For your first major album, you probably could do a lot worse than have Kanye West’s name attached to it. Now, I’m not saying Rhymefest couldn’t hang on his own, because he can. But that’s just part of the hip-hop game these days: Get a big name on the CD sleeve and reel ’em in.
At least Rhymefest, who won a Grammy for his part on Kanye’s Jesus Walks, recognizes his debt to his fellow Chicagoan throughout most of Blue Collar, almost like he’s playing Scottie Pippen to Kanye’s Michael Jordan. Like on the hot track Brand New (produced by Kanye):
“Me and ‘Ye go back like crew cuts /
He hook me up as long as I don’t ask him for too much /
But even he know ‘Fest is layin’ it down /
Cause this is just an old beat he had layin’ around”
More proof of Rhymefest playing up his inferior status to Kanye (which makes him a little more endearing, to be honest) comes in the video, when Kanye is counting a wad of crisp $100 bills then comes across a crinkled, messy bill. He promptly hands it to Rhymefest.
I’ve been diggin’ Blue Collar, if, at the very least, because it’s one of the few hip-hop records that doesn’t rely on cumbersome skits to prove its conceptual vision. Maybe in this case, Kanye could learn a thing or two from Rhymefest.
Rhymefest keeps his point of toiling in meager work and city life to his rhymes, like on Devil’s Pie, which cops a sample from Someday by the Strokes, in one of the album’s great lines: “I know I’m ahead of my time, but I’m behind on my rent.”
Despite various producers touching the album – Kanye, No I.D., Mark Ronson – Blue Collar keeps a consistent theme and flow, though I could live without a couple of the record’s stumbling blocks (namely, Stick and Bullet feat. Citizen Cope).
Rhymefest (feat. Kanye West) | Brand New