He may be a Grammy winner in the world of hip hop and rap; a musician with a message for the people. Now, Rhymefest is taking that message he writes about in his music and bringing it straight to Chicago’s South Side–the 20th Ward. His message will have a political spin this time as he sets his sights on the community’s top job as alderman.
Che “Rhymefest” Smith, from the Woodlawn neighborhood, announced this past Thursday that he wants to serve as alderman. His focus is to get residents of the community involved so that they can take part in the decision-making process rather than be dictated to.
The 33-year old music artist says,”The priority is to return the community back into the hands of the people who live here. For too long communities have been told what’s going to happen.”
As for his notoriety, well Rhymesfest feels it can only be an asset for the job. A job he says will come first, making sure everyone knows the music will not take his attention away from the ward.
You may know Smith as the one who co-wrote “Jesus Walks” with hip hop, rap colleague Kanye West, also a Chicago-bred musician. Rhymefest points out: “I believe–I know that we can use hip hop to engage our youth and engage our community.” He adds, it can be a tool, not the weapon that some portray it as.
Smith chose Exclusively Yours Auto Spa, a full service car wash and detailing business to announce his intentions. With his two kids in tow, Solomon, 12, and Amirah, 2, the potential candidate publicly staked his claim to the alderman’s post. Smith shared that the first thing he will do as alderman would be to assist people and businesses cut the “red tape” that prevents them from moving forward.
The aspiring alderman has rubbed elbows with people in high political places. In 2006 Smith had the opportunity to talk with David Cameron, who at the time represented England’s Conservative Party. The two talked hip hop and gun control over tea in the House of Commons.
Apparently, Cameron and Smith hit it off well. Cameron, now the British Prime Minister, stated the meeting was “very positive.” Smith thought Cameron reminded him of a “Bill Clinton type.” The British politico was obviously a hit because the hip hop artist invited him to go out on the town to do the club scene. Cameron said thanks, but declined the offer.
Smith will have to talk a good “rap,” though when it comes to gathering support and collecting votes. He will face Willie B. Cochran, the present alderman of the 20th Ward.
It seems Smith could run into the same snag as hip hop artist Wyclef Jean encountered in his bid to campaign for president of Haiti. Seasoned politicians point out the lack of experience, deeming the rap artists unqualified and poor candidates. Ald. Cochran says he will leave the decision in the hands of the people he has faithfully served.
Cochran said, “The voters of the 20th Ward 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.”
From Smith’s perspective, he feels there is a lack of leadership in the ward. He maintains his focus will be on poverty and disenfranchisement in the community. The would-be alderman will have to unfold a pretty bold plan. So far, no one else has figured out yet what to do about those issues. Not Obama. Not Mayor Daley. Not Gov. Quinn.