Rhymefest From Battle Arena To Studio
Posted on January 20, 2006 by Jamie Slaughter
Lately there seems to be a diversity of fresh sounds blowing in from the windy city. From the head-nodding anthems of Kanye West to the corner stories of Common to rapid-fire delivery of Twista, the mid-west city of Chicago has been the motherland for a generation of premier rappers and producers that can compete with any other spot on the hip-hop map. Still, in order to stay at the zenith of their game, there has to be another brother chilling in the wings who can flow with the best and rock shows with the rest.
In 2005, that dude goes by the moniker Rhymefest. Best known around Chi-Town as the kind of battle cat who can make the competition squirm before even touching the mic, Rhymefest has built a solid rep as one of mightiest mouths in that gritty city. “I’m wacktose intolerant,” Rhymefest says. Yet, as the hulking brother proves on his major-label debut Blue Collar, this new kid on the hip-hop block has the skills to talk smack. “The entire concept behind my project is to fight the wackness that rap has become.”
As the co-writer and sample finder for Kanye West’s brilliant “Jesus Walks,” one could say that Rhymefest is on a mission from God. “I’m one of the only rappers to win a Grammy Award before recording my first major label release,” Rhymefest jokes, though he has been grinding on the scene since he was seventeen. “Now it’s time for me to bring my own thing to the table.” Not new to this, Rhymefest released his first true indie album Raw Dawg in 2001, which was mostly produced a then-unknown Kanye.
Having teamed-up with homeboy producer No-I.D., dj/producer Mark Ronson, whose label Allido Records has a distribution deal with J Records, the rest of the world will soon understand Rhymefest’s master (rap) plan. Known for being simultaneously witty and gritty, Rhymefest takes the best of old school humor from the Biz Markie school, militancy from a Public Enemy class and creates his own unique vocal persona. “There are enough people trying to be gangsters without me going that route,” Rhymefest explains. “What we need in hip-hop right now are rappers who are both truthful and entertaining.”
On his debut single “Brand New,” produced by Kanye West, the sharp-tongued rapper lays down his words over a delirious beat. “Kanye and I were in the studio, and he was playing me a few old beats,” Rhymefest remembers. “My joke was, ‘Yo, I can take an old beat and make it sound brand new.’ A few hours later, that was the song.”
While Blue Collar features collaborations with singers Mario (“All Girls Cheat”) and Carl Thomas (“L.S.D.”), it is the non-singing dazzle of the late Old Dirty Bastard on “Build Me Up” that will warm ones heart. “We all know that Dirty was a dope lyricist, but personally I though he was even more skillful at singing,” Rhymefest assures, though one can’t be sure if he’s joking or not.”
Produced by No-I.D., the song “Fever” is a scorching single that conjures images of all-day block parties on Beat Street, the dj jamming until the break of dusk and children spinning on smooth cardboard. With a bugged sample of a high-pitched Spanish chick singing the classic Peggy Lee penned torch song, Rhymefest smiles. “Hey, I really just wanted to write a track about how hot I am,” he says. “When I told No-I.D. the plan, and that was track he pulled from the magic hat.”
Opening with the sound of hardcore punk chaos, “Devil’s Pie” is a sleek sounding Mark Ronson produced song. Utilizing the catchy D’Angelo sample of the same name, Rhymefest uses the song to showcase the ills of the world. From being broke as a dog to brothers being shattered in the streets of Iraq to his own father being in jail, Rhymefest’s compelling narrative is more addictive than crack. “Tell Satan I don’t owe him a thing,” he spits.
Staying serious for a minute, the most heart-wrenching song on Blue Collar is the track “Sister.” Taking the listener in the desperate lives of “sisters” all over the world, Rhymefest talks about levels of abuse that many women suffer. Over a lounge piano riff, Rhymefest says firmly, “Can’t have trials without tribulations.”
Like a lost episode of Good Times or deleted scenes from Cooley High, this Southside native understands there is nothing wrong with hard work, a few jokes with your boys over brews, taking care of your kids and showing love to your lady. Indeed, it has taken a rapper like Rhymefest and a debut like Blue Collar to show a simple world just how complex a Black man can be.
Rhymefest audio can be found and listened to within our multimdeia section so be sure to check that out!
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