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A Rebel With A Cause


As a youngster, Rhymefest didnít seem the type that would end up  anywhere positive. He wasnít mixed up into drugs, hustling or  anything that any other young, black Chicago male easily get  themselves tangled up into. He was just depressed. Not really  knowing or understanding why, Rhymefest just wanted to be in a place  where nothing could touch him, so he created his own private  sanctuary, turned prison--his bedroom. Well, the world wouldnít  leave him alone, so he came out of his cocoon. In coming out, he  went back to school, but was unsatisfied with a GED and diploma. It  was college that taught him that he was intelligent and that he  could actually reach his potential.


How grateful are we that he discovered his love of words and made a  career out of it? Very. Weíre in serious need of serious rappers and  Rhymefest proves with every line and every rhyme that heís serious.  Itís not just about the rapping for him, itís also what he can do  for his community. Rhymefest is involved with H.R. 848--which is the  effort to get artists paid when their music is played on the radio  and is even friends with the UK Prime Minister--David Cameron--who  tried to get hip hop banned in the UK at one point, until Rhymefest  wrote him a letter to defend the love of his life. Itís people that  are this passionate about their craft that are usually rejected by  the people that should love them. (A loose interpretation of  Rhymefestís definition of a rebel.)


Luckily he doesnít let the lack of love stop him from sharing his  music with us. Rhymefest still has a strong fan base that follow and  support his every move. He just released El Che earlier this summer  and itís definitely getting some love, as well as his pre-album,  Dangerous 5:18. Other people might call that a mixtape, but  Rhymefest wanted to give us an appetizer before we devoured the main  course. Grab your knife and fork because this rebel has some food  for thought for us to swallow. I donít know about you guys, but I know Iím hungry!

Danielle Young



If you didnít realize your own potential in college, where do you  think you would be at this point?

Probably selling dope or rapping about how big the rims are on the  car that I donít have. Iíd be a whole different kind of  artist--something different from what my name is. My name is Che and  it represents revolution by definition and I would be the opposite  of that. People talk about being revolutionary and being a rebel.  Theyíre not realizing that, that is the status quo. You ask  everybody else, ďNigga youíre not a rebel! Youíre not doing anything  special. Youíre like every other nigga!Ē A rebel is the man who,  after not seeing his child for five years, comes back into the life  of that child and changes that childís life and becomes the best  father ever. A rebel is one who changes his mind state to change the  community.


Do you consider yourself a rebel?

Yes. My motto is, I want to be a better man than the man I was the day before. Everyday I strive to be a better man than the day before.


People are always focused on street cred when it comes to hip-hop.  When you have stars like T.I. and Lilí Wayne that do things to get them put in jail, I donít think thatís a positive image at all. Who cares about you feeling like you have more street cred because you  did time? What do you think about rappers trying to maintain a hood persona even after theyíve made it out of the hood?

I donít know if theyíre trying to maintain a persona. I think that  sometimes when you donít know--being ignorant--it follows you  around, no matter how much money you get or how big you get. I also  think that the good thing is that--in music, like in the trials and  tribulations of Red Fox or Marvin Gaye--the fans get to see the  artist grow and go through things. The fans grow and fall with the  artist; like in the case of Tupac. We got to see his life and his  music transform. We got to travel with him. For the people, itís  entertainment, but for us, itís life. I go through things, I just  donít broadcast them like that. Itís good and bad. I want you to  relate to me through my life struggles and my music, but I donít  feel comfortable putting out something like, my daughterís mother is  wilding out, out there like that. Itís not unprecedented and it  doesnít destroy people.


What does destroy people?

You know what I think destroys people more? When we see Nivea making  a video called, ďLove HurtsĒ and in the song, sheís talking about,  ďOh he cheated on me. He did this to me, he did that to me, but  guess what? I still love you. Then Lilí Wayne puts her on the  counter and starts fucking her. Theyíre saying this is real love and  how youíre supposed to be loved and itís ok. I think that the  hypersexuality, the imbalance of anti-intellectualism and the  promotion of alcohol--ďSay Ah,Ē ďBuy You A Drank,Ē ďBlame it on the  Alcohol;Ē everything is surrounded around hypersexuality, alcoholism  and drugs. This is bring pushed, promoted and bought. Ignorance is  not being pushed on us by accident.


Itís gotten so that this goes past raceÖ

Hell yeah itís past race! Itís in the communities--the American  consumer. I ainít even speaking black, Iím speaking future  generations. We want things to stay as they have always been and we  want people to get dumber and spend money. We can think about stuff  that goes even deeper than music. If you think about Cash for  Clunkers--what is that? The government was like, ďWe want you to  give us your car, weíll give you a $5,000 credit--at a time where  nobody has a job and everyone is broke--and weíll give you a $20,000  car.Ē Your debt is the way the government get out of debt. The more  you buy, the more you struggle to pay bills, the better off your  country. Come on man! This is what theyíre on! Itís all types of  mind tricks. Why is it when you open your computer, your internet  knows exactly what it is that you like to buy and presents it to  you? Thereís all kinds of mind tricks that keep people coming back  for more.


You released El Che on an indie label. How do you feel about that?

Not only am I not restrained, Iím not used to the freedom of it. I  even listen back to the album and although I love it, I feel like I  could have went even harder! As I was making the album, I was  thinking, ďPeople have to receive it like this or that.Ē But really  you shouldnít be thinking about what people want, you should be  thinking about what they need. On the next album, I plan on going  even harder because I can; not even because I want to. Do it because  you can, whoís going to stop you?


Any points youíre trying to make with it?

My name is Che. I was named after Che Guevarra. He is the father or  modern revolution, guerilla warfare. The album is out on a label  called Dangerous Negro. I have to fight and scrap with people that  think Iím not in the club or Iím not hot to be successful. Iíve got  to basically fight a guerilla war. Iíve got to fight without the  label money. Iíve got to fight without radio, BET, without all those  things. I still have to get through to the people and get them to  understand that Iím dope. Dope is more valuable than hot because  dope lasts forever and hot cools off. By definition of the title of  the record, before you even get to the music--Rhymefest is dope.  Itís guerilla warfare and thatís the point of my album and my  struggle. Thatís who I am in life. Iíve some to the conclusion that  no matter how much money I amass, Iíll never stop fighting because  God put me here to struggle. Iíve accepted it. Iím not fighting,  fighting no

 more. Thatís kind of deep, right? I didnít realize it until it came  out of my mouth. [laughs]


How do you feel about your own fame?

I donít feel like Iím famous. I feel like Iím popular and thereís a  difference. Kanye West is famous. Iím just popular. Iím somebody  that can walk around the hood and they can be like, ďWhatís up  Rhymefest?Ē And Iím like, ďWhat up?Ē Kanye is somebody that walks  around and gets mauled. I have to take my popularity in stride. You  know what happens to popular kids? They can become unpopular real  quick. Famous people always stay famous, they just lose their money.  Popular people may not ever have money, but they lose their  popularity. Everyday is a struggle to stay popular.


Whatís next and what do you have coming up?

I am managing a producer who produced a lot of joints on my album.  His name is S1. I wouldnít even say Iím managing him, Iím just  helping him sell beats. I want to get him out there. He did the  first four joints on my album. To me, heís the new J. Dilla. He is  the resurrection of J. Dilla. The dude is great, so I want to work  with him. Iím working on a script for a new TV show. I figure, hey,  the first time I tried, I got a pilot and an $800,000 budget. Do I  stop because I was rejected once? Whereís my fortitude at? Iím  working on a new script. Iíve still got the same friends in  television and they seem to like this script Iíve got. Iím a pitch  it and try to get another show going for HBO or Showtime. Iím a  single father, raising my son, spending time with my daughter--Iím  just trying to be happy.





ďI have to keep pushing. That is in the tradition of Jesus, in the  tradition of Malcolm X, in the tradition of Castro--being rejected  by the very people they fight for.Ē-Che Smith aka Rhymefest



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