Rhymefest hails from the Southside of Chicago and is the latest rapper from the Midwest to achieve nationwide recognition. His skills have created an industry buzz with his latest album Blue Collar. He took a break from his hectic touring schedule to speak with FinalCall.com Correspondent Ashahed Muhammad.
Final Call (FC): How long of a journey has this been for you?
Rhymefest (RF): It’s been a long journey and a short journey. It’s been a long journey in the sense of it’s a life experience. Growing up in Chicago, a lot people ask what’s Chicago’s sound. It’s not really a sound; it’s a sensibility, it’s a soulfulness. Chicago is the home of the blues; and I’m answering the question because I’m saying that my music comes from my experience as a young Black male on the Southside of Chicago.
FC: There are different categories where people like to place rappers. Would you consider yourself a conscious rapper or a rapper with a message?
RF: Unfortunately, the term “conscious rapper” resonates in the minds of the youth as soft; as unwilling to fight, as a sort of “Dr. King approach”–a non-violent approach. I am definitely not that, but I am aware.
Now, if consciousness means that you are aware of what’s going on in your community, then I would have to move to say that Tupac was a conscious rapper; that NWA were conscious rappers, that the Ghetto Boys were conscious rappers. Not just Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Kanye West, you know what I mean? But these labels are things that they use to separate and divide us.
FC: What would you say was your biggest challenge in this journey, in getting to this point?
RF: Dropping my fear. One of the reasons why I named my album Blue Collar is because, not only is it time to stand up and work for ourselves and our communities, but it is time to drop our fear of what we could lose by being successful; by working for something. Not stealing it or hustling for it. For working for something and getting it!
FC: So you never had a time when you felt like giving up?
RF: Never. You know, if I never had a record deal, I would be in some dimly lit club, rapping. I would be in some freestyle battle somewhere, rapping. I would still be rapping because this is what God has for me to do and it’s not for me to choose what my success is in it. This is for me to repeat the words that He put inside of my spirit; it’s for me to repeat that message.
FC: Would you say that this is your biggest accomplishment so far in your career?
RF: So far, releasing this album has been my biggest accomplishment because, first, people said, “Oh well, he’s a battle rapper and those battle rappers can’t make songs,” and you get over that hump. I co-wrote “Jesus Walks” and then they say, “Oh well, he can write songs, but it ain’t him; he’ll never get a record deal.”
Then I get a record deal and make my own good songs and, “Oh well, yeah, but you know, that’s that underground stuff, that’ll never come out; they’ll never release that,” you know what I mean? Then the album gets released. “Aww, yeah, but nobody will like it.” You know, right now, this is my biggest accomplishment, but I’ve got more hate to conquer.
FC: What is your advice to someone trying to get into the industry?
RF: Number one, drop your fear of everything around you. Drop the burden of what people in your ‘hood are going to think because you do this kind of music, or what the radio’s going to play. Come on, man, be yourself! Stop being scared. The problem with all this is that they’re cowards. We are cowards; we’re afraid to say what’s real, what’s on our mind, and be forceful that truth is all that’s necessary to win. If you make good music, it’ll find a home, I promise you.
FC: What would a perfect world look like for Rhymefest?
RF: A perfect world? In my belief, a perfect world would be a world where everybody fears God so much and feels the love of God so much, they acted right, just because it’s the right thing to do. If people could know the Mercy of Allah, and the wrath and the love; if people knew the Attributes of God and what those attributes meant–the 99 Attributes of Allah, the 99 Names of Allah; if we knew and understood that, that would be a perfect world.
A perfect world would be a world where the veil was lifted off the eyes of our people and we knew who we were, because we don’t know who we are.
FC: Thank you.
(For Rhymefest’s tour dates, upcoming appearances and information on Blue Collar, visit www.rhymefest.com.)