CHICAGO (WBBM) – A Grammy Award-winning west side rapper wants to be on the city council.

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Che Smith is known to the world as “RhymeFest.” He grabbed worldwide attention in 2006 when he debated rappers’ artistic freedom with British Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who is now Britain’s prime minister.

He has known Kanye West since childhood and co-wrote West’s hit “Jesus Walks.” But Smith said is is his concerns as a father and third-generation Lawndale resident that make him run for public office.

“We have opportunities,” he said. “We just have to use them and involve the people in that.”

He said the 20th Ward has been ill-served over the years. Two 20th ward aldermen, Arenda Troutman and Cliff Kelley, have been sentenced to prison over the years.

Smith said if he is elected, he wants to involve block clubs in making policy, use green technology as a ticket to jobs and forge a partnership with the University of Chicago to provide tutors to community schools.

The 33-year-old Smith said he hopes to lead a renaissance in a community that’s dotted with empty lots and boarded up businesses and plagued by high unemployment and a high crime rate.

Smith says he wants to make it easier for people to invest in the community and expand businesses, which would spur the hiring of local residents.
He would not be the first local performer to seek public office, and he said he’d like a meeting with long-time Cook County Commissioner Jerry “the Iceman” Butler, who continues to perform while holding public office.

“That would be a dream come true and that would be me getting necessary wisdom for my candidacy,” he said.

Smith said he is not above trying to bring in some of his famous friends to get out the vote for him. The press release announcing his candidacy quotes West as supporting him.

“Smith has always been dedicated to improving the community he grew up in,” West said. “He has a passion for social and economic justice and has what it takes to bring positive change to the south side of Chicago.”

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