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— by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Rahman Dukes and Chris Velona

MC: Rhymefest

Representing: Chicago

CD: A Star Is Born

411: You might have heard Kanye West thank fellow Chicago MC Rhymefest during his acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards. Well, Kanyeezee has great reason to shout out his boy — Rhymefest wrote part of Kanye's "Jesus Walks" and even found the sample West used on the song.

So with a name like Rhymefest, you'd figure the kid has lyrics — and he does. Fest even claims to have beaten Eminem in a battle several years back, and has the face-off on videotape. We'll have to see if that pops up.

Rhyme is currently signed to Mark Ronson's Allido Records and is expected to drop his debut later this year. Ronson and Kanye will be among those producing.

Joints To Check For

  • "Jesus Walks," the original version. Rhyme starts his verse exactly like Kanye does, but follows a different path in the verse. "You know what the Midwest is, young and restless," he raps. "Where coppin' that work is your best investment/ And none of my n---as gonna answer questions/ 'Cause none of my n---as know who the Feds is/... Sometimes I feel that God don't love me/ Maybe the problem is that I don't love me."

  • "Battle Royale featuring 50 Cent vs. Ghostface and Nelly vs. KRS-One." Nope, nope, nooooooooope. Some of your favorite MCs aren't actually going at it; Rhymefest is showing off his ingenuity on the mic by imitating the combatants' voices and flows. "G-G-G-G-Unit, don't get stole on," he raps from the perspective of 50 Cent. "You ain't the champ n---a, make you take that robe off/ Heard some 'hood n---as made you take that gold off/ Bird on his arm like this child is so lost."

  • "Joe Millionaire" featuring Ahmad. Rhyme raps about being broke as joke, but has a positive outlook while trying to survive. "Living my life for what is worst/ Pray for the best, prepare for the worst," he says. "I tried to do what's right/ N---as don't respect it until you threaten their life."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week

  • DJ Grand Imperial's R&B Catastrophe 3, Ladies Night
  • Juelz Santana's Back Like Cooked Crack #2: More Crack
  • Team Invasion's Hood Rules Apply Volume 3
  • The Aphilliates and Purple Ribbon Ent's Got That Purp
  • DJ Deep Freeze's Subzero Vol. 3
  • DJ Envy and Tapemaster Inc.'s R&B Royalty and Roc All-Stars
  • DJ Clue's He's a Pro, hosted by Carmelo Anthony
  • DJ Roli Fingaz's Fire Blends Pt. IX

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
  • "Turn Da Lights Off" remix - Tweet featuring 50 Cent
  • "U Already Know" remix - 112 featuring Ja Rule
  • "1 Thing" remix - Amerie featuring Fabolous
  • "So Icy" - Young Jeezy and Gucci Man
  • "Hate It or Love It" remix - 50 Cent and the G-Unit
  • "New York" - Nas
  • "I'll Hurt You" - Busta Rhymes
  • "Slow Down" - Bobby Valentino
  • "Never" - Talib Kweli

Celebrity Favs

"I'm hungry!" Comedian Jamie Kennedy says a major musical influence on his life was the group formerly known as the Disco 3. "Right now I've got Jay-Z and Linkin Park. Jay-Z really has his own style. He has his own flow. 50 Cent, Obie Trice, I like Kool Keith. A lot of people don't know him, he's underground. The Pharcyde. But my first tape I ever got was "All You Can Eat" by the Fat Boys. That was when I was 10 years old. That is why I'm into rap music."

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

Common was telling everyone he was "back" last week in Los Angeles during the parties and shows surrounding the Grammy Awards. Come May, he says the world will hear probably his "best work ever": his new album Be, produced by Kanye West and Jay Dee.

"The fact that people are coming up to me and saying this music really means something, I'm geeked about it," Common said last week. The video for Be's lead cut, "Corners," which Kanye produced, was shot in Chicago by West.

"The song is about me talking about how the corner means so much to black life, to life, to city life. The soul of the city is on the corner," Com explained. "The corner represents a lot. I talked about that from a Chicago perspective."

"He is considered to be one of the top 10 greatest MC's of all time, which he is and you will see with ['Corners']," boasted Kanye a few days before the Grammys in L.A. "He has the Last Poets on [the song], who are just historical. I just feel honored to have a chance to work with them. Their voices, they just re-ignited the struggle all the way from the black power movement to today. I think it is really time to hear something like that on the radio." ...

No mean mugging for DJ Muggs. He has a slew of projects that are going to keep him smiling all the way to the bank while sating some of his artistic taste buds. Muggs, who is currently scoring one scene in the new Ice Cube movie "XXX: State of the Union," just dropped a new mixtape this week with DJ Warrior, Mash Up Radio Vol. 1, where you'll find artists like Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G. and Muse.

"Some of them, they pretty much come together easily," Muggs said of the process he's been carrying out for the better part of the last four years. "We'll try like about eight or nine things to make sure everything blends right. Sometimes we'll start manipulating the voices, time stretching, everything."

The spinner/producer just started Angeles Records, and the first official project spawning from the venture is a group album he has in the works with the GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan. "We're talking about doing a one-off," Muggs explained. "We gave him about 14 tracks or so. He's about halfway through writing to them. It would be something like a partnership on a record. Maybe [we'll call it] The Genius and the Assassin."

Muggs has also started a new Soul Assassins LP and says he's still down with Cypress Hill. The group is in the midst of getting off of its label, Columbia. ...

Raekwon says he doesn't make music anymore: He just considers his work art. So with the 10th anniversary of his must-have hip-hop album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, fast approaching, the Chef notes it's a must that the sequel come out this year.

"Part two is definitely the next thing that's happening," Rae said recently in New York "A lot of people waited for this album to come out and they wanted sharpness and prestigiousness from me. So now I'm gonna turn it up so much that it might be controversial, it might be detrimental to younger viewers so that I wouldn't recommend they go get this album. It's going to be a lot of stories and things that really take place. It's going to be a hard album."

RZA, Ghostface and a few other members of the Clan are locked in to be part of the project. Someone who might also have a hand in helping Rae make sure his LP has just as much impact as the original is Damon Dash. The two have been discussing business ventures, and Raekwon recently appeared on Dash's Roc 4 Life mixtape.

"It's just us having little conversations about what I'm dealing with and how he can assist what I'm trying to do," Rae said. "We was just chattin', so nothing's really solid or whatever. I'm still on Universal. We was just talking big things. He knows what I'm doing; he wanted to Don King the situation. I'm like, 'You gotta Don King it.' "

Dash called on the sword-swinging Wu member to pay homage to the fallen ODB on Roc 4 Life, and Rae wasted no time laying down a tribute track.

"I was already thinking of putting something out on the death of Dirty because I wanted somebody to know something about the points of view and how we felt about him. So, he just happened to call me at the same time. I'm like, 'Wow!' I know Dirty was doing business with them. I feel them. I feel what they do. You know, let me be a part of that. So I went into the joint."

For more on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out the feature "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

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Photo: MTV News

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