It’s been a while since fans have heard a major release from Chicago’s own Rhymefest. Although he’s pumped out two mixtapes for fans (including the recently released Dangerous: 5-18), the masses wondered what happened to the promising MC that was so dope that even Kanye West co-signed.
After a much-needed label change, Rhymefest has re-emerged to deliver the album that almost turned into an urban legend, El Che. Along with his re-emergence, fans will notice a different sound from the Chicago native. Despite the fact his debut album, Blue Collar, holstered multiple conscious tracks, including the follow-up to “Brand New,” “Dynomite (We Going Postal)” and he co-wrote kanye’s hit single “Jesus Walks;” many still viewed ’Fest as a class clown type of rapper. Well, Rhymefest recently sat down with XXLMag.com for some real talk about why President Obama should be criticized, Jay-Z’s alleged Illuminati ties, why people hate on Kanye, Tiger Woods, and a terrible disease that infected his family. Is yours next?
XXLMag.com: First question on everyone’s mind is where have you been?
Rhymefest: The funny thing is that I have been around, but I guess that’s the perks of being on a major label, being able to reach the masses because I have released mixtapes… A year before Michael Jackson died, I actually released a MJ mixtape to pay tribute to his music it was called Mark Ronson: Man in the Mirror; I also released the El Che Manual Mixtape last year to get fans ready for the actual album. So I have been here, it’s just that outside of my core audience people may not have been paying attention.
XXLMag.com: As an artist, what can you say is the difference lyrically between El Che and your last album Blue Collar?
Rhymefest: I think this album is a lot harder than Blue Collar, because as an artist I feel that I am deeper that the practical joker that I was made out to be on the previous label. I felt like they were trying to stick me in a box to where I couldn’t explore and show fans my conscious and lyrical side, which is wild because that’s who I am. One thing I know about the joker is that he is never looked at as the one who is taking the company to the next level and I definitely want to show people that I am more than the funny guy; so this album is way more of me than before.
XXLMag.com: Since you’re worldly, let’s step outside of the realm of music for a second. What’s your take on the way things are turning out with President Obama?
Rhymefest: Man, that’s a hard one. I think that President Obama has to be criticized, he has to be empathized with, protested against and he has to be voted for again, because we are his constituents and he owes us; but he only owes us what is on our agenda. Just like you have gays and lesbians fighting for equal rights and “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” we as African Americans need to present our own agenda; because bottom line if we don’t have an agenda, he ain’t moving. I think with electing Obama, we now have a uniform in the game; but we haven’t won the game, in fact we haven’t even started playing the game yet.
XXLMag.com: What do you think would be part of the “Black Agenda?”
Rhymefest: I definitely think employment and education, because we are the ones who are hit the hardest by the recession. I think that if we had more people rallying for it, it would become an agenda and [President Obama] would be moved. At the same time, I think that he should be criticized for that, because Obama’s not going to move, unless we move him and the problem with us is that we are so “black and white,” meaning that if we criticize him then people automatically assume that you are not a supporter. But people fail to realize that you can criticize and support him, it’s our job as a people to let him know how he is doing and where to improve, we can’t act like everything’s good and things are still the same. It’s crazy because we [as a people] have mastered the art of hip-hop, but have yet to master the art of lobbying.
XXLMag.com: Agreed, now the one thing that I can say about the election is that it did resuscitate the spirit of the politics within the community.
Rhymefest: True, but we can have a million Barak Obamas and it not mean anything if your local judge is locking everyone up, or you alderman is leasing out your community to major corporations. I think that we need to learn and study politics to truly be informed so that we can make educated decisions regarding who we want to represent us as a people, because the president is a good start but it is the office with the least effect.
XXLMag.com: What’s your opinion on the Jay-Z Illumati/Freemason conspiracy theories that people keep spreading?
Rhymefest: Honestly, I feel like who cares, go take care of your kids! [Laughs] I’m laughing, but really people need to concentrate on what’s in front of them because whether Jay-Z is or not; how does that affect you? I mean all the industry cares about is did you like the album or not? [Laughs] Really it’s all silly to me because I don’t attract that type of stuff around me.
XXLMag.com: With that being said, what is your take on the Tiger Woods situation and his comeback, because people were coming down on him pretty hard for a while?
Rhymefest: Who came down on him? [Laughs] Not anyone I knew, the people I knew were asking: Why wasn’t anyone that he messed with Black? But other than that, no one was tripping on the affairs. I have a question; why are we talking about these light skinned niggas? [Laughs] I mean we got indecisive ass Barak Obama and confused ass Tiger Woods, Shamar Moore ol’ gay ass, these light skinned niggas are fuckin’ the world up. [Laughs] Whatever happened to Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington? I mean, damn, can Don Cheadle get some love up in this piece? [Laughs] I’m just kidding and for the record, I don’t know if Shamar is gay, I don’t need a thousand women trying to kill me for talking bad about their man. [Laughs].
XXLMag.com: But Cheadle and Wesley got some shine in Brooklyn’s Finest.
Rhymefest: Man, they even tried to make that look cheap. It looked like a hood movie. Real talk, I didn’t even know who was in it that movie it was so dark. How you going to have dark niggas on dark film; I mean what was they trying to do? The funny thing is that if Don Cheadle wasn’t in that movie, people probably wouldn’t have gone to see it because they would’ve figured Wesley was playing Nino Brown again [Laughs]
XXLMag.com: It kind of came off like a remake of New Jack City.
Rhymefest: It was a remake of New Jack City, mixed with Training Day and Harlem Nights. [Laughs] Be sure to keep all of this in the interview, too, because this is hip-hop and it’s time that we color outside of the lines. We need to be more well rounded; I’m tired of these one-track niggas. Start asking these dumb rappers about the stimulus package and watch them niggas freeze up.
XXLMag.com: How do you feel about the way Kanye was being dogged in the media?
Rhymefest: The crazy thing is people hate you, then when you put another album out they like you again. I think that we as a people are so force-fed by corporations that we don’t know what we want. Yeah, people were mad at Kanye last year, but they’re also looking forward to him putting another album out. Soon as the album drops they are going to forget why they were mad in the first place. I think people love Kanye because he speaks his mind and there ain’t that many Black men that do that and why we are on it, niggas need to stop fronting like that White girl deserved that award. They knew what he was saying and need to cut it out, for real.
XXLMag.com: Random thought, do you miss Dave Chappelle?
Rhymefest: No, but I admire him. I think that he is one Black man that won and knew it. That is the problem with Black people; we don’t know when we’ve won. Look at Tiger Woods, he had five White girls—he won, but he didn’t stop, he wanted 12 and look, nigga, you lost. [Laughs] So we need to learn to quit when we’re ahead and stop being extra.
XXLMag.com: How do we as a people stop that?
Rhymefest: Honestly, I think that we as a people need to band together and start working together instead of arguing about who has it harder and admiring ignorance because people are sitting back laughing at us, talking about, “Look at them niggas and their Brooklyn’s Finest movie.” [Laughs] But seriously, I think we need to get a hold of this ignorance thing, because I was done when I saw the “Stanky Leg” touch my family, but even sadder than that is when your favorite rapper try to dumb down to reach the kids. Can you imagine Ice Cube leaning and rocking with it, talking about he’s trying to make a comeback? [Laughs] I would be devastated, which is why we need to stop it before it touches someone that is close to you, don’t let the “Stanky Leg” infect your family. [Laughs]. —Tiffany Hamilton