A jack of all trades and a master of many is just one way to describe Chicago born Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Ask him about “Bush-enomics”, No Child Left Behind, and AIDS in the black community and a host of other socio-economic questions that seem to elude the hip-hop nation’s rappers whose educating us which way to lean or rock. To be bored with small talk of jewels and what brand of clothes he’s rocking is an understatement. Realize you’re in the presence of a man of substance and truth.
Before anyone really knew who Rhymefest was, he’d already began making room on his trophy case with his first Grammy Award for co-writing Jesus Walks with fellow Chi-town friend Kanye West. Now, with the summer release of his debut album Blue Collar, Rhymefest has been blowing up the hip hop scene with wise cracking cheap shots and brutal honesty aimed at stereotypical and fake artist who claim to keep it real. CRUNK Magazine sat down with Rhymefest in Atlanta’s Tabernacle after a show that had the fans going 100 miles per hour and ultimately fighting over a pair of autographed sneakers that he flung into the audience once he was done ripping the stage in them. Rhymefest is on tour with A Tribe Called Quest for the 2nd Annual 2K Sports Bounce Tour, which brings together hip-hop, sports and video game enthusiasts alike.
CRUNK: Has the road been a hard one for you? This is your debut album, but you’ve been around for a while now. You’re no spring chicken.
Rhymefest: Whatever you tell God you want to do, you’ll be tried and tested. You don’t know what your trial or test will be, but it will be bigger than what you were doing before….I’ve been tested. My patience, faith, endurance, health and my spirit has been tested.
CRUNK: You’re not a young dude. What can we get from you at your age that people will want to hear?
Rhymefest: A lot of young rappers aren’t very good. They don’t have enough wisdom to pull it off. If you’re 28 in hip hop, you’re old. It’s about maturity and immaturity, ignorance and wisdom and spirituality. I’m 29 and I’m not old. I have music that appeals to everyone. It has something that hip hop is not packing. Spirituality.
CRUNK: Lots of people are looking for music of relevance. Those kinds of songs seem to be the ones that last over time unlike the songs that take advantage of a temporary phase. How is Blue Collar relevant?
Rhymefest: God delivers me messages and I deliver them to the people. I am a vessel. When Kanye and I wrote Jesus Walks, we were being used to deliver that.
CRUNK: Speaking of Jesus Walks, were you nervous or afraid that that type of song wouldn’t catch on or the industry wouldn’t feel that type of song?
Rhymefest: I’m not under the nigga burden or the hood burden. I realize rappers are the new preaches…are the new civil rights leaders. We direct the climate of the community. We are supposed to make music that is the theme song for the revolution that the hood is going through now. If I’m so scared of what people are gonna say and think and so scared that I can’t be revolutionary, why am I even doing music? I might as well just die. I have no fear in my body of nothing and nobody.
CRUNK: Kids idolize rappers and entertainers. They don’t look up to educators like they used to back in the day. Do you realize that you are a role model? Are you doing your part to foster positive-ness?
Rhymefest: You know I speak to kids in schools. I do college lectures. I accept that responsibility. Kids think rappers love them and we have their best interest. But they think teachers don’t cuz they try to discipline them. Kids are rebellious. Community, teachers and most authority figures have let the kids down. The people in the community don’t know how to protest no more. They feel powerless like they can’t change nothing. So they put their gauntlet down and the only one seem like they willing to fight for the kids is the rappers. So who you think the kids gon’ look to?
CRUNK: Let’s talk about Blue Collar and lighten the mood. What does Rhymefest talk about in his music?
Rhymefest: I got club bangers, I want to fuck songs, deep relation type of issues (breaking into a rap)…
…everything she was telling me, everything My mother became a widow before she got the wedding ring; Shorty was locked in the prison, I wanted to set her free I couldn’t so I sat and listened with no intermission; I didn’t interrupt her, to tell you the truth Originally I just wanted to fuck her
My music is ballads music. What’s in my music? Truth and balance… so I don’t give a fuck if radio never play my shit! I don’t give a fuck if BET never play my shit! God brought me to a place that I wouldn’t have been brought to unless I was saying what He want me to say.