“My grandfather’s name was Big George and my father was actually homeless,” he says.
As an activist, artist, teacher, and writer Rhymefest is known for shattering negative stereotypes about hip-hop and establishing himself as a positive role model for underprivileged youth.
A dedicated community leader, he is the co-founder of Donda’s House, a non-profit youth arts organization, that provides a safe and inspiring environment for young people in Chicago.
An award winning artist, Rhymefest grabbed a Grammy for co-writing “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West. In 2015, he collaborated with John Legend and Common for the film “Selma” and earned a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for “Glory.” That same year he was the subject of the powerful documentary, “In My Father’s House.”
Rhymefest, you have accomplished so much already at such a young age. What’s in the future for you?
More great opportunities. My wife once said you should ask yourself the question, ‘Are your best days in front of you or behind you?’ My best days are in front of me I said. She then said, ‘Young man, go out there and be you.’ And so it’s just interesting when we say young. You can say young at 40, 50, 60, as long as your best days are in front of you.
With all the titles you hold, what category best describes you, or the one you prefer?
There is no category other than the creative. If we’re living out our purpose, and we’re using our gift, our gift will take us all over the place. You’re a journalist but you can use that same knowledge to be a teacher. You can use that gift you’ve got to do anything. I want to show people no matter what category they are in, they can be a gift.
Would you say ‘The Public,’ written and directed by Emilio Estevez, is a gift?
‘In My Father’s House’ is the gift that keeps on giving. Emilio’s mother actually saw this documentary I made and called him and said, ‘This is someone who you need in your film.’ So because of my experience of rekindling my relationship with my father, it actually led to me to being in this movie.
In the documentary, I found my estranged father who had been homeless for 35 years. My father and I met at the library because that’s where he could have dignity instead of at the park or the shelter.
What is it you want etched in people’s minds when they leave theaters?
I want people to walk away understanding that public institutions belong to them. They belong to the city, they don’t belong to the powers that be. The library is the last place where we can get a free education. So if you can’t afford to go to college, you can afford to check a book out of the library and educate yourself. I want people to understand that we own the institutions, not the politicians.
“The Public” also stars Emilio Estevez, s,Michael K. Williams, Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union, Christian Slater, Jena Malone, and Taylor Schilling. “The Public” is in theaters now.
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