Rhymefest ‘El Che’ – Review

3 Jul

He beat Eminem in an MC battle, he co-wrote Jesus Walks, he has worked with everyone from Mark Ronson to Jazzy Jeff and he released some of the best mixtapes of the last decade – but you probably haven’t heard of him. Rhymest has been Hip Hop’s next big thing for nearly a decade; his highly anticipated debut came out four years ago, on a major label and to very positive reviews but it didn’t sell many copies. Now he’s back, with his second album (this time on an indipendent label and without the help of big name producers) and his ambition is to reclaim the crown that was very nearly his.

But in my opinion he goes about it in the wrong way. On ‘El Che’ Rhymefest spends far too much time dwelling on the past – on his friendship with Kanye that went sour, on being dropped from his labl and on other aspects of his troubled life. His self pity is not very enduring and it starts to grate as the album progresses. For a rapper that has been known for his humour, there is not enough of it in these autobiographical songs. And where he does use humour it is often done in a mean spirited and even vindictive way. Unfortunatly the victims of his quick tounge are often women and the gay community, and it is this type of backwards thinking (that manifests itself in the production as well) that makes ‘El Che’ such a boring album. His mixtapes (particularly the brilliant ‘Man in the Mirror’) were highly entertaining and witty but that is not the case with his second LP.

There are other problems as well. The album itself is far too long, far too hit and miss and far too predictable. He is at his best when  rapping over a nice melody or soul sample, ‘Say Wassup’ is a good example of where this works, but he is more keen on using weird regae samples. Also there is none of the invention that saw him rapping over Someday by The Strokes on the last record. When the beat is hard and rocking (as it is on ‘Talk My Shit’) it usualy shows a lack of invention, and unfortunatly more often than not Rhymefest takes this easy option. It seems likely now that his producers last time around, Kanye West, Mark Ronson and Just Blaze, were more responsible for his creativity than anyone let on. Without them it seems Rhymefest is out of ideas.

For all the high expectations Rhymefest falls back on hip hop cliches far too often. The Beats are quite predictable, the lyrics are typical fare and more worryingly there is a hint of the hompohobia and mysogony I thought had been swept out of the genre many years ago. At his best Rhymefest is still one of the most promising and entertaining rappers in the world but two albums in and he’s still failing to proove it at any substantial level.



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