“Muthafucka told me I raped a girl. If I raped a girl … she meant yes when she said no. Ask my bitches, they like a little resistance.” … “She keeps saying no, but never try to stop me.” … “I need a girl with some submissiveness.”
With lines like these, Rhymefest seems to be positioning himself to be the rap game’s Roman Polanski, and they’re littered throughout his sophomore effort, El Che. Seriously, Fest, WTF? Now you shouldn’t go to a hip hop record looking for a deep respect for women, or law for that matter, but it’s weird, creepy, disturbing nuggets like these that distract the listener from an otherwise halfway decent, fairly unremarkable, somewhat dated sounding album.
Fest’s first album, Blue Collar, was a kind of for-the-people LP—something working class heads could relate to, and you’d think he would build upon that proletariat theme with El Che, a nod to the revolutionary Che Guevara. But there’s nothing revolutionary about the music here. In fact, it’s formulaic in spots, such as the R&B-laced “Say Wassup,” an ironically tender something-something for the ladies, where Fest promises nice cars, five-star hotels and “sleeping with our clothes on, waiting to exhale.”
“How High” is very much a watered down retread of Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky,” with Fest breaking down his past and path to his recording career. Kanye’s shadow looms over this album, as Fest seems to express some bitterness – not towards Kanye, but at his career in general – as a co-author of the monster hit “Jesus Walks.” Fest’s career, obviously, hasn’t taken off on the same trajectory as Kanye’s.
“Marshall popped in front of my eyes, what about my stuff? Kanye blew up, while they call him an asshole/I was standing in a foxhole/catching a shrapnel,” Fest raps on “One Hand Push Up.”
Then on “Chicago”: “Rap is like a setup, yep, yep, a game/get around Kanye and try to degrade my name.”
The album’s strangest track is “Agony” featuring Glenn Lewis. Fest outlines his preference for bondage and S&M. To each his own, but coupled with the references listed above, you may find yourself reaching for the steel brush.
El Che is an enjoyable enough listen, but some of the production is what you might call hokey soulful, like the final track, “Celebration,” with crooning that goes, “Life is such a blessing/like a job in this recession/I’m on my way/can’t stop/now I’m standing on top/of the wooooorllldddd, whooooooo!” He’s a capable MC and tracks like “Prosperity” and “Talk My Shit” bring to mind the down-to-earth style that made Blue Collar and his Michael Jackson mash-up Man in the Mirror so likable. Hopefully his next LP can bring him back to the greatness found on his previous efforts.
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