Last week I downloaded the new Rhymefest mixtape The Manual. We A.V Clubbers are big Rhymefest fans. I admire the way Rhymefest has stayed in the public eye after his much-hyped major label debut Blue Collar flopped by playing anywhere and everywhere (seriously, if you go to a picnic in Chicago chances are good Rhymefest will show up and perform) and releasing the high-profile Michael Jackson tribute album Man In The Mirror.
So I was excited to see what Fest would do next. I am both pleased and horrified to report that The Manual is awesome. And horrible. Musically it’s a fantastic. Morally, it’s abhorrent.
Rhymefest has two big overarching ideas for the project. First, he wanted to pay reverent homage to his inspirations and hip hop’s golden age by remaking or rapping over classic tracks, battling Big Daddy Kane via the magic of technology and collaborating with heavyweights from the late eighties and early nineties like Greg Nice, Queen Latifah, C.L Smooth, DJ Premier (Fest + Primo=awesome) and Sadat X of Brand Nubian. As a doddering old fogey infatuated with Hip Hop’s back pages I loved The Manual’s 1988 boom bap vibe.
Rhymefest’s other big idea is to release a concept mixtape about how much he hates homosexuals. There’s nothing casual about The Manual’s homophobia; Rhymefest is apparently hellbent on offending homosexuals. He even samples an interviewer angrily confronting him about his homophobia. The Charles Hamilton diss song “Supersonic (Chucky Cheese)” is a veritable master class in gay-bashing. Here’s a hint, Rhymefest: if your entire attack boils down to “Charles Hamilton is gay and also enjoys having sex with men on account of his same-sex orientation and shameful inversion, also he’s totally into dudes and just can’t get enough hot, hot gay sex” then you’ve lost the battle before it’s even begun, literally and figuratively.
So here’s my question for you guys: how do you reconcile what you love about a favorite artist with what you hate about them? Or are some things unforgivable? Does the good outweigh the bad when the bad is so transparently ugly and wrong?
As a longtime hip hop fan I’ve become pretty jaded about a lot of the genre’s weaknesses. I once made a mix-tape for an ex-girlfriend and she said she liked the songs but was repulsed by the sexism. I had become so numb to hip hop misogyny that I didn’t even think of the songs as particularly sexist. Besides, what’s wrong with being sexy?
Common eventually grew the fuck up and stopped scapegoating gays. Hopefully Rhymefest will follow suit or he’ll have a bunch of ex-fans on his hands. Judging by what his last album sold, I’m not sure he can afford that.