After several postponements, Rhymefest is finally dropping his debut, Blue Collar. In this SOHH exclusive, the Chicago emcee speaks on saving hip-hop and the resurrecting the "duality of man."
Fest's content may be serious, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. On recent mixtapes, the Chicagoan released "My Beat," a comical self-produced cut on which he criticizes A-list producers for overpricing their tracks. While friends like Kanye West found humor in the song, others apparently didn't find the joke too funny.
"Kanye laughed. Kanye, he know 'Oh, that's just Fest.' Cool & Dre I think they heard about it and I heard they was kind of salty a little bit. But I called up Dre and explained to him, 'look dude'... like the concept of what I was really trying to do," Rhymefest told SOHH. "With the song, I was trying to accomplish multiple things. Number one, I made my own beat, but the beat kind of sucked. Kind of showing that as much ego as rappers show, we do still need producers.
"Even in my complaint I made sense. And the sense is, I don't want you to give me a CD with three, 20 or 80 beats on it. And say pick one and give me 50 g's. That ain't producing," Fest continued. "I want you to sit down with me. I want when I'm making that chorus you to be the Quincy Jones, you to be the Kanye West, you to be the producers who are successful because they're in the studio with the artists composing music. There's a difference between a beat maker and a producer. I like working with producers."
With Kanye's current mainstream prominence, Common and Twista's resurgence and Lupe Fiasco buzzing heavily, rap critics are speculating on whether Chicago rap is the answer to save hip-hop. Fest thinks so.
"I know that I bare a large responsibility. But it's no pressure for me because I deliver a message and I deliver it to the people. That's my inspiration for rhyming. God gives me a message and I give it to ya'll. From there, what you do with it, how you receive me, is on you. But, the people should know that I am a gift bearer," Fest explained to SOHH. "I'm not saying a prophet, but I am one of those people that God has put his hand on my head. And Lupe is one of those people and Kanye and Common. Now is it coincidence that we [are] all coming from Chicago. We don't rhyme like this is a Smack DVD. Nothing against Smack DVD or the brothers that rhyme on it, but that ain't what we on. This is substance. This ain't just whatever."
Indeed. Fest's subject matter has made him the common man's spokesperson -- offering social commentary in one song and courting the ladies on another.
"When I say blue collar, the blue collar dude he get off work and go to the strip club. He got a family at the crib. Sometimes he cheats on his wife, sometimes he'll buy a car that's more than he really can afford cause he's trying to keep up with the joneses. But the brother also read a little bit," Fest offered. "When you wanna talk about Pac, don't just talk about he was a thug or an outlaw. Pac exhibited the duality of man. Some days he's like 'keep your head up.' Other days he's like 'my enemies.' Other days he was depressed or paranoid. That was the duality of man. This is the resurrection, not of Pac, but of the duality of man."
Rhymefest's Blue Collar featuring production from Mark Ronson, Kanye West, Just Blaze, Cool & Dre and No ID hits stores today.
[Want more Rhymefest? Check out SOHH's "60 Seconds With... Rhymefest" video here.]