Grammy Award Winner "Rhymefest"
MIW is proud to welcome Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist and community activist Rhymfest to our team.
Rhymefest has also been an integral part of the MIW community for several years, hosting various music industry seminars and frequently appearing as a guest speaker at MIW Open House events.
Rhymefest ran for alderman of the 20th ward, with incumbent Willie Cochran winning by a narrow margin.
MIW journalist Brad Bordyn caught up with Rhymefest in the studio recently:
What can you tell me about your new record? What are you trying on this release that might be different from your previous releases?
“Well the new record is called Motorcycle Diaries. You know, my real name is Che, I was named after Che Guevara, so this is basically about my travels as an artist, as a politician, as an activist. What have I found? What is the conclusion of the revolution?”
“This is also the first time I’m planning on getting grants to do the album, so that way we can give the album away for free… We’re pretty successful in working with some people from University of Chicago… [The album] is politically-based, around civic engagement.”
You’re pretty active in the community around Chicago. What community service projects do you have underway? How important is community service to hip-hop?
“I think community service is not only important to hip-hop, but it’s important to the world. It’s how a lot of people get their basic needs served. But it’s especially important to hop-hop because you get to be creative about helping people. So for instance, I’m working on a program called POP – Power of Purpose… We take at-risk youth and teach them conflict resolution skills through music, teach them civic engagement through popular culture. So you know, having Rhymefest or Kanye or Lupe or whoever come into class and talk to you about the importance of civic engagement – which is politics, you know, that’s what civic engagement is. It’s a new approach to really serving the needs of young people and helping them to know the pitfalls and also the triumphs they can have in their own ‘hood.”
How has MIW allowed you to give back to the community?
“Well, MIW, with the leadership of Reggi, and all the wonderful people who work here, and Stephen my engineer, have really come together as a team and as a cushion for me. It’s been more than a studio… the fact that this is an institution for learning for music; it’s something where I have been able to run into different professionals and network with different teachers who have been able to help me further my process of what I’m trying to do with community activism in music. So it’s just an in-house network of professionals. It’s awesome. It’s more than a studio experience... MIW is the ultimate experience in music.”
Do you plan on another run for public office in the future?
“It’s not something I’ve been thinking about now. What I’m trying to do now is build our Power of Purpose organization and help as many people [as possible]. Our motto is the only true power is the power to empower others. So through our organization we’re trying to release music, keep the fans activated, and empower other people.”
“If it calls for another run for office and I get that support from the people, then perhaps I’ll go that way. But we also have some wonderful things we’re doing through music in the community.”
What other artists out there right now do you feel are contributing to the future of hip-hop, either with their message or through the music itself?
“There’s definitely a guy named Jasiri X in Pennsylvania who is a community activist and musician, I’ve been running into him all over the place. Invincible in Detroit, who does community projects with music. Lupe Fiasco who has the Lupe Fiasco Foundation where they have book clubs, coat drives, glove drives, give away food in the community… You have Immortal Technique who is opening up schools in Afghanistan for young people, so you have a lot of artists who are really active. You have Talib Kweli opening up a book store in Brooklyn. It’s happening.”
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young artists out there?
“I would tell artists don’t be afraid to be unique. Don’t be afraid to be the ultimate you, and not anyone else. That success is based off of your perception of music. That you are the experience – you are not a physical body living an experience, you ARE the experience – so let your music be that.”
When can we expect to hear your new album? Projected release date?
“Yeah, we’re trying to release the album by mid summer, so I would think by mid July the album will be on its way out.”