Rhymefest

Blue Collar (J Records)

A cursory listen to Rhymefest's Blue Collar reveals why it was delayed for nearly a year before finally seeing the light of day. Many of its songs feature unnecessary R&B singers trilling in the background, while Rhymefest spits lower-middle-class aspirations like "If King was alive, this is how he would sound." He and executive producers No ID and Mark Ronson work hard to replicate the slick, overproduced qualities that made his onetime Chicago friend Kanye West a star. But "Fever" is a near-miss that oddly falls flat. Eventually, however, Rhymefest stops trying to make hits and settles into a number of topical, issue-based songs like "Sister," a ballad about a crack-addicted woman; and "Bullet," which sympathizes with young men ensnared by early death. Blue Collar's second half demonstrates Rhymefest's potential as a thought-provoking artist, even if he's unlikely to match Kanye's swagger.

 
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