Rhymefest Rolls With Kanye On J Debut

Chicago rapper Rhymefest, previously best known for co-writing Kanye West's hit single "Jesus Walks," will on April 18 release his major-label debut, "Blue Collar."

Chicago rapper Rhymefest, previously best known for co-writing Kanye West's hit single "Jesus Walks," will on April 18 release his major-label debut, "Blue Collar." The Allido/J Records set features production by West and Mark Ronson, plus collaborations with Mario, Carl Thomas and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, among others.

According to Rhymefest, the album marks a shift away from hardcore rap. "There are enough people trying to be gangsters without me going that route," he says. "What we need in hip-hop right now are rappers who are both truthful and entertaining."

"Blue Collar" will be the follow-up to Rhymefest's 2001 independent release, "Raw Dawg," which was primarily produced by West.

Lead single "Brand New" is another West-helmed affair. "Kanye and I were in the studio, and he was playing me a few old beats," explains Rhymefest. "My joke was, 'Yo, I can take an old beat and make it sound brand new.' A few hours later, that was the song."

"Jesus Walks" peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a Grammy for best rap song in 2004.