is, Black Disciples Killers. In his “3HUNNAK,” Coleman also threatened to shoot a member of Chief Keef’s clique, and the video—which quickly captured close to a million views on YouTube—consists mostly of a throng of guys jostling into the frame, pointing an arsenal of firearms at the camera. This touched off an online war between the two rappers that lasted for weeks, and young Chicagoans followed in real time as it escalated.
On September 4, 2012, Lil JoJo drove down Black Disciples’ block, a few streets from his own. He posted video footage to his Twitter account in which he shouts profanities at someone he passes who clearly shouts back, “I’ma kill you.” That same afternoon, amid a flurry of broadside taunts fired off on social media by each side, Coleman tweeted, “lmao im on 069 Stop The F****** flexin.” A little while later, while riding on the back pegs of a friend’s bicycle, JoJo was shot and killed on the 6900 block of South Princeton Avenue. Soon thereafter, a pair of comments appeared on Chief Keef’s Twitter account.