As a youngster, Rhymefest didn’t seem the type that would end up anywhere positive. He wasn’t mixed up into drugs, hustling or anything that any other young, black Chicago male easily gets 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 wouldn’t 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. We’re in serious need of serious rappers and Rhymefest proves with every line and every rhyme that he’s serious. It’s not just about the rapping for him, it’s 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. It’s people that are this passionate about their craft that are usually rejected by the people that should love them. (A loose interpretation of Rhymefest’s definition of a rebel.)
Luckily he doesn’t 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 it’s 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 don’t know about you guys, but I know I’m hungry!
If you didn’t 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 don’t have. I’d 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. They’re not realizing that, that is the status quo. You ask everybody else, “Nigga you’re not a rebel! You’re not doing anything special. You’re like every other nigga!” 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 child’s 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 Lil’ Wayne that do things to get them put in jail, I don’t think that’s 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 they’ve made it out of the hood?
I don’t know if they’re trying to maintain a persona. I think that sometimes when you don’t 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, it’s entertainment, but for us, it’s life. I go through things, I just don’t broadcast them like that. It’s good and bad. I want you to relate to me through my life struggles and my music, but I don’t feel comfortable putting out something like, my daughter’s mother is wilding out, out there like that. It’s not unprecedented and it doesn’t destroy people.
What does destroy people?
You know what I think destroys people more? When we see Nivea making a video called, “Love Hurts” and in the song, she’s talking about, “Oh he cheated on me. He did this to me, he did that to me, but guess what? I still love you. Then Lil’ Wayne puts her on the counter and starts fucking her. They’re saying this is real love and how you’re supposed to be loved and it’s ok. I think that the hypersexuality, the imbalance of anti-intellectualism and the promotion of alcohol–“Say Ah,” “Buy You A Drank,” “Blame it on the Alcohol;” everything is surrounded around hypersexuality, alcoholism and drugs. This is bring pushed, promoted and bought. Ignorance is not being pushed on us by accident.
It’s gotten so that this goes past race…
Hell yeah it’s past race! It’s in the communities–the American consumer. I ain’t even speaking black, I’m 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, “We want you to give us your car, we’ll give you a $5,000 credit–at a time where nobody has a job and everyone is broke–and we’ll give you a $20,000 car.” 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 they’re on! It’s 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? There’s 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, I’m 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, “People have to receive it like this or that.” But really you shouldn’t 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, who’s going to stop you?
Any points you’re 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 I’m not in the club or I’m not hot to be successful. I’ve got to basically fight a guerilla war. I’ve got to fight without the label money. I’ve 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 I’m 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. It’s guerilla warfare and that’s the point of my album and my struggle. That’s who I am in life. I’ve some to the conclusion that no matter how much money I amass, I’ll never stop fighting because God put me here to struggle. I’ve accepted it. I’m not fighting, fighting no more. That’s kind of deep, right? I didn’t realize it until it came out of my mouth. [laughs]
How do you feel about your own fame?
**read his response & the rest of the interview, here.**