As a political blog, Ward Room is more familiar with Che “Rhymefest” Smith’s plan to make the 20-th Ward “the greenest ward in Chicago” than with his rap career. We’re familiar with Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” the song Smith won a Grammy for co-writing, but we don’t know much about his solo work. We’ve heard the reviews, though. Like this one from Ald. Willie Cochran, Smith’s opponent in the April 5 run-off: “When you’re in a position where you influence people and you use it to bring a scorn on our society and you promote get your gun, promote calling people bitches, promote treating people like that ... what makes him think he should make decisions for the community? And that what he’s preaching on ... That’s what he says in his music — how to be contrary to the law, and now he wants to be a lawmaker.”
On the other hand, WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis calls Smith “an inspiring artist and individual.”
Here are some highlights from his career, so you can judge (CAUTION EXPLICIT LYRICS).
Rhymefest first came to prominence in 1997, when he defeated a fellow aspiring MC named Eminem in a rap battle at Scribble. Listen to the audience shouting “Sit Him Down” at the end.
In 2004, Rhymefest co-wrote the gospel-inspired “Jesus Walks” for Kanye West’s multi-platinum album The College Dropout. The duo were awarded a Grammy for Best Rap Song.
Rhymefest broke out on his own in 2006, with his solo album, Blue Collar. This song, “Dynomite (Going Postal),” is a portrayal of the street life that Cochran criticizes.
It was another four years before Rhymefest came out with his follow-up album. In the meantime, he dropped this acclaimed re-mix of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror.”
Rhymefest’s most recent album, El Che, featured a song about our own hometown. Have a listen to “Chicago.”