Grammy-Winning Hip-Hop Artist Aspires to Political Office
(CNN) — Che “Rhymefest” Smith considers himself a “raptivist,” a name he gave himself years before he took on his latest mission. If the name sounds familiar, there could be several reasons. For starters, Smith won a Grammy in 2005 for co-writing the hit song “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West, as well as the track “Gorgeous” on West’s latest effort, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” The South Side of Chicago-born MC would later release the critically acclaimed albums “Blue Collar” and “El Che.” Lately, it’s not the music that has put Rhymefest’s name in news headlines across the country.
Smith recently ran for alderman of the 20th Ward in his hometown. Like most entertainers, the initial reaction to Smith’s move was that he was the novelty candidate hoping to put a scare into the incumbent, Alderman Willie Cochran, a former police officer. Well so far, he’s done more than demand Cochran’s attention. After voters went to the polls in the general election (including a much ballyhooed mayoral race) and the results were counted, Cochran was not able to grab the 50% of votes needed to win. That forced a runoff with Smith, who finished second ahead of George Davis, a candidate endorsed by the majority of the local media.
“Everything begins with love,” Smith said about his political message on a busy campaign day that saw him visit three senior citizen homes before wrapping up his day at a popular South Side eatery. “This isn’t about me today. This is about a community. No matter how I feel or how tired my body may feel, the love, the energy and the sacrifice for the community is inside of me.” While the community activist has always been embedded in Smith’s spirit, it was actually a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron (before he was prime minister) years ago that inspired Smith’s run for office.