Blue Collar

Artist: RhymefestTitle: Blue CollarRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

As much as the masses love to cheer on a hustler turned rapper, Chicago native Rhymefest is living proof that you can make it big in the game even if the only thing you've sold on the corner is your music. 'Fest spent years working random jobs while trying to make music, and finally, all of his pain is paying off. With Blue Collar (Allido/J), 'Fest successfully uses his major label debut to get Hip-Hop purists' heads nodding, club goers moving and everyone facing strife feeling a little better about life.

It's not easy being an artist that pretty much anyone can relate to, but 'Fest achieves this feat by taking the time to see eye-to-eye with a variety of audiences. In addition to his everyday raps, his boisterous flow and ability to bring the best out of the producers he works with make Rhymefest an all-around great recording artist. Perhaps the best overall showcase of his talent is the story-based track "Devil's Pie". Here, atop Mark Ronson's bubbly drum and guitar loop, 'Fest brilliantly relays the daily struggles he and his brethren endure (e.g. not being able to pay the rent). Ultimately, with this track and elsewhere, 'Fest offers a reasonable middle ground between optimism and realism. Like he says on the uplifting cut "Sister", which is dedicated to single moms and every woman fighting against the odds, "You can't have trials without tribulations."

But while 'Fest presents himself as "Mr. Blue Collar", that doesn't mean he's all about addressing the harsher aspects of life. On the lighter side of things, the No ID produced "Fever" sees this MC sound more self-assured than ever as he drops a heavy dose of sexual bravado over some highly danceable Latin jazz rhythms. And while it's not the album's strongest track, the Kanye West-assisted single "Brand New" features a welcome session of vintage-styled boasting.

Whether he's reassuring those in a struggle to keep their head up or just big upping himself, Rhymefest makes good use of this album, which is a hell of a lot more balanced than your typical commercial record. You may not hear his music on heavy radio rotation just yet, but as 'Fest says of himself on "Chicago Rillas": "I'm like bullets flying through the hood—you can't ignore me."