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Rhymefest - Topic

Blue Collar Play

Rhymefest won a Grammy before he released this, his first album for Mark Ronson's J-distributed Allido label. As one of the writers behind Kanye West's "Jesus Walks," the Chicago-raised MC gained some above-ground notoriety after several years spent paying dues as a battler (he beat Eminem at Scribble Jam '97) and featured guest (Ronson's "Bout to Get Ugly," West's "We Can Make It Better"). And, as he is eager to point out, he hasn't been paid all that much -- he has cycled through a fair share of low-paying jobs. Blue Collar, which involves production work from Ronson, West, Just Blaze, No I.D., and Cool & Dre, tends to remain true to its title and establishes Rhymefest's role as a down-to-earth, no-larger-than-life figure who happens to be exceptionally talented. With a slight lisp, his gruff voice projects several verses that are humbled and humorous without sacrificing any sense of swagger: "Blue-collar rap, why I call it that?/Sh*t, I know more real n*ggas that U-Haul than haul crack" ("Dynomite"); "I know I'm ahead of my time/But I'm behind on my rent" ("Devil's Pie"); "Workin' hard for scratch/Talk sh*t, get your jaw detached" ("All I Do"). His contradictions wouldn't be so significant if he didn't present himself in such a specific way. In "Brand New," he proclaims "Look at all my whips, they're all vintage" and boasts about his "loft with a view of the sea," possessions that don't sound blue-collar at all, unless he's putting a clever spin on referring to a few planks in a tree and a fleet of broken-down Gremlins. "Fever," another calculated shot at the charts, doesn't match his character either, dressed in the kind of production that would sound better behind an adolescent pop-rapper. If you subtract the shortcomings and pay extra attention to the tracks that discuss what things are like in Rhymefest's reality ("More," "Sister," "Bullet"), you'll hear roughly 45 very good minutes surrounded by 15 minutes of fluff. Regard the 45 minutes as the program and disregard the remainder as the commercials. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
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