Rhymefest is less than a month away from releasing his sophomore album, El Che. The follow-up to Blue Collar began, nearly five years ago as a major label project for Allido/J Records, with songs produced by Kanye West and Lil Jon. After years of waiting and patience to politics, the Chicago emcee took much of his album, and will release the project independently through dN|Be Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Dangerous Negro company.
HipHopDX met with 'Fest in Lower Manhattan recently, to shoot a webisode series leading up to the May 18th release. Having heard some earlier makings of the major label version of El Che, Rhymefest explained key changes and artistic evolution. "I think El Che evolved. I mean, this album is totally different from what you [personally heard] when you [listened at J Records], because some of those songs I had to take off, because with the deal I made with the [J Records] to get the release that I needed," said Rhymefest. "I had to at least give them [back] certain songs, and I think it made for a better album because it made it feel like more raw Hip Hop-free album - free of a label being like, 'Man, how he do this for the radio? And do this for this and this.'”
Additionally, Rhymefest revealed that he's formed a group with another patient major label-turned indie emcee, Mikkey Halsted, formerly of Cash Money Recoeds. Another veteran, Chicago freestyle veteran J.U.I.C.E., is also involved. The group's premier album takes its name from the Windy City's famed African American museum. "I got a group that I’m working on, a Chicago group, we doing an album called the DuSable Museum and it’s me, Mikkey Halsted, J.U.I.C.E., Antwone Gabz," confirmed Rhymefest. "And we are doing a song called 'The Spook Who Sat By The Door.' But what I’m about to do after this album, I’m not going to do any more solo albums for a while, I’m going to do a group album, and then I want to do a spoken word album, kind of like an Arrested Development-type project because I feel like I want to do something with like a singer, a band, and some dancers, and some live instruments. Because I feel like the world hasn’t had that, I feel like we need that."
The candid emcee was also asked, based on his experience, to comment on the price of fame. Rhymefest said, "The price of fame is the willingness to not have money, the willingness to grind with no money. What I realized is that the rich people are the people you don’t know, the famous people are being controlled by the beautiful people, the famous people are controlled by the ugly people, by people you don’t see. You want fame - if you’re a girl, be willing to bargain your pussy for it, if you a man, be willing to use your dignity and lose a piece of your manhood, be willing to be broke, to grind, to strive. Then when you finally make 'fame,' for the most part in 2% of the cases, but in 98% of the cases, when you reach fame be willing to understand that you worked your whole life for three months."
On the same subject, Rhymefest continued, "Imagine somebody just been doing music all their life, trying to be a rapper, or a singer, or a model, or actor or actress and then they finally get put in a movie, but the movie is real wack, and you got your money, you got like 50 grand off that movie, and the movie came out, or even if it did okay, and then you just never got another role, ever- that’s most people."
Part 1 of Rhymefest's HipHopDX webisode interview: He says that "lyrical rappers can have money too."
Additional Reporting by Amaiya Davis and Jake Paine.