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Rhymefest’s Opponent Calls Out Rapper for His Ties to Hip-Hop


Rhymefest, born Che Smith, officially announced his run for alderman of Chicago’s 20th Ward on Thursday, saying he would incorporate his hip-hop background “as a tool to speak to youths and engage the community,” wrote the Chicago Tribune. The 33-year-old, who has a Grammy to his credit for co-writing Kanye West‘s ‘Jesus Walks,’ has been active in the community, even making headlines for a 2009 protest to bring more jobs to Chicago’s South Side. Today, Rhymefest finds himself on the other side of the picket line.

Incumbent Alderman Willie B. Cochran isn’t going down without a fight, and told the Chicago Sun-Times that voters “know the difference between a professional public administrator who’s been doing an outstanding job for them . . . as opposed to someone who is a known hip-hop artist who degrades women and promotes violence in his videos.” Only time will tell if Cochran’s comment will be taken as a stab at Rhymefest alone, or the hip-hop community in general. The back-and-forth comes at an interesting moment. Earlier today, The BoomBox ran a story on Jay-Z saying he’s “not hearing anyone’s real voice” when it comes to the genre. He said rappers need to “find our way back to true emotion” and that “love is the only thing that stands the test of time,” noting timeless love-ladened records like ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’

Rhymefest had already complimented that thought during his press conference on Thursday, announcing “The definition of revolution is love.” There seems to be to opposing opinions of hip-hop — is it a peaceful or violent machine gun?

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“Hip-hop has often been presented as a weapon of the community, but it’s not. It’s a tool,” was the actual quote that the Tribune picked-up on during Rhymefest’s Thursday press conference. While the stigma that hip-hop is violent has been omnipresent for decades, its initial motives — take Gil Scott-Heron‘s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ — was to inform and educate, a new genre that took a page from music’s core purpose. Even the lyrics on ‘Jesus Walks’ toyed with the idea of freedom of expression within its verses, and that song went on to reach millions, as noted by its platinum sales.

But the fight the for alderman brings up the notion that hip-hop’s damaged reputation will take away from the real issue at hand, which is, boom-bap beats aside, who is the best candidate for the position. Only time will tell.

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