Chicago’s hip-hop scene has always had a social conscience. Rappers like Common, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco emerged to national prominence in part on their themes of community empowerment and the inner-city struggle, and plenty of lesser-known artists continue to preach that gospel at underground shows around the city.
In Tuesday’s municipal elections, several young men of the hip-hop generation are hoping to take that spirit of empowerment to the very halls of established power, as they vie for seats on Chicago’s City Council.
Among those voices: Che “Rhymefest” Smith, a Grammy-winning rapper and activist; Hector Gonzalez, a former instructor at the University of Hip-Hop on the South Side; Rafael Vargas, a Philly-raised hip-hop lover turned education lawyer; and Brian Sleet, whose neighborhood ties and hip-hop connections run deep.
Surely the biggest name in the lot is Rhymefest, who won his Grammy for co-writing the anthem “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West. The rapper was raised on Chicago’s South Side, but went on to national and international stardom, testifying before Congress on artists’ rights and meeting with now-Prime Minister David Cameron in England after Cameron decried hip-hop for inciting violence.
But ‘Fest is back in his home neighborhood now, fighting to back his words up with actions.
“There’s a lot that rappers do, we talk about the hood where we’re from, how hood we are,” Smith told HuffPost Chicago. “In my hood, I live in a community with 28,000 vacant city-owned lots. I live in a community where you have to drive two miles to get fresh fruits and vegetables. I live in a community where they dump thousands of tires behind people’s houses because they know people won’t fight it. Source
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