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Gossip Wolf: Rhymefest crowdfunds a lavishly packaged new LP

Plus: Wicker Park sightings of Willis Earl Beal and Jennifer Hudson, and a new seven-inch from Vehicle Blues

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Last we heard from beloved local rapper Che "Rhymefest" Smith, he was teaching kids how to make music through the Got Bars program launched by Kanye's nonprofit, Donda's House. Smith's also working on his own material, and he's launched a PledgeMusic campaign to fund his third album, Violence Is Sexy. Smith's got less than a month left to raise money for the LP—which he plans to release with a book of lyrics, essays, and artwork—and he's offering up some primo incentives for contributors, including a private house show for a donation of $2,500 or more. There's more info—and an impressive bit of soulful agit-prop called "Heroes"—at bit.ly/rfestlp3.

Last Friday Gossip Wolf ran into charismatic soul singer Willis Earl Beal, who was offering his music to folks in Wicker Park. Beal had on his inscrutable Green Hornet-­style mask, but the eight songs on the hand-burned CD we got—the same ones on the free A Place That Doesn't Exist EP he gave away online in January—are as open-hearted as usual. Later that night, we saw Beal commiserating with Sharkula before his CIMMfest set at the Hideout—which turned out to be mostly a listening party for unreleased material, held in pitch darkness.

Beal wasn't the only crooner Gossip Wolf spotted Friday in Wicker Park. Academy Award-winning Dreamgirls actress and real-life R&B superstar Jennifer Hudson was shooting a music video in the neighborhood—including scenes on Milwaukee and in the park—and we distinctly overheard her exclaim that her toes were cold. We agree! Where the heck is spring already?

Gabe Holcombe of Lillerne Tapes makes damn fine bedroom shoegaze as Vehicle Blues, and this wolf is excited about the seven-inch he's got coming in June on Lake Paradise Records! The A side is a new version of a sublime Vehicle Blues tune called "Luke Song," and the B side consists of two new tracks, "Waving Steps" and "4 Tues."

Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or e-mail gossipwolf@chicagoreader.com

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