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Chicago's Rhymefest is best known as the ghostwriter for none other than Kanye West. Of course, that could very well change when Rhyme drops his own album, Blue Collar, in the spring of 2006. Midwest audiences should need no introduction to the charismatic rapper. The battle MC won a freestyle competition against Eminem in 1997; collaborated with Twista, ODB and Common producer No ID; and has released numerous mix tapes and regional singles. In fact, Rhymefest already has a proper full-length album underneath his belt: 2001's often-discussed, rarely-heard Raw Dog featured production entirely by Kanye West. The rapper's casual flow and blue-collar themes attracted attention from the New York hip-hop illuminati, and Mark Ronson's Allido, an imprint of J Records, soon scooped him up. In 2005, Rhymefest's visibility increased significantly when he was nominated and won a Grammy for writing West's "Jesus Walks." The two had been childhood friends and had emerged from a similarly middle-class background. West had even offered to sign Rhymefest to his GOOD music label, but 'Fest declined, citing the desire for the two not to mix business with friendship. Rhymefest's Grammy win served to whet the public's appetite for Blue Collar. With the continued popularity of West, Common and Twista -- and the emergence of Lupe Fiasco and Rhymefest -- Chicago is set to challenge Atlanta and N.Y.C. as the nation's hip-hop capital.
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