June 5, 2008

Rhymefest - Blue Collar (July 11, 2006)


Che Smith, known to his close friends and family by the rap name Rhymefest, may have gone through the early part of his adult life bouncing around from one crappy job to the next, but he had a couple of cards hidden up his sleeve that he was able to play when the opportunity arose.

First of all, this Chicago native knows how to fucking write. Besides himself, he's written tracks for several other rappers, usually making them sound much better in the process: the artists range from local Chicago spitters that we'll never ever hear from ever, to the likes of the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, whom Rhymefest assisted on his posthumous Osiris mixtape. Dude even pulled a Sauce Money and earned a Grammy award thanks to his writing contribution to Kanye West's "Jesus Walks".

That leads me to the second of his pocket aces that he kept in his, um, pocket. Rhymefest already knew Kanye West, years before anyone else really gave a damn about him. So, obviously, Fest was privy to some of Kanye's early successes. However, in an effort to have a lasting career in the music industry, Fest sought out connections with other artists and producers, so as not to put all of his eggs in Kanye's Louis Vuitton basket. The most notable of these newfound friends was producer/deejay/rich kid Mark Ronson, who was on the rise in the biz himself. Che had actually created his own buzz at this point, marketing himself via a series of semi-successful mixtapes as a man who understood the plight of the working man, offering hope that there was an exit strategy available to everyone if they would just look for it, hiding these messages inside of traditional hip hop tracks that the average fan would appreciate.

Eventually, Rhymefest ended up signing with Ronson's Allido Records, after turning Kanye down numerous times, because he didn't want his friendship with West to turn into a boss/employee relationship. (Obviously, he wasn't very close with Ronson.) His debut album, Blue Collar, was Allido's first release, and it quickly sparked almost no interest in the buying public, as it remains on store shelves to this date.

Well, at least it sold one copy. To me. I had burned the advance because I heard the buzz on Rhymefest was electric, and what I heard was good enough for me to go to several stores that weekend Blue Collar dropped. Why several stores? It seems that distribution may have been an issue: a lot of the bigger chains just didn't have any copies of it, which is odd for a major label release, so I ended up buying this in a bookstore for fifteen bucks, which I don't even like spending on box sets, let alone a single-disc album.

So, was it worth it?

1. FEEL FREE (INTRO) (FEAT Q-TIP)
This rap album intro is much too self-absorbed, and, therefore, pretty fucking stupid. Heaven forbid Che actually get Q-Tip to rhyme on a track...

2. DYNOMITE (GOING POSTAL)
One of the better Just Blaze beats I've come across. Fest tears this instrumental a new asshole, making one of the best introductory songs on a rap record in a long while. I prefer the version that appeared on the advance, since it didn't have the (obviously inserted later) hook, but the song still rocks.

3. BRAND NEW (FEAT KANYE WEST)
Love or hate Kanye, at least he produces interesting music. Usually. However, "Brand New" has a beat and theme (the repetition of Sharon Jones saying "Brand new!" grates on the nerves)that are annoying as shit, and even though Kanye's verse is pretty good, it's obvious it's just one of his recycled mixtape rhymes, since Fest is the only rapper of the two that actually incorporates the words "brand" and "new" into his part of the song, and you won't care too much, since you will have already skipped to the next song.

4. FEVER
Meh.

5. ALL I DO
The production suggests Fest wanted a Kanye-esque polished instrumental, and as he wasn't available, he went with the lowest bidder. Che's rhyme skills don't deserve musical backdrops this weak-willed.

6. GET DOWN
This song is kind of corny, but I still liked it. The beat is pretty engaging throughout, and you'll give Fest a pass for spitting rhymes that aren't exactly cerebral. Unless you're talking about "brain", which, in that case, you hit the nail on the head. That will be the final reference to blowjobs in this paragraph.

7. MORE (FEAT KANYE WEST)
Only God knows why you would want Kanye to appear on your hook but not have anything to do with the beat. (Cool and Dre, producers that aren't very good, do those honors.) Sure, he may have been too busy buying up every flavor of Polo shirt he could find, but he still found time to show up to the studio, Che. Give him something better to do!

8. CHICAGO-RILLAS (FEAT BUMP J & MIKKEY)
Che's posse cut. At least he passes the test: he outshines all of his guests, which is a plus, considering it's his actual album and all. But I like the subtle Lil Wayne dis in Mikkey's first verse.

9. STICK
A bizarre stab at a minimalist club beat, with samples from the overutilized "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" by Bob James. This is just fucking embarrassing.

10. ALL GIRLS CHEAT (FEAT MARIO)
Well, that's an optimistic title. The reference to Tank is pretty spot-on, and I like how he himself admits that he's also cheated, but clarifies that "this isn't about me". Hilarious! Recent Dancing With The Stars outcast Mario provides the hook, which doesn't suck as much as I would like, given the fact that I like to complain.

11. DEVIL'S PIE
I know, I thought it was weird when I heard Fest was covering the D'Angelo song too, but I figured he was going to do D'Angelo a solid by paying him a royalty, since his life has turned to shit and all. Then Mark Ronson changed up the beat, all the words, and the overall theme, thereby ensuring D'Angelo's life remains consistently crappy for just a little while longer.

12. SISTER (FEAT MIKE PAYNE)
I like this track a lot, but nobody is going to bump this shit in the whip. Not the biggest fan of the hook, but I appreciate the overall message.

13. MR. BLUE COLLAR (INTERLUDE) (FEAT MALIK YUSEF)
I don't usually like interludes featuring pseudo-preaching, but Malik Yusef makes several valid points, especially about how black men really don't run this rap shit, and they really don't run sports, either. Not completely useless as a track.

14. BULLET (FEAT CITIZEN COPE)
I liked Fest's verses, since the story reminds me of that army recruiter sequence in Fahrenheit 9/11. However, the chorus almost ensures that, unless I load this song into my computer and edit it myself, I will probably never listen to this song again.

15. TELL A STORY
I don't wanna.

16. BUILD ME UP (FEAT OL' DIRTY BASTARD)
It truly doesn't even matter what Che is spitting on here, since all you will remember is the late Big Baby Jesus singing The Foundations's "Build Me Up Buttercup" on the hook, and you'll curse the drugs that took Russell's life so early on.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Rhymefest is a very good writer, and he certainly has a handle on the perspective of the blue collar worker. Some of the beats and concepts presented on Blue Collar, though, are beneath him; in an attempt to appeal to a wider (read: Kanye's) audience, he made some questionable choices that resulted in cancelling out all possible purchases of the album (except for me, apparently). His rhymes are engaging enough to warrant some curiosity for his sophomore disc, El Che: here's hoping that the beats are up to par next time.

BUY OR BURN? I would recommend you burn this one. As much as I like Rhymefest, there isn't enough hot material on this album to warrant you spending the fifteen dollars like I did. That's what I'm here for, my two readers: to protect the money in your piggy bank.

BEST TRACKS: "Dynomite (Going Postal)"; "All Girls Cheat"; "Devil's Pie"

-Max

4 comments:

  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 06, 2008

    Build Me Up Buttercup is not one of the Best Tracks? What in the name of Big Baby Jesus is going on here?
    Rhymefest is decent but it's pretty much like listening to someone else rhyme like Kanye. I realize that's because Kanye's saying Rhymefest's rhymes but I'm not so hot on those rhymes anyway. I prefer when Kanye spits Consequence's shit.

    The girls I carpool with LOVE Citizen Cope and play the shit out of it whenever they're controlling the radio. I find them rather annoying despite scattered sample-worthy moments. Citizen Cope, not the chicks I ride to work with. I can definitely picture my 13 year old self all over that band though.

    Immortal Technique. Oversight or a rare lapse in your judgment? He destroys anything and everyone on Revolutionary Vol. 2. If you disagree, you probably shouldn't do a review because Immortal Technique will burn your fucking house down.

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  2. I feel the exact same way about "Sister"... I loved the message, but the hook ruined a great song.

    Surprised there's not more comments...

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  3. The man's got lyrics but this is one of the most disappointing albums of 2K6.

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  4. AnonymousJune 03, 2014

    dont break my heaaaaaaaaaaaart

    ReplyDelete