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Rhymefest Raps To Support Obama Library on South Side

By Mina Bloom | December 5, 2014 5:53am
 Grammy-winning rapper Rhymefest says the South Side is an obvious choice to house the Obama Presidential Library.
Grammy-winning rapper Rhymefest says the South Side is an obvious choice to house the Obama Presidential Library.
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CHICAGO — Grammy-winning Chicago-based rapper Rhymefest released a freestyle rap video Wednesday in which he says building the Obama Presidential Library on the South Side should be an "obvious" choice.

"We all have a responsibility to pay it forward to the place that gave us so much, that launched our careers," the rapper told DNAinfo Chicago Thursday. "I believe the president is no different."

Che Smith, who goes by Rhymefest, is among several local celebrities and community leaders throwing support behind building the Barack Obama Presidential Library on the South Side at the University of Chicago, one of four remaining finalists.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii are still in the running.

By releasing a freestyle rap video produced by the founder of Museum Campus South, Carol Adams, Rhymefest hopes to convey that the library will not only bring prestige to the community, but it will also bring jobs and new businesses and deter crime.

"Obama knows that this is a rough-and-tumble place to be," Smith said of the South Side. "He has the ability to effect change simply by saying 'Yes, put my library in the place that began my political career, that matured me not only as a man, but as a black man."

He added: "It wouldn't make sense for this library to be anywhere else."

In the video, Rhymefest raps about Obama's roots over Sam Cooke's 1962 hit song "Bring it On Home to Me": "Before political life set, before you've been given a wife yet, before you and your daughters' eyes met, before the blessing and the curse of being the first, it was the blessing of home that created the thirst."

Unlike other rappers who call Chicago home, like Kanye West and Common, Rhymefest still lives in Chatham, where he grew up, which makes the decision about where to build the library deeply personal, he said.

"This is not symbolic," said Smith, who also works with West's nonprofit group Donda's House. "For me, it's about 'Will my son be safe as he gets on his bus back and forth from school?'"

In fact, Adams only asked the rapper to simply say "bring it on home to me" in the video, but Smith insisted that he create a longer, more personal piece, he said.

Chicago soul singer Yaw and Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and former Bears players Israel Idonije and Jerry Azumah, among others, have also appeared in videos produced by Adams, all of which are set to Cooke's legendary song.

In them, residents and community leaders sing or yell "bring it on home" to show their support. A little girl who shouts "yeah, yeah" at a Roseland community football game is one of the highlights, Adams said.

"We thought it was important to get the entire community engaged," Adams said.

Adams said she was inspired by Cooke's song, in which the legendary soul singer, who grew up in Chicago, sings of coming home.

Choosing the location of the presidential library has become a competition, she said, so she wanted to "compete as strongly" as possible.

The University of Chicago has an organization dedicated to bringing the library to the South Side.

The library would bring nearly 3,300 new jobs and have a $600 million impact on the community, according to the website. It also would attract 800,000 annual visitors and 40 new restaurants and bars, its website said.

And according to a report released by the Anderson Economic Group, it would be a $200 million boon to the South Side.

But you don't have to be a rapper or a pro sports player to support the effort, and you don't even need to work directly with Adams.

Anyone can make a YouTube video to show support, and Adams said they will post the video on the Museum Campus South Facebook page.

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