Who is Rhymefest? Everything you need to know about the Chicago rapper

He's Kanye West's longtime collaborator.

Rhymefest AKA Che Smith was born on July 6, 1977, in Chicago, USA.

The 40-year-old has been in the music industry since he was a teenager, releasing his own music and working behind the scenes as a co-writer and producer on other artists’ work.

He recently hit the headlines after becoming embroiled in a Twitter tussle with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian over their shared charity, Donda’s House – but who is the rapper?

Kanye West and Rhymefest go way back


The pair met as teenagers living in Chicago, according to Rhymefest’s documentary ‘In My Father’s House’.

16-year-old Kanye was an up-and-coming producer and approached rapper Rhymefest to collaborate with him, but Rhymefest wasnt convinced, and telling his friends about this “arrogant dude”.

Word got round to Kanye, who called him one night saying he was coming round to pick him up. He intended to beat him up, but instead the pair hit it off.

“You know, we picked you up because we were gonna jump you and beat you up and leave you somewhere,” Kanye told him. ‘But you’re a cool dude.”

Rhymefest, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Chris Tucker, pictured in 2005
Rhymefest, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Chris Tucker, pictured in 2005

He’s Kanye West’s longtime co-writer

Rhymefest has been working with Kanye since their teenage meeting, and has written on most of his albums, excluding ‘808s and Heartbreak’.


He co-wrote Kanye’s tracks ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘Hold My Liquor’ and ‘On Sight’.

‘Jesus Walks’ – from Kanye’s 2004 album ‘The College Dropout’ – won a Grammy for Best Rap Song in 2005.

Rhymefest claims that he found the sample for ‘Jesus Walks’, but gave it up to Kanye because he had “access”, saying in an interview: “He was already signed to Def Jam and had an album slated, so this is the point where you could become selfish or practical.

“He rapped [‘Jesus Walks’] better than I probably would’ve at that time. He knew more about the industry, and he made that song a success. So he should get the credit for that. But he wouldn’t have all that without my words.”

He’s multi award-winning

As well as ‘Jesus Walks’, Che Smith also scored a Grammy for his work on John Legend’s 2014 track ‘Glory’, from the movie, ‘Selma’.

The same track – co-written with Legend and Common – won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, both for Best Original Song. In 2015, ‘Glory’ won him a Critics Choice Award.


Rhymefest released his first album ‘Blue Collar’ in 2006

‘Blue Collar’ was released on July 11, 2006 on J Records, and was co-produced by the likes of Just Blaze, Kanye West and Mark Ronson.

Lead single ‘Brand new’ featured Kanye West and was released on October 18, 2005.

The album reached number 61 on the Billboard chart, though was well received by critics.

He co-founded Donda’s House Inc with Kanye West

Rhymefest and Kanye started Donda’s House in 2011, a charity named after Kanye’s late mother, Dr Donda West, who died of complications following surgery back in 2007.

The charity offers at-risk youth in the city the chance to learn how to write and record music.

It’s described as providing: ‘unprecedented access and education from leading experts in the arts, culture & entertainment industry to Chicago’s creative youth’.

However, the charity recently released a statement revealing that they were struggling following the loss of many supporters thanks to Kanye’s pro-Donald Trump tweets.

Days later, Rhymefest used the beef between Pusha T, Kanye and Drake to accuse Kanye of abandoning the foundation, referencing the invoice Drake sent to Pusha T for reviving his career.

Tweeting Drake, Rhymefest wrote: ‘When G.O.O.D. Music sends the money they owe you, will you please help us rebuild Kanye’s mothers house for the youth of Chicago. I spoke to Kanye about it. His response was “fuck the youth of Chicago”.’

After Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian took to Twitter to accuse Rhymesfestof lying, he responded with a statement saying that when he was in the studio with Kanye, the rapper was “more interested in his record” than talking about the charity.

Donda’s House later issued a statement saying they would no longer be going by that name, due to the recent controversy.


The rapper owns Kanye West’s childhood home

Back in November 2016, Rhymefest purchased Kanye West’s childhood home, so it could be used as a ‘community arts incubator’ for Donda’s House.

‘It will be the first of our Nationwide Lite-Houses,’ he wrote on Instagram. ‘A state of the art recording studio, a curriculum space for @dondashouse and southside music museam [sic].

‘We want to show bright spots in communities that’ve been divested from, we know more Lights exist here, they just need to be activated.’


He’s dabbled in politics

Following the release of ‘Blue Collar’, Rhymefest was invited to the British House of Commons to discuss hip-hop and policy with Davida Cameron, becoming the first rapper to do so.

Rhymefest also ran for office in Chicago back in 2011.

‘A dedicated community leader, social and political organizer, Rhymefest ran for Chicago’s City Council in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods in 2011, his IMDB bio reads.

‘After pushing the incumbent into a run-off and defeating four candidates, he lost by a narrow margin.’

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