Peeking from the shadows of Kanye West, with a Grammy award in hand for penning “Jesus Walks”, is another Chi-town emcee by the name of Rhymefest. The general public may not know who Rhymefest is, but you can guarantee that everyone who truly loves Hip Hop has heard the name once or twice. Kinda sucks that Kanye got all the credit for one of the biggest songs of 2004, but that’s how the ball bounces sometimes. But now Rhymefest feels its his time to step out of those shadows and show the general public who Rhymefest is with the aptly titled Blue Collar. Instead of jumping in Kanye’s backpack and taking the easy way out, ‘Fest choose to stand on his own two and make a name for himself. Will it work?
Blue Collar could mean a ton of things for Rhymefest. He’s a hard worker who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, as well as an emcee that can easily relate to the public with subject matter that doesn’t include being too rich, too gangster or too smart for his audience. On the lead single, “Brand New”, ‘Fest and Kanye West trade rhymes on how they like their things ‘brand new.’ Kanye is easily the more materialistic of the two, while ‘Fest holds his own with his poor man’s mentality that anyone who is trying to get ahead can relate to. ‘Fest showcases a multitude of styles and subjects and covers much ground on his first full length opus. He gives it up to the young women hustling to make it on “Sista”, weaves and intricate tale on the Citizen Cope assisted “Bullet” and wyles out with ODB on the humorous “Build Me Up”. Let’s not forget that Rhymefest doesn’t have “Rhyme” in his name for nothing. Rhymefest matches muscle with Bump J and Mikkey (who delivers a scathing verse towards his former Cash Money cohorts) on the thumping “Chicago-Rillas”, while the Just Blaze laced “Dynomite (Going Postal)” features ‘Fest getting super lyrical. With a production handled in part by No ID (from the early Common days), there are sufficient backdrops to aid ‘Fest on his Blue Collar journey.
Where Rhymefest comes up lame is when he does songs that just aren’t him. Apparently either he or the label felt that being Rhymefest isn’t good enough, so they wanted him to be David Banner, Jay-Z and Outkast as well. Check out “All I Do” which is eerily reminiscent of Jay-Z’s “All I Need” from The Blueprint. Although lyrically it is up to snuff, the production and hook are damn near the same as its predecessor. “Stick” is a poor excuse for David Banner’s “Play”, as NO ID tries to recreate some of that Mr. Collipark’s signature “intimate club music”, while Fest makes an attempt to do some semi-whisper/rhyming. Then there’s the bouncy “Tell A Story” which is a direct rip in style from Outkast’s “The Whole World” and thus falls short. Not too sure who’s decision it was for ‘Fest to try to recreate other hit songs, but it really fucks up what he has going. Couple that with the syrupy “All Girls Cheat” featuring Mario and you put a serious dent in an album that had tons of promise.
So the moral of the story is to not try to change an artist into something else. You gotta let Rhymefest be Rhymefest because anything less is a serious disservice to the listener and the emcee. With Blue Collar, the good is really good while that bad is really bad. Hopefully the folks at J Records will figure it out and let Rhymefest play to his strengths on his next album.
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