Rhymefest has truly earned his billing as a
blue collar emcee. Be it an interview, live performance or his music, he comes
across as the everyman. Smart, funny, personable and can also happen to rhyme
his ass off. ‘Fest
first garnered national attention when it was made public that the concept and
half the lyrics for “Jesus Walks” were his; he even brought Kanye the now famous sample that
carried the song.

Chi-town native had an easy opportunity to ride Ye‘s coattails and ink a deal with his G.O.O.D. Music venture. Instead he
opted to stay on his own rather than get lost in Kanye‘s towering shadow. Hooking up J Records, Fest has seen his album
delayed for some 6 months now, but here we are.

acumen aside, Rhymefest
had good potential for quality with his production team alone (Kanye West, Just Blaze, Cool & Dre, No ID, Emile,
and Mark Ronson).
Despite these notable producers and guest shots from Kanye (2) and the late ODB, Rhymefest keeps the spotlight on him throughout the
album. He continually shows off his wide variety of capabilities, the album
kicks off with shit slanging battle raps over an obvious Just Blaze banger (“Dynomite”).
By the end of the album he is asking Ol’
for advice on how to woo a lady (“Build Me
) – although in this case the show is absolutely stolen by ODB with his CLASSIC hook. In between
this book end songs, ‘Fest
touches on a lot more. The Kanye-assisted
has ‘Fest
trading jokes with ‘Ye
over his excellent production; “me and Ye
we go back like crew cuts/he hooks me up as long as I don’t ask for too
much/but even he knows ‘Fest laying it down/this is just an old beat he had
laying around.
” ‘Fest
hooks up with No ID to
prove he can make a club/radio ready track, the infectious Feva which interprets Peggy Lee‘s famous “You Give
Me Fever
.” ‘Fest
keeps it poppin’ for the dance floors with the dope “Peter
-sampled “Stick.”

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You won’t
find Rhymefest slouching with his
pen and pad at any point, “All I Do” has him waxing about the hard
come up in Chi-town. Unfortunately, his delivery is less than inspired over The Blueprint throwaway track. Thankfully
he doesn’t lack inspiration on “Bullet,” an incredible
storytelling track executed to perfection with crooner Citizen Cope. “Tell A
,” not surprisingly, also has ‘Fest showing his storytelling ability. Over a beat that
is one part Outkast‘s “The
Whole World”
and one part Shabazz
The Disciple
‘s “Red Hook Day,” ‘Fest displays the dexterity of his
flow. “Sister” is more great writing, detailing his sister’s
struggles with drugs and men.

the course of the LP’s 16 tracks, Rhymefest‘s
abilities are pretty damn apparent. Not only that, but his personality really
shines through as well, giving you a good idea of the type of guy you’re
listening to. Anyone who has read an interview with the man won’t be surprised
by how he comes across on this album. And while there is nothing here that I
would call bad, and unquestionably plenty of dopeness, there is a certain oomph
lacking that prevents Blue Collar
from being held on that next pedestal. Still, this is a must-have debut.