Rhymefest has truly earned his billing as a blue collar emcee. Be it an interview, live performance or his music, he comes across as the everyman. Smart, funny, personable and can also happen to rhyme his ass off. 'Fest first garnered national attention when it was made public that the concept and half the lyrics for "Jesus Walks" were his; he even brought Kanye the now famous sample that carried the song.
The Chi-town native had an easy opportunity to ride Ye's coattails and ink a deal with his G.O.O.D. Music venture. Instead he opted to stay on his own rather than get lost in Kanye's towering shadow. Hooking up J Records, Fest has seen his album delayed for some 6 months now, but here we are.
Lyrical acumen aside, Rhymefest had good potential for quality with his production team alone (Kanye West, Just Blaze, Cool & Dre, No ID, Emile, and Mark Ronson). Despite these notable producers and guest shots from Kanye (2) and the late ODB, Rhymefest keeps the spotlight on him throughout the album. He continually shows off his wide variety of capabilities, the album kicks off with shit slanging battle raps over an obvious Just Blaze banger ("Dynomite"). By the end of the album he is asking Ol' Dirty for advice on how to woo a lady ("Build Me Up") - although in this case the show is absolutely stolen by ODB with his CLASSIC hook. In between this book end songs, 'Fest touches on a lot more. The Kanye-assisted "Brand New" has 'Fest trading jokes with 'Ye over his excellent production; "me and Ye we go back like crew cuts/he hooks me up as long as I don't ask for too much/but even he knows 'Fest laying it down/this is just an old beat he had laying around." 'Fest hooks up with No ID to prove he can make a club/radio ready track, the infectious Feva which interprets Peggy Lee's famous "You Give Me Fever." 'Fest keeps it poppin' for the dance floors with the dope "Peter Piper"-sampled "Stick."
You won't find Rhymefest slouching with his pen and pad at any point, "All I Do" has him waxing about the hard come up in Chi-town. Unfortunately, his delivery is less than inspired over The Blueprint throwaway track. Thankfully he doesn't lack inspiration on "Bullet," an incredible storytelling track executed to perfection with crooner Citizen Cope. "Tell A Story," not surprisingly, also has 'Fest showing his storytelling ability. Over a beat that is one part Outkast's "The Whole World" and one part Shabazz The Disciple's "Red Hook Day," 'Fest displays the dexterity of his flow. "Sister" is more great writing, detailing his sister's struggles with drugs and men.
Over the course of the LP's 16 tracks, Rhymefest's abilities are pretty damn apparent. Not only that, but his personality really shines through as well, giving you a good idea of the type of guy you're listening to. Anyone who has read an interview with the man won't be surprised by how he comes across on this album. And while there is nothing here that I would call bad, and unquestionably plenty of dopeness, there is a certain oomph lacking that prevents Blue Collar from being held on that next pedestal. Still, this is a must-have debut.