From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY, Chicago rapper Rhymefest is a Grammy-winning songwriter and a former battle-rhymer who once trounced Eminem in a rap off. On his debut album Blue Collar, Rhymefest draws on his years of less glamorous work. Here is music critic Christian Hoard with a review.

(Soundbite of music)

RHYMEFEST (RAPPER): (Rapping) Times is hard, no life is life, I lost my job, baby, oh my God. My wife is nauseous, she pregnant as hell. My mistress on the cell saying she going to tell.


That's Chicago MC Rhymefest rapping about losing his job, borrowing money to pay his gas bill, and feeling pressured to sell drugs - all over a sample of the hip, New York band The Strokes.

Unidentified Singers: (Singing) (Unintelligible) trust if it don't go, then it come back down to us. Everyday - everyday (unintelligible) is to what people do when it all comes down from…

HOARD: Throughout his debut Blue Collar, Rhymefest chronicles the struggles of working folks, and he knows from experience. The 28-year-old estimates he held down 50 crap jobs in his life, included a nasty janitorial gig. But where other so-called socially conscious MCs get bogged down in brainy, all too righteous rhymes about social ills and politics, Rhymefest has a sharp whit, a sense of fun, and loads of other subjects to rap about - including his strong libido and how other lesser MCs have made him quote, whacktose intolerant. All those qualities Blue Collar a deeply engaging album with a strong pleasure principle.

(Soundbite of song, Brand New)

RHYMEFEST: (Rapping) Survey says while I sleep the (unintelligible) Kanye just as important as Michael Jordan was, to the MBA where he was scoring. Ralph Lauren was born right before I wore them and I don't like it unless - brand new. You might see me on the…

HOARD: That song, Brand New, features Kanye West - Rhymefest's long time Chicago buddy. West recorded Jesus Walks - a track Rhymefest had written - for his multi-platinum 2004 debut album. And the song won both men a Grammy. Besides the Grammy, West and Fest share a barbed sense of humor and deep perceptiveness. All Girls Cheat is a detailed account of how women are better at cheating than men.

And elsewhere, Rhymefest raps about the ineffectiveness of P Diddy's Vote or Die campaign. Quote, I feel like Puff Daddy lied, because I ain't vote and I ain't died. Whatever the content, his rhymes work, because he attacks his tracks with gusto and fierce command - as on this cut, Fever.

(Soundbite of song, Fever)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Fever.

RHYMEFEST: (Rapping) Somebody wander in the streets just go buy and you and bombing in the third degree till they murder me by a vote, they don't orders from me, and if they do then that's perjury.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Fever.

RHYMEFEST: (Rapping) Hot like hot sauce, we got, we got that fever. This is what he's talking about, take your drawers off, we got that fever.

HOARD: That clip is one of several hot bangers on Blue Collar. Rhymefest loves sturdy, old school funk and ‘70s R&B. And with help from West, Blue Collar is full of big, hooky beats with soul samples and rippling guitars, as well as some less typical hip-hop fair. Besides The Strokes song, Blue Collar samples ‘70s arena Rockers Three Dog Night. And the Album is rounded out with this song, a cover of the Foundations' Build Me Up.

(Soundbite of song, Build Me Up)

RHYMEFEST: (Singing) Why do you build me up - build me up, buttercup baby, just to let me down - to let me down? (unintelligible) me around. And then worst of all - worst of all.

HOARD: It features cracked crooning from the late Old Dirty Bastard, a notoriously weird MC from the ground-breaking ‘90s rap group Woo Tang Clan. And it's a reminder that you can keep it real, even when you're covering a cheese ball pop tune.

(Soundbite of song, Build Me Up)

RHYMEFEST: (Singing) Build me up - build me up, buttercup…

BRAND: The album is called Blue Collar by the rapper Rhymefest. Our reviewer Christian Hoard is a writer at Rolling Stone Magazine.

(Soundbite of song, Build Me Up)

RHYMEFEST: (Rapping) This is for everybody looking for…

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment.

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