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Anti-violence campaign draws criticism for rapper Chief Keef photo


A Chicago anti-violence campaign is being criticized for featuring a photo of a 17-year-old rapper who has had run-ins with the law over firearms – including a 2011 conviction for pointing a gun at a police officer.

The anti-violence group 500campaign posted a picture of the young rapper Chief Keef on its Instagram feed this week with the caption, “Angry because over 500 were murdered in Chicago.”

The image prompted an instant backlash from people who thought the rapper with often violent lyrics had no place in an anti-violence ad, with one commenter calling on Keef to "repent of his messages of murder and drugs."

But 500campaign founder Bryant Cross told NBC Chicago the image was appropriate. 

“Chief Keef and brothers like him are the ones we should be engaging,” said Cross, who posts pictures to his campaign's Instagram feed. “We have to be able to engage everyone, not just the people we like.”

Cross said the person who submitted the photo claimed Keef gave his approval.

Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, released his debut album "Finally Rich" through Interscope Records in 2012. Well-known rappers who make cameo appearances on the album include Young Jeezy and 50 Cent.

A month after the record's release, the teen was sentenced to 60 days in juvenile detention for violating probation on the 2011 conviction, after investigators found a music video showing him holding a rifle at a gun range, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I am a very good-hearted person,” the rapper told the judge at his sentencing, the Sun-Times reported. “I am sorry for anything that I have done wrong.”

Music site Pitchfork withdrew the video, saying that the production “was rushed and never should have happened,” citing the violence that led to 506 homicides in Chicago in 2012.

Cross, who created the 500campaign to draw attention to those deaths, said he is planning an anti-violence rally for June 10.

“There’s a depression out here, people are wondering what they can do,” Cross said. “I wanted to get people worked up so they at least feel like there’s something they can do to address the violence.”

Keef tweeted in December that his song "Love Sosa" would be included in the new video game Grand Theft Auto 5. The message was retweeted more than 11,700 times.

“Disrespect them O boys,” Keef raps in the song, “You won’t speak again boy.”