Dangerous: 5-18


Beats: L
Lyrics: XL
Originality: L

Rhymefest is still trying to define himself. He’s more than just the guy who beat Eminem in a rap battle in 1997 and helped Kanye West pen the 2004 hit, “Jesus Walks.” He’s an artist in his own right and his latest mixtape, Dangerous: 5-18, gives the Chi-Town MC the opportunity to explain more about his goals as a soloist, preparing to release his long-awaited sophomore album, El Che.

Guided by interview-style clips of Rhymefest talking about his career, "Dangerous" finds Che analyzing his place in the game. On the fast-paced “Martyr,” he raps about trying to be successful on his second album minus the major cosign he had on his first. “Without Kanye or Mark Ronson, it’s me in the clutch,” he raps. “None of that other shit y’all can say is a crutch.” On the introspective “Do It Again,” he reveals the reasons behind the lackluster response to his 2006 debut, Blue Collar, and promises better results this time around. And on the mellow “Bring It Back,” he calmly discusses the frustrations he has with the current state of hip-hop and how they affect him as a rapper.

All appears to bode well for ’Fest until he gets out of character several times on the mixtape, which winds up working against him. Though he’s still sharp lyrically, his words get lost on the frantic club track, “Touch and Go,” featuring Kid Capri and Just Blaze. He also struggles to stand out on the posse cut, “Get Plugged.” Fortunately, he finds his footing on songs like the incredibly powerful “Familiar Faces,” where he uses his first verse to point out that so many rappers try so hard to be different only to end up looking and sounding the same.

Rhymefest may not have the Kanye beats or the Ronson cosign anymore, but he’s clearly still a strong lyricist looking to find his way. And Dangerous brings him one step closer to that discovery. —Chris Yuscavage