Driven by his motto, “true power is the power to empower others,” Che “Rhymefest” Smith is a writer, artist, and educator, shattering negative stereotypes about hip-hop and proving that art can be a tool for community building.
In 2005, Rhymefest won a Grammy for co-writing the mega-hit “Jesus Walks” with his childhood friend, Kanye West. In 2006, he released his critically acclaimed Blue Collar album and shortly after that, became the first rapper to meet in the British House of Commons when David Cameron invited him to discuss hip-hop and policy.
A dedicated community leader, Rhymefest ran for Chicago’s City Council in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods in 2011, and after pushing the incumbent into a run-off he lost by a narrow margin. In 2013, Rhymefest, together with his wife, founded Art of Culture, Inc. (formerly Donda’s House), a non-profit that provides artist & professional development. Art of Culture has directly served over 500 youth with free instruction and continues to be a force for creative change.
In 2015, he won a Critics Choice award, Golden Globe and Academy Award for “Glory”, his collaboration with John Legend and Common for the film, Selma. Also in 2015, Rhymefest added model to his impressive resume, when Kenneth Cole selected him to be featured in his “Courageous Class” campaign. Che earned his second Grammy for his work on “Glory” in 2016.
In the Fall of 2016, Che was selected as one of Chicago Magazine’s Chicagoans of the Year. Rhymefest was recognized for his hip-hop pedagogy by New York University’s Hip Hop Education Center in 2016. In 2017, Che was the first hip-hop artist to be named a prestigious Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. Che stars alongside Alec Baldwin, Taylor Shilling, and more in the Emilio Estevez directed film The Public set for a Spring 2019 theatrical release. No stranger to film, Che was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary In My Father’s House, which details his reunion with his estranged father. Always returning to his hip-hop foundation, Rhymefest released a project earlier this year in partnership with DJ Jazzy Jeff entitled M3. He also co-wrote “Cops Shot the Kid” featured on the latest Nas album Nasir. From music, to politics, to film, Rhymefest has elevated the landscape of hip-hop and creative leadership.