Vicarious Music & Media

Rhymefest

The game has a lot of respect for those who adhere to its basic principles. In music, the labels and the talking heads of the media are the ones who don the next big thing, but it’s the people who champion its causes. It’s the voices of those who wanted to burn down Hollywood with Public Enemy, who shouts, “Fuck Da Police” with N.W.A. and who walked alongside Kanye West and Jesus.

Rhymefest is a man who some still can’t figure out. The audience is sure that this charismatic and entertaining Chicagoan will break through the glass ceiling and arrive to a place where his peers sit at. But as HipHopDX talks with the Windy City emcee, the focus isn’t on BDS spins or the latest trends in Hip Hop. El Che breaks bread with DX about his new project, a dedication mixtape to Michael Jackson, discusses his “debate” with Lupe Fiasco and asks some very poignant questions that even this writer is interested in hearing some answers about.

HipHopDX: You have a lot of respect in the game. What are a few things that you’ve seen that has made you angry?Rhymefest: Wow, we’re going to jump right into anger, huh…? I don’t know if you can use anger to determine my feelings, because once you become angry, you lose control. In the game, this is politics. The public can’t see you angry. One of the things that frustrates or frustrated me is the imbalance in the game. How the hell can you have a top 10 on the radio that is the same list all over the country? You mean to tell me that everyone picked the same number one song? This is chosen by the people? You’re telling me that Common sells more records than Lil Boosie, which means that people want to buy Common, but more people want to listen toLil Boosie? Trust me, I’m not making jabs or swipes at anyone. Your art is your art and there is a listener for everybody. If [TalibKweli sells more than Swizz, butSwizz is who you only hear on the radio, then there’s a disconnection. The frustration is with the lying in the game. They use that lie to create an imbalance.

DX: To offset the negativity, you’ve manage to do a dedication mixtape to Michael Jackson. How bigger than life was he to you when you were a kid?RF: Michael Jackson means a lot of things to music and music, I believe, is what defines the era of what we live in. In the ’60s and ’70s, it was Motown and Stax Records that defined that era. Mike does that for me. I need to pass that along to the people under me. Michael Jackson is the only one who has had a message in his music. From “Human Nature” to “Black & White,” he touched on social issues that affected the people, but it was a pop song. “Smooth Criminal” was about domestic violence, but everyone danced to it all the same. You can make entertainment educational. So, what was the best way to honor him? I did a tribute to him. I was on tour with DJ Jazzy Jeff and no matter what the age was and no matter where we went, Michael gets love. My son is nine and knows who Michaelis. My son asked me if I was in the studio with Mike during the recording of this dedication mixtape. People will definitely feel nostalgic about this, but the pressure to do this was all on me. I wasn’t concerned with how Michael would come off. I was worried about how I would come off. It could come off corny for me, you know? I know the risk is going to pay off. My question to you is: What is paying off though? Is it education? Is it money? To me, it’s about bringing balance. Change is revolution.

DX: A change that is rumored to be on the way is Jay-Z creating a record label through Apple. What change does the Internet have in the music business?RF: You know how the record labels messed up the business? They messed up when the Internet and the web came about and music sharing was first introduced. The guys behind it all thought that it would be such a great thing, but you know what? The labels dissed them. The labels were comfortable where they were at. The labels knew it all. Then, all of a sudden, you have Amazon.com and others who took those basic ideas and ran with it. It got so huge to where the labels are now like, “Oh, shit, what can we do?” They realized that there is a bigger power than them. Jay is aligning himself within the changes of the business. Limewire,iTunes, all of it is this new wave of getting music. You know what the funniest thing about all this is? The industry is steadily losing money, but music is more popular than it has ever been. They wouldn’t be able to sell an iPod without the music. Yet through it all, last year, especially, rap music was the only music that people held tr
ue to, yet was criticized all across the board.

DX: You’ve always managed to be outspoken. Your blog on another neighboring site to your Myspace page has garnered attention. What is it about the 2008 Presidential elections that have you sounding so passionate?RF: You know what? It’s not about the elections and they’re just trying to box me about that. What it’s about is this new intellectual drop squad of producers and artists. I’m really trying to push that. For anyone who says stupid shit, they’re getting called out. In 2006 and 2007, we let the mediocrity fly. Now, we realize that there truly is some stupid shit that goes on. This new drop squad will speak when dumb shit occurs. Trust and believe that I’m not going to criticize anyone about their art form, but when people come out and say, “Obama supports bombing Iran and thatHilary is great because she’s a woman,” I’ll ask if that person or persons knows what Obama’s stance is. Once that gets corrected, I’m good. We can move on from the next dumb statement. Shout out to Killer MikeNo I.D. and others who are down for this change. We need to be vigilante about this. Continued on page 2 »

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