Exclusive: Rakim and Rhymefest Address Album Setbacks, Prepare to Save The Rhinos

 With the Ecko-sponsored Save the Rhinos Concert taking place tonight (June 8), performers Rakim and Rhymefest exclusively talked about album set backs and label situations.

Rakim and Rhymefest aren't exactly synonymous. But the two lyricists have been traveling similar paths in the past year. Years removed from his deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records, the God is finally poised to drop his new solo disc, [Ed's note: Oh My God, the album Ra recorded with Dre, is not scheduled to be released] The Seventh Seal.

"I wasn't expecting the [Aftermath] set back. [With] me and Dre, things ain't really work out, but it kinda put things in perspective for me cause when I came back to the east what I didn't wanna do is sign to a label and get 10% of my product," Rakim explained. "I was trying to make a conscious move and [it] took a little time. But I came up with a master plan and this right here is a real good situation for me -creative wise and money wise, so I should be able to do what I want and at the same time make things happen for myself. We're in the final stages of the contract, so hopefully in about a month, two months we should hear a single and the album shortly after that."

Fest has also seen his album, Blue Collar, pushed back. But while Ra's postponement was partly due to disagreements with Dre, Fest was the main person co-signing his debut's delays.

"It's a very important album. This is one of the best albums of the year to come out. And that's not me trying to be braggadocios, that's me stepping back looking at it from a distance in comparison to all the other stuff that's coming out," Fest said. "I didn't wanna bring an album out that nobody was aware is out. I didn't wanna bring an album out just to have an album out, just to say, 'look, it's out.'"

"If I co-wrote 'Jesus Walks.' If I got songs with [rock group] Citizen Cope about the war, like 'Bullet.' If I'm going around here in the neighborhood, the community helping kids, teaching babies and doing more than just swinging my chain from side to side -I damn sure want people to know my album out," the Chicago emcee continued. "This ain't about me. This is about the message. So I was one of the lead people to say, 'nah, push it [Blue Collar] back.' I wanted to push it back, so that I can build awareness, so that I could go out and perform, touch the people and more people could know and see Rhymefest, so that when Blue Collar drops, they were able to feel me."

The Aftermath deal wasn't exactly in vain. It helped Ra realize that he needed more autonomy. He is presently looking at several options for major distribution for his Raw Records. While he hopes to eventually put out his own artists, he believes that not every rapper is fit to be under another artist's label.

"To me it was just... he wanted me to go one way and I wanted to go a different way," Ra revealed regarding his split with Dre. "You know I've been around for a while and I kinda went through my transition to the point where I felt that I been through... the shit that Dre wanted me to go back to I've been there already. I guess with Rakim some things don't work the same."

"I was speaking to Busta [Rhymes] the other day and I told him he's a better cat for that situation," Ra added. "Some artists I guess, they can bend over backwards and change they shit around. I got my little methods of operation. I like to stick to that."

Just as Ra was looking for a new situation, Fest was doing the same. The former battle rapper was first courted by Kanye West before signing with DJ Mark Ronson's Allido/J Records.

"Yes, Kanye offered me a situation with G.O.O.D. Music and I was like, 'nah, I'm straight.' Kanye is a friend and a brother. At that particular time, there was only room for one star on G.O.O.D. Music, especially the lane that I'm in, the kind of rap that I do," Fest broke it down. "I don't rap like Really Doe. I don't rap like GLC. I don't rap like Fonzworth Bentley. The lane that I'm in is kinda like my man [Kanye]...so to sign with him to me and that's my friend and my brother, didn't really make a lot of sense."

"But Mark Ronson, he did something for me that a lot of people that you sign to their label wouldn't do. Mark Ronson put me on a tour around the world with him. Not that Kanye wouldn't have, but Mark Ronson did," Fest continued. "We toured with Justin Timberlake, Sean Paul, Robbie Williams. And I learned about music. I didn't get a chain that swung from side to side. I didn't get a Cadillac. I got knowledge. I got something you couldn't recoup. Mark Ronson put me in music classes, vocal classes, instrument classes, whatever I wanted to learn. It's like Mark Ronson and I formed a friendship through business and Kanye and I saved a friendship."

Rakim, Rhymefest, Common, Lupe Fiasco and Styles P are scheduled to perform at the Save the Rhinos Concert in New York's Central Park tonight (June 8).

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