Rhymefest Jumps “In the Mix” [Exclusive Interview]
Most artists fantasize about the day they’ll be able to deliver an acceptance speech for their achievements, smiling (or crying) in front of an adoring audience with an award in hand. Appropriately, few musicians ever make it that far - to the Grammys - because only the best of the best make it that far. That’s why when Chicago native Rhymefest was holding his Grammy, none of us complained.
Before reaching a new level of superstardom for his collaborative songwriting with Kanye West, though, Rhymefest worked zealously to make sure that his voice was heard. All of his efforts culminated in his critically-acclaimed 2006 debut album, Blue Collar, which not only earned him a spot on the charts, but in the memories of hip-hop fans nationwide. Four years has hardly been enough time for us to forget about Rhymefest’s genius, because as he prepares to release El Che, his highly-anticipated sophomore album, we’re sure to enjoy the same Che Smith we’ve all come to respect.
In this exclusive, five-question interview, Rhymefest discusses with the Booth what we can all look forward to from his upcoming project, how he feels about the success he’s achieved, and what we can expect to see from him in the near future.
As the title of your new album would suggest, do you consider yourself a hip-hop revolutionary?
No, I consider myself a revolutionary beyond hip-hop. Revolution to me is the change of ideas, a new way of thinking, a new way of doing everything. That's revolution. From the videos that I put out, to the lifestyle ideas that I promote, it's more than hip-hop, it's manhood. I am a revolutionary black male, more than just a revolutionary person in hip-hop. In fact, I don't think I am as revolutionary in hip-hop as I am in the way that I live my life.
What has changed for you the most as an emcee between Blue Collar and El Che?
I take myself more seriously. Blue Collar had a lot of jokes and a lot of funny anecdotes and cynicism. When people heard "Brand New" they didn't pay attention to "Bullet." They listened to the song with me and ODB, but they missed out on "Sister." There are real points that I'm trying to relate even in the comedy. The dude that's always making the jokes, people love him in the office but he never gets the promotion, he's the funny guy. In this album I stop being the guy that tells all the jokes at least until I get the promotion.
One of your two new singles, "How High," which was well-received by our DJBooth community, contains elements of Rock 'n' Roll. Should listeners expect the bulk of El Che to sound similar to or different from "How High?"
It's definitely different because hip-hop is a variety of all different kinds of sounds so that's one element of hip hop, rock. The rest of the album embraces other elements, whether it be r&b, blues, jazz, but it's all still one sound even though it encompasses the world's music.
Track 10 on El Che is entitled "Chicago." How has your hometown shaped your work as recording artist? As a person?
Chicago has shaped me because it is the bulk of my experiences that have lead to the words that I use. Chicago is the home of the blues and the home of house music. I believe that it is the conscience of hip-hop.
In 2005, you won a Grammy for your work with Kanye West. Did you believe that winning the honor would carry more weight than it has?
No, that wasn't even the biggest personal honor for me. The biggest personal honor that I ever had beyond a Grammy was when a shorty was dying of cancer and went to the Make a Wish Foundation and his last wish before he died, he could've had anything he wanted, was to have me play a concert with the kids of his high school downtown and for him to come on stage and rap with me. That let's me know that I'm touching people's hearts and that's bigger than an award that someone gives you for whatever predetermined reason.
Last thoughts? Final words? Confessions? Shout outs?
Shout out to everyone who helped make El Che - Dangerous Negro, S1, and the whole Plugg City Family. Go buy the album May 18, 2010!
Photo Credit: Virgil Solis