Rhymefest :: Blue Collar :: All I Do/J Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Kanye wants to produce your first single and drop a few bars on it. Now ask yourself this question - do you (A.) Shit your pants (B.) Go reserve a new sports car at the nearest dealership or (C.) All of the above? I'm guessing Rhymefest answered C. When the song "Brand New" hit XM Radio a few months back I had the distinct feeling Rhymefest was going to be the hot new ish this summer. Normally Kanye's personality and punchlines can upstage whoever's song but the rookie whose real name is Che Smith held his own nicely:

Kanye: "They say your attitude determines your latitude
I'm high as a motherfucker - fly as a motherfucker
And still the motherfucker you love to hate
But can't - because you love what I make
Now ain't - that about a bitch
And I'ma talk shit until I'm out of hits"

Rhymefest: "Now Che bustin in to hit 'em - fuck the cynicism
I'm quick to give y'all niggaz constructive criticism
Like 'Wait - you basically suck' - his mother said 'My son wanna rhyme!'
I'm like 'Ma'am - I don't agree with that decision
Nothin' against him - but if he step I gotta diss him
I listened to that weak shit - all of it - I can't follow it'
{*barf*} Excuse me - I'm whack-tose intolerant"

With a bouncy bangin' beat to make it complete, "Brand New" lived up to the title and presented Rhymefest as a witty new generation rapper straight from the streets of South side Chicago. Of course the danger of coming out that hot on your national debut is that you're set for a big fall if the album doesn't deliver at the same level, but "Blue Collar" is a pleasant surprise. Take the track "Fever" for example, which follows immediately after "Brand New" on this CD. True to his name No I.D. had been keeping a relatively low profile in the 21st century, but this beat will put him right back on the map. With samples from "The Dap Dip" by Sharon Jones and Gabriel Roth's "Pick it Up, Lay it In the Cut" the layered musical approach to this song is slinky, sexy, and seductive. Not to be outdone 'Fest blesses the track with verbals that prove he's not a one-hit wonder:

"I give 'em all the plague, I'm awfully paid
And still make a cold starve for days
Never the type that ran, whatever the fight I'm in
You half-hearted, but I take this medicine like a man
For that {FE-VER} that keep these niggaz sweatin bullets
Clack clack, naw them the ones that you caught for tryin to pull it
This that {FE-VER} somebody warn the industry
'Fest on FIRE, and burnin in the third degree"

The thing that really catches my attention here is it would have been easy for Rhymefest to just cop out and drop a song of nothingness, because the beat would have carried him anyway, but he not only drops witty lines on it he interweaves them into a classic metaphor for being "sick" with his verbals. It's that kind of attention to detail that seperates wannabes from professionals. Rhymefest has a uniquely rich voice with just a hit of Midwestern twang - a little bit St. Louis but a whole hell of a lot more Chi-Town - that also helps his music hit and pull him ahead of a slew of other new MC's debuting this year. Fat raps and smooth tracks abound on this album. The Emile and Chochise laced "All I Do" is Rhymefest's tribute to the crazy life he had growing up in the Chi. "More" features another appearance by Kanye, but this time Cool & Dre hook up a melody perfect for singing along to. The track "Stick" pulls off a nearly impossible feat - combining a track I love like "Peter Piper" and a track I hate like David Banner's "Play" and making them into one cohesive jam, but the Animal House beats and playful 'Fest rap get the job done. One of the biggest surprises though may be the song "Build Me Up," which has a Mark Ronson track and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard himself singing a hook to the melody of "Build Me Up Buttercup." I'm not sure how they pulled it off, but I love this track:

"Look McGirt, I don't wanna trouble ya
But this chick on my block, I'm in love with her
I wanna get up in her Bush like Dubya
Tryin to get up in her Bush like Dubya
So write me back, let me know
How I'm 'sposed to hit it when I got no dough
How I'm 'sposed to spit it when I got no flow
Shimmy shimmy yay, shimmy ya, shimmy yo"

Writing ODB a letter for advice on how to mack a chick? Tremendous. It's too bad he's not still alive today, he could have a "Dear Abby" type column in a newspaper except called "Dear Dirt McGirt." Anyway to be fair as good as this album is not everything on this album is a winner. The No I.D. track on "Chicago-Rillas" is fine but there's an annoying sound like somebody farting repeatedly throughout and I've never been that big of a fan of Chi rapper Bump J. "All Girls Cheat" may be just a little TOO saccahrin sweet thanks to Mario crooning on it, but given time I can probably give it a pass. And I hate to dog out a beat I otherwise like, but the Eddie Kendricks "Intimate Friends" sample found on "Sister" has really been done to death in hip-hop. Rapwise though Rhymefest achieves his potential with an outstanding debut album that shows the promise of a long and entertaining career to come.

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: July 11, 2006
source: www.RapReviews.com