by Miles Raymer
Depending on how cynical you are in re: Chicago politics and/or hip-hop, you'll either find it surprising that rapper and aspiring politician Che "Rhymefest" Smith is having trouble with his past just two weeks into his campaign for 20th Ward alderman (which I wrote about last week) or you'll be shocked that it took two whole weeks for someone to dig up some legitimate dirt on him. The dirt in question is his criminal record, consisting of a 2001 guilty plea to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge (which arose from a fight with his first wife) and a 2005 conviction for criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon (Smith fired a registered gun into the air during an altercation with a real estate agent at his home). Smith says he's a changed man and has learned from his mistakes—and that he no longer owns a gun. According to the Chicago New Cooperative, incumbent 20th Ward alderman Willie Cochran has a predictably different opinion of his opponent's character, and claims that Smith's life mirrors the violence and misogyny portrayed in his music. Again, I'm not exactly a Rhymefest scholar, but I've heard most of the records he's put out and I don't recall him glorifying violence or misogyny even once. It seems like Cochran either believes that all rappers are thugs or wants to rile up the 20th Ward voters who do.
As my colleague Steve Bogira points out, the quintessentially Chicagoan moment in the CNC article is where Cochran admits that he already knew about Smith's record but had hoped to bust it out closer to election day.