RhymeFest Loses Runoff; Brings His Lawyers

The first time around, Che Rhymefest Smith garnered 20 percent of the vote (about 1,480 votes) in the 20th Ward race, and incumbent Alderman Willie Cochran won 46 percent. But 46 percent wasn’t 50 percent, and Alderman Cochran and Smith had a run-off race again on Tuesday, April 5.
This time around, Rhymefest’s three other opponents banded together to endorse him. However, with 98 percent of the precincts counted, Rhymefest lost his bid by 361 votes.

The run-off defeat isn’t the end of the race though.  Smith alerted supporters via Twitter at around midnight: “There were irregularities throughout the 20th ward. I went downtown w/ my lawyers to the Board of Elections…”

Smith knew it would be an uphill battle; he was a young rapper who faced-off with the incumbent and a former police officer. Alderman Willie Cochran of the 20th ward criticicized Smith, saying that he “degrades women and promotes violence” in his rap videos.

“You promote get your gun, promote calling people bitches, promote treating people like that … what makes him think he should make decisions for the community?” Cochran told a reporter.

In response, Smith has said he’s evolved, and wants to help his community. The Grammy-award winning hip-hop artist noted that rappers are quick to point to their disenfranchised upbringing to establish street credibility, but socially conscious rappers (i.e., Common, Lupe Fiasco, etc.,) are doing something to make conditions better.

“I live in a community where you have to drive two miles to get fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said, “…where they dump thousands of tires behind people’s houses, because they know people won’t fight it.”

Rhymefest grew up in the hard-knocks neighborhood of Englewood, a neighborhood that gained international infamy after the murder of Jennifer Hudson’s family members.

The artist has had minor scrapes with the law, once in 2001, and in 2005, but has said his past transgressions have nothing to do with his current outlook and societal contributions. “Are we saying to society that your past predicts your future? I don’t believe that.”

As far as Cochran’s attack on rap, Smith said, “I’ve used my music to help people.”

Zondra Hughes

Deputy Editor, Rolling Out