|Fri, February 18, 2011 at 3:47 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
CHICAGO – The award-winning rapper who wants to be a Chicago alderman looked down the block and counted up the boarded houses in this slice of the city's South Side. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
"How can you walk here and not feel something in your heart? We're living in an urban ghost town," Che "Rhymefest" Smith told The Associated Press during a van tour of the ward where he lives. "I see two things. The first is neglect. The second is opportunity."
In a landmark year for Chicago politics, the winner of a 2004 Grammy is running an unorthodox campaign for City Council. His street-wise lyrics have given him a youthful following, in Chicago and beyond, but it's more than his fame that gives him a shot at winning. In a field of five candidates, he's picked up support from the powerful Chicago Teachers Union and several political experts say a victory Tuesday or making an April runoff vote are quite possible.
The presence in a council seat of Rhymefest — a broad battle rapper who once went toe-to-toe with, and many say easily defeated, Eminem — would certainly shake things up in a body seen in recent years as a compliant rubber stamp for retiring Mayor Richard Daley.
"He's a homegrown advocate with a heart for his people," said Stacy Davis-Gates, a spokeswoman for the teachers' union "He's a hip hop artist, his initial expression is to champion the oppressed and inspire transformation."
But he's far from alone in his vision of bringing change and opportunity to Chicago politics. A record number of people — nearly 250 — are seeking council positions and major changeover is expected. Experts predict up to 20 new aldermen on the 50-seat council and a likely power shift. That means mayoral candidates like former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel would face an unpredictable and likely more independent City Council.
Rhymefest paints himself as an alternative to business as usual for the 20th Ward, which includes some of the poorest and highest-crime areas of Chicago. First-term Alderman Willie Cochran, who faces a groundswell of opposition, was elected to succeed former Alderman Arenda Troutman. She was sentenced to prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to taking payoffs and campaign contributions from developers in return for zoning changes.
The 33-year-old rapper — named Che after the 1950s Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara — has pledged to give up a portion of his aldermanic salary for loans to bring business to the area and says he'll only serve two four-year terms. His campaign headquarters are inside a dingy car wash surrounded by vacant lots, and some of his fundraisers have been held at nightclubs where he performs.
Rhymefest has received praise from Princeton University scholar Cornel West and rapper Kanye West, with whom he shared a Grammy for co-writing "Jesus Walks."
Though born in Missouri, his family has lived in Chicago since the 1960s. He attended city schools and Columbia College downtown. His wife is a teacher for Chicago Public Schools. He gets respect in mainstream rap circles, but has also taken time to attend nonpolitical events with local grass-roots hip hop artists. And though he rarely discusses it publicly, his faith has been a central part of his life; the rapper became Muslim after years of study.
But he's also got a criminal past, something that's caused him some trouble on the campaign trail. Rhymefest was convicted in 2001 for domestic violence involving his first wife and in 2005 for firing a gun following during a dispute with a real estate agent in Indiana. Those incidents came up at a recent candidate forum including former police officer Cochran, lawyer and busi
|Sat, October 30, 2010 at 7:39 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Why I'm Running For City Council
When Hip Hop first started, it was a local movement of artistic expression and social commentary. Hip Hop artists and lovers challenged the status quo by scratching records, tagging buildings and defying gravity. Those who had been ignored and forgotten grabbed the microphone, hopped on (and sometimes off) stage and ushered in what would become a global, billion dollar industry. The debate over content has been an ongoing one, as has the debate on the role that hip hop artists and businessmen should or shout not have in addressing social ills.
When Hip Hop first started out in the early eighties, there was a generational divide between the youth who were consumed with the culture and their parents and grandparents who were still clinging to ballads and funk. Fast forward twenty years and those children who once crowded the playgrounds around boom boxes are now parents and grandparents. Some of the artists who were young back then, are now in their forties and fifties. Members of the "Hip Hop Generation" are now entrepreneurs and both blue and white collar professionals. We're practicing law, administering surgery and teaching and researching. We're making money, making babies and some of us are making trouble but one thing we are not doing on a large scale is making policy and many of us are not voting.
Many rappers have foundations and should be commended for the positive work they are doing through those foundations around the country. Throughout my career I've lended my name, my work and my money to countless foundations in order to help various causes but after the lights went out and the crowd disappeared, I wasn't quite sure what would be done with my contribution. Despite living all around the world, I always manage return home to Chicago and it seems to get worse. People are unemployed, children are killing each other and there is an overall sense of doom and despair. My neighborhood which is located in Chicago's 20th Ward has 30,000 registered voters and a little over 7,000 came out to vote in the last aldermanic election. That means about 23,000 people are not engaged and because of that our community is often ignored and not taken seriously.
All politics is local and if we are to improve our social and economic ills, we have to return to the "village" concept. While it may be a foreign concept to many, my grandmother speaks about a day when neighbors were familiar with each other, people supported businesses within their local communities and people came together to solve problems rather than working alone; isolated. There is no shortage of social welfare programs. There is no shortage of people who are disappointed and frustrated with their lives as they stand. But there is a shortage of rappers and high-profile people returning to their neighborhoods to help make them better. It is time for hip-hop to be used as a tool, rather than a weapon. When I walk the streets of my hood, MOST young men, when asked what they do with their free time or what they want to be when they grow up respond by saying either hoop or spit (basketball or rap).
When I announced my candidacy for Alderman of the 20th Ward on Thursday, October 22, from a small business, I did so because I know that hip hop has the power to transform and unify. We have the power to educate people, especially shorties on how to make their lives better. We have the power to build bridges between those who do not have money and those who do. We have the power to use our fearlessness and our strength to literally transform the hood - one block, one child, one family at a time.
For more information visit http://www.friendsofrhymefest.com or http://www.aim20.com.
|Fri, October 22, 2010 at 7:57 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Rapper RhymeFest (Che Smith )says he wants to join the city council in Chicago.
The 33-year-old rapper, best known for co-writing the song "Jesus Walks" with Kanye West, announced that he is running for alderman on the city's South Side.
Fest says he hopes to lead a renaissance in a community that's dotted with empty lots and boarded-up businesses and plagued by unemployment and crime.
"The priority is to return the community back into the hands of the people who live here," Fest said. "For too long our communities have been dictated to. For too long our communities have been told what's going to happen."
He says he wants to make it easier for people to invest in the community and expand businesses, which would spur the hiring of local residents.
Fest said he's sure his hip-hop career can be an asset. "I believe — I know — that we can use hip-hop to engage our youth and to engage our community," said Fest, who stood with his children, Amirah, 2, and Solomon, 12. "Hip-hop has often been presented as a weapon of the community, but it's not. It's a tool."
When asked about taking on the incumbent, Ald. Willie B. Cochran, Fest said: "I'm taking on poverty. I'm taking on disenfranchisement. . . . I do think there is an absence of transparency and an absence of leadership.''
|Tue, June 08, 2010 at 7:45 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
This is one of the coolest videos we've seen in awhile. Get your 3-D glasses and enjoy! Shout out to Rhymefest and Phonte.
|Sat, February 20, 2010 at 5:51 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Sophomore Album to Drop on Indie Label dN|Be Entertainment
CHICAGO - Grammy Award winner, Rhymefest, will release his highly anticipated album El Che on May 18, 2010 via dN|Be Entertainment. Distributed by EMI, in conjunction with Rosehip Records.
The full length LP features production from beatsmiths Scram Jones, S1, BKS, and Terry Hunter. The 16-track opus also boasts guest appearances from Little Brother, Saigon, Glen Lewis, and fellow Chicago emcee Twone Gabz.
The follow up to his critically acclaimed Blue Collar LP, Rhymefest's El Che promises to deliver raw lyrics over epic production. Hip Hop lovers should expect to hear an unfiltered Rhymefest, liberated from the corporate suits and oppressive ideas of the prevailing record industry. As dN|Be Entertainment's flagship artist, the Chicago emcee now has full creative control over his projects. When questioned about his new partnership with dN|Be Entertainment, Rhymefest mentioned "I wanted to be somewhere that not only appreciates artistry, lyricism, and originality, but also serves a greater purpose in Hip Hop and the Black community."
In anticipation of El Che's release, dN|Be Entertainment has launched the interactive website ElCheTheMovement.com. Fans can connect with Rhymefest through the website's blog, videos, streaming music, and social networking links to Facebook and Twitter. Exclusive content concerning the El Che LP will be uploaded daily.
Rhymefest's tour dates (including Austin's SXSW) can also be found there. Finally, Rhymefest will be releasing his last pre-album mixtape titled DANGEROUS: 5-18 on ElCheTheMovement.com this spring.