Politically charged records can’t be monumental if, that’s a big if, presented the right way. Risks usually outweigh the rewards and that’s why you don’t hear them everyday. It’s safe to make club song or go directly into something sexually charged.
Rhymefest busted on the music scene co-writing the highly influential “Jesus Walks,” it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he’s going after the terrorist charge. “Dynamite,” is a track that jumps out from his debut album Blue Collar. But, as stated earlier, politically influenced tracks are hard to swallow.
Speaking candidly about J Records’ strengths and weaknesses, and the importance of black awareness, that’s the norm for Chicago’s Rhymefest. You let him tell it, he’s just relaying a message he’s been given to deliver. Barely making time to promote his album, which is rare, Rhymefest speaks on problems that go on like the Mississippi River. He addressed the new laws and the concealed tactics the government utilizes to raise havoc. Being pretty blunt, Rhymefest just let’s the government have it.
That is good for the community, but bad press in the eyes of the music industry at least until a brand new trend is ushered in. But, never-the-less Rhymefest seems to care less and gives the honest answer, again and again. Its guys like this you wish their records would get more spins, but these days real guys don’t seem to win.
What happened to the follow-up to “Brand New”?
Rhymefest: “Dynamite” came out right after “Brand New.” Number one: You talking singles and what the DJ’s are playing on the mix shows. Number two: What is the label promoting and pushing? Now, fortunately, J Records does a good job when it comes to on-line, artwork, but, as far radio and promotion, they don’t such a good job.”
Was the problem that the single didn’t fit the “usual” format or was a little too different for the fans?
Rhymefest: “I don’t really worry so much about that, but no it didn’t fit the usual format. But, does Andre 3000 fit the usual format; does Kanye West fit the ususal format; does Common fit the usual format; sometimes if it’s good then it’s good. When you got on the phone and asked why didn’t you bring “Dynamite” out as a single that means its dope or it caught your attention at least. The label or people that fill the demand has to be able to fill the demand and it just wasn’t filled.”
In the song, you had a line that touched on the Patriot Act; can you break that down a little more?
Rhymefest: “This is how I know the words that I say are coming from God and I’m just a messenger or deliverer. I said that maybe 6 or 7 months ago and it’s becoming true today. I say, “These dime bag ass ain’t large/ And when the Patriot Act come hit they ass with the terrorist charge/ And weed is what they made it fo/ You think it’s all about Arabs/ It’s a war on the po’/ You gotta go…” Now look, in Miami, they got 6, 7 brothers talking bout they was go blow up the Sears Tower and now they going to jail and seeing about people converting to Islam and how that corresponds with terrorism. The deeper you get into that case, we’re finding that they didn’t do nothing but talk.
They’re (government) coming after us. These laws are going to be applied broadly; its go reach the brothers in prison and may reach into the Nation of Islam and we’re not even thinking about that. Farrakhan, who has changed so many crack houses and people across the ghettoes, who has empowered the poorest of peopled, and the only person I know that can bring the hardest of the hard gangsters together to talk and make them come to peace, our government might even be trying to go after him as a potential terrorist. You see this happening more and more, it’s a war on the poor.
More and more you see the terrorist looking less like Arabs and more like the dude up the street. In Chicago, we got cameras on the light poles and they take pictures up to five blocks and they got a camera on every block. They watching us, they don’t have in the suburban areas, but they got in the inner city of Chicago.”
That’s just like they got the parking meter checkers prowling the cities when they’re not in the suburbs.
Rhymefest: “Exactly, and they come and ride in the hood and put a boot on your car. I don’t see in Bowling Brooke, Rolling Meadows, rolling through and putting boots on they cars. Boy they got.”
They sugarcoat the titles of the new legislation; they make us believe it’ll be for this when it’s made for that.
Rhymefest: “They make you think they doing you a favor when they doing the opposite. They taking our leaders out of our communities. They taking our strong people away. They taking the organizational structure out. In Chicago, we have the Disciples. Now this is a violent organization. I don’t agree with selling drugs and the violence; I just gotta let you know that up front. But, once you take the leaders out of these gangs and put in jail where they’ll be in 23 hour lockdown, no breaks, and they can’t talk to people, they can’t control the streets, what do you have with the soldiers who were running with the gangs? They go and start committing random acts of violence because the don’t have no organization. Now in Chicago, we have what we call a lot of Renegades; and they just go around sticking people up. We need organization as a people; when I say the Patriot Act, that’s what I mean, it’s a war on the poor.”
The black community, it’s rare nowadays you find a father in the household and a lot of cases good mothers. Do you feel that they’re trying to take us back to the 80’s with all these sanctions?
Rhymefest: “70% of kids are born into illegitimate homes, meaning one-parent homes. Yes, the (sanctions) place a burden upon us. If you black and go to court and get charged with the same crime a white person commits, you’ll get more time for your first offense than the white person being charged on their second or third offense. But, with that said, the people that make the test are go grade the test. I’m not go ask them for nothing; but, when are we go start making our own tests and grading our own tests?
When are we going to start worrying about our community? Yes, I do have to document the Patriot Act as a war waged on the black and brown community. They coming for Latinos too; but what are we go do? Black people have to have conversations about ourselves. That’s what I’m on.
That’s what Blue Collar is on; it’s called one of the best albums of the year! The only album I would rate my album behind, s far as quality, is Busta Rhymes. Rolling Stone has said, Rhymefest, Busta Rhymes, the two summer albums you gotta have. My thing is, what we talking about is in this Blue Collar album.”
When people say the black community must come together, some mean through politics, some mean through religion, what’s do you think black people must do to come to together?
Rhymefest: “I really don’t know about the black church. There are some things that have disenchanted me with the church. But I feel it’s gonna have to be God, politics, and self-determination.”
People have many opinions and many ways to do one thing. The Civil Rights Leaders were heavily opposed by the Nation of Islam, rather Martin vs. early Malcolm, do you feel it’s gonna have to be one path or many branches to get the people where they need to be?
Rhymefest: “I think we have to have one movement with different paths. I look at Malcolm and Dr. King as being necessary for each other to build. It’s funny, King wanted desegregation; they got beat and hosed down. As soon as The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said we want segregation, America said we want desegregation. Whatever we say we want they want the opposite. We gotta use they Jedi mind tricks. We gotta stop looking to the white power structure to for help. We got 43 billion dollars in the black community; you mean to tell me we can’t mobilize and send our kids to school? But, we can buy MayBachs. Maybe it’s cuz of the way that I think, I’ll never have MayBach money.”
I feel Hip-Hop is the strongest stand for a black to say what he wants with the fewest filters as possible. Tupac and Ice Cube had the ability to make club songs with political connotations in it. How does an artists find the balance to do that?
Rhymefest: “I think it’s harder now. There’s more of a imbalance in music now and especially in Hip-Hop. They don’t want too many Kanyes, Rhymefests, Commons, out at the same time. It’ll put too much pressure on the other artists who aren’t as good to make the people think.”
People always redefine what Hip-Hop is and what it’s not, what’s your definition of Hip-Hop and how many aspects does it have?
Rhymefest: “Hip-Hop is a lifestyle. In order, it’s Style, Deejaying, B-boying, Graffiti, and rapping. It’s a culture.”
What was the mood and what feelings inspired you entirely as you were making Blue Collar?
Rhymefest: “Simple…simple answer. I know that God gives me a message and I simply just deliver.”