Rhymefest taking the stage for Chicago nonprofit
October 30th, 2016
Che Smith, the rapper and hip-hop artist known as Rhymefest, winced a few weeks ago when talk emerged from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office that absentee dads were the cause of crumbling communities.
“It’s rhetoric,” says the performer. “It’s not that fathers don’t want to be there. I find that many fathers can’t provide for their families and they’re embarrassed. They leave because they think their families will be better off.”
Rhymefest is speaking from personal experience. His father was absent much of the singer’s life.
“My mom was 15 and my dad was 18 when she got pregnant. It was the ’70s and he left the picture. My mom and I grew up together,” says Rhymefest, who’s co-written award-winning songs with Kanye West (“Jesus Walks”) and Common and John Legend (“Glory”).
A few years ago, Rhymefest went looking for his dad and found him on the streets on the city’s West Side.
“He was homeless for 30 years. I realized he didn’t abandon me. He was homeless and struggling with alcoholism,” Rhymefest said in an interview. The rapper made a documentary, “In My Father’s House,” about the experience.
Rhymefest brought his dad back to his home to help him recover, “But I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t feel comfortable bringing an alcoholic into my home.”
So he turned to Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit that offered job classes, Alcohol Anonymous meetings and other social services that “that helped put our relationship and our family back on track.”
On Nov. 5, rapper will share the story of how Heartland helped “repair” his family’s life. He’ll speak at the nonprofit’s annual Candlelight Ball at the Palmer House Hilton hotel.