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The Block Beat is our award-winning multimedia series, in collaboration with the Chicago Reader, that roots Chicago musicians in places and neighborhoods that matter to them. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at our August 2019 episode with Katie Got Bandz explaining the origins of her iconic pistol-toting social-media meme.
Shot by Jiayan “Jenny” Shi
Edited by Lamar Johnson

Back in July 2011, before streaming numbers ruled the music world, a 22-year-old Chicago director named Duan “DGainz” Gaines dropped the music video for “Go in” by Pretty N Pink rapper Shady on YouTube. Gaines had already made a name for himself in the streets, producing songs and shooting guerilla-style music videos for some of the hottest drill records at the time: including Lil Durk’s “I’m a Hitta.”

But Gaines hadn’t worked with any of the emerging ladies in the drill scene yet. So when Shady and another Pretty N Pink member hit him up on Facebook, where they made and tagged Gaines in a video asking him to work with them, he invited the South Side female rap group to stop by his basement studio to make a song.

Shady was the only Pretty N Pink rapper who showed up.

“She came through and we shot an unofficial video in my basement,” Gaines said. “And then the following summer, I was, like, ‘Alright. Let’s do a real video for the song.’”

Gaines had no idea that Shady’s “Go In” video would become a defining moment in Chicago music history, one that would soon launch the career of the Queen of Drill, Katie Got Bandz, who made an appearance in the music video.

“I was known, when I first started rapping, for the girl who was toting the pistol in the video,” Katie told The TRiiBE. “I did that and then I came out with [my song], ‘I Need A Hitta.’”

In this edition of The Block Beat: Behind The Scenes, Katie Got Bandz tells us the story behind her iconic internet meme, born out of Shady’s “Go In” video, and the accompanying #BowBowChallenge. We also tapped Gaines to reflect on this moment in Black Chicago history.

Duan “DGainz” Gaines, 30: The first scene we did was in the park on East 39th Street and Cottage Grove. We gave the song [“Go In”] to some guy in a car. I remember him just turning it up, like, “Damn. This hard.” I just felt good. People don’t know. That’s actually me on the hook, saying, “Go In.” [Editor’s note: DGainz also made the beat for “Go In”]

Kiara “Katie Got Bandz” Johnson, 26: I [was] supporting an old friend. ‘Cause me and her had started rapping around the same time. 

DGainz: When Katie got in, we walked over to a parking lot by a school or something. And these guys were over there playing dice. So then this little girl started playing dice. I was really amazed because I had never seen a 12-year-old girl outside shooting dice with a group of guys. A lot of times, when I was shooting videos, I was probably just as amazed as everybody else was.

Katie Got Bandz: One of those guys had this little deuce-deuce [pistol]. And me and this other girl was going at it over the gun. 

DGainz: The part with the gun was just hilarious. Actually, these guys pulled out the gun. Then one of the girls was, like, “Let me see.” And the next girl was, like, “Nah. Let me see it.” They was, like, passing it around. I thought it was hilarious even though it was actually pretty messed up [that] a bunch of kids were out there with pistols.

Katie Got Bandz: It was so funny. And DGainz caught it. We literally was out there going at it over the little gun. I’m surprised it didn’t go off, ‘cause I was jumping up and down and pointing it. 

DGainz: The messed up part about that is I don’t even know if the gun was loaded. I was just in the moment because the gun wasn’t originally pulled out during the scene. It was all spontaneous. I was shooting and they pulled it out. I used to be on autopilot. That’s the only thing I can say about those times shooting those videos. I just think I really knew that God had my back.

Katie Got Bandz: Camera mans, they be in danger shooting videos with guns. 

Katie Got Bandz's cameo in Shady's "Go In" music video is a popular internet meme on social media today.

DGainz: That’s the biggest thing that people had misconstrued. And it’s on me, because I put it out the way I put it out. I guess I did a lot of stuff being impulsive. But I’m not into guns and stuff like that. The first video I shot for Chief Keef, “Aimed At You” (2011), we actually shot that video twice. The first one I shot, we shot it at nighttime and they had hella guns in the video. I called him the next day, or texted him, and I was, like, “We gotta reshoot that. I don’t wanna do it with the guns in there.” I think the other side of it was I knew the shock value it would cause, too. But it was real. This is really what’s going on. And I think that’s why people probably was the most shocked by everything. But, nah. None of this is staged.

Katie Got Bandz: I was known, when I first started rapping, for the girl who was toting the pistol in the video. I did that and then I came out with “I Need A Hitta.”

DGainz: That whole moment inspired her [Katie]. Her seeing the girls in the same neighborhood as her, the same girls she hang out with. She looking, like, “These bitches rappers? I can do that, too.” Like, why not? I think it [the “Go In” video] did a lot for a lot of people. I think it made a lot of girls want to rap after that. 

Katie Got Bandz: I paved the way for females to start toting pistols and start talking this street shit from my generation. A lot of people give me respect but the people who ain’t, I’m coming for it and I’m gon apply pressure. By any means. 

DGainz: Pretty N Pink don’t get a lot of credit. Katie, Pretty N Pink and Sasha Go Hard, I feel, like, they paved the way for what these girls — the Asian Dolls, the Cuban Dolls and Megan the Stallions — are doing now. They paved the way for a woman to be more aggressive without it being all the way sexed up. 

Katie Got Bandz: The #BowBowChallenge, people DM me them videos. They email me videos. I still post them but it be so many.

Chicago music-video director, DGainz | Photo by Keeley (@delilahmind)

DGainz: The meme is just, like, damn. I got my own meme out there. It’s bittersweet because of what the meme is, a girl with a pistol. I don’t really wanna praise anything like that but it’s dope that one of my moments, people can take it and use it as a joke and make it lighthearted in a way.

Katie Got Bandz: People be doing ‘em with real guns. So I be skeptical about posting that. 

DGainz: Honestly, I don’t remember the first time I seen it as a meme but I remember when I seen it, I didn’t even know it was a popular meme. I didn’t realize how popular the meme was until, like, last year. 

Katie Got Bandz: I love the meme. I want a new one. I’m tired of that one but it never gets old ‘cause even when people do the little memes, they’ll put another quote on it and it still feel like it just happened yesterday. I love it.

Visit chicagoreader.com to watch the full episode of The Block Beat with Katie Got Bandz.