For years, fans of Cheland “Rhymefest” Smith seemed to have a stank face because their beloved rapper couldn’t seem to get any love from the industry. They blamed Kanye, who some felt took credit for raps that were authored by Rhymefest. They blamed Common, who some felt didn’t seem to be doing enough to help Rhymefest make it over the commercial music hurdles that kept him from achieving what his fans knew he could. They praised music director Konee Rok for creating emotional videos that seemed to capture the essence of the rapper they loved.
That’s why 2015 has been so shocking. Point blank: For many fans, 2015 meant the bottom fell out. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, 2015 came along and Rhymefest finally began to get his due – fans have been secretly shaking their heads because the man who used to be like a folk hero for “the blue collar crowd” seemed to trade his fans in for “a shot at fame.” It felt like the song, “Brand New” was more than art immitating life. It felt that Rhymefest had sold them out.
As one fan said, “We’ve always wanted to see him do good. We knew he deserved the riches and the fame. We fought for that. But what he’s becoming is a mini Kanye. We don’t deserve that.”
This is the story of fans of Rhymefest. In their own words. With their own photos. And now their own heartaches as they watch the man who once stood as the people’s champ attack Spike Lee for ratings, trade blue collars for Kenneth Cole and slut shame women.
BOOK DUE: January 2016.
PREVIEW ARTICLE: December 16, 2015