Rhymefest: From Grammy-Winning Rapper to Chicago Alderman?

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Jeff Gentner / Getty Images

All over Chicago’s 20th Ward, posters featuring a grinning, bearded Che “Rhymefest” Smith read “It’s Our Time.” Smith’s talking to his neighbors in the troubled South Side area, and if things go his way, it just may be.

Why is this special? Hundreds ran for City Council in Chicago, right? Yes. But here’s the funny thing, Smith is also a rapper, who co-wrote “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West and went on to win a Grammy for it in 2006. As a battle rapper, he’s known for a 1997 lyrical duel in which he bested Eminem. Later he released 2006’s “Blue Collar” earning much acclaim in the hip-hop w0rld.

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After a stint of trouble early last decade, including a domestic violence and gun conviction, Smith turned his attention to cleaning up the streets and now he wants to be the ward’s alderman. His run against incumbent Willie Cochran has forced a runoff for the council seat after capturing 20 percent of the area’s vote against Cochran’s 46 percent, forcing a runoff set for April 5 (Chicago candidates must win by 50% or more). His platform is one of making the 20th Ward, one of the city’s poorest and most violent, into one of the greenest, through job training and reconstruction.

ā€œIā€™m having a revolution of love,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We want the 20th Ward to be a village again.ā€

As far as Rhymefest is concerned, the runoff is no fluke. He’s serious and wants anyone who can participate in his extended campaign to do so.

“We have 42 days to make this happen. I’m going out today to get to work immediately but I cannot do this alone,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “Wherever you are in the city/Chicagoland area, we need your help!”

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