The Crusader Newspaper Group

Rhymefest talks to the Crusader after ordeal

By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

His problems are over, but rapper El Che “Rhymefest” Smith is still shaken after he was given a hard time trying to file a police report after he was robbed at gunpoint last weekend in Bronzeville.

Since then he has written a song about frustrations. He’s also been interviewed by the Chicago Crusader about his ordeal.

On Monday, August 29, Smith said he was robbed twice—once by a ski mask-wearing man, the other by three cops who refused to let him make out a police report.

The robber got $3.00 and his wallet, which containing a debit card, which he canceled, but he was told that today he was going to die.

While sitting in his car in the Bronzeville community, 39-year-old Rhymefest said his nightmare began at around 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning at 43rd and Cottage Grove. “I woke up early that morning to go make some music. I am sitting in the front seat of my car listening to music. I had an idea for some words, and I pulled my car over to write the words down. When you put your car in park, many times the doors are locked.

“The doors are locked but moments later somebody jumped into the passenger seat of the car with a gun pointed at my head and told me, ‘You’re going to die today. Today is the day you die.’

“I said, look, what do you want from me,” and he said, ‘I want the money. I want all the money.’ I gave him my wallet and before he left he said to me, ‘You were this close to being shot’.” He said the robber wore black pants and a black shirt.

“That was also interesting because at 7 a.m. this young man was dressed for work. That’s his work. That’s his uniform. I help so many young people about that age. I thought to myself at the time, this is how it happens. The people who you love the most are the ones who kill you.

“I thought here I am in a community that everybody told me to leave, about to die from the hand of the people I love the most. That is what was going through my mind. It was surreal, a dream.”

Rhymefest, a father of three, said as he drove off, he did not want to report the crime because he “figured nobody is going to catch the guy, nobody cares.”

But, he thought about his volunteer work with young people and how as a mentor he often tells them “we need to be the example of a changing community and how we need to work with the police and the community.

“I decided to report it because what if this guy shot some elderly lady or did something else. They need a description of who is running around in the area.”

THE VIDEO RHYMEFEST took with his cell phone shows two Chicago officers who gave the rapper a hard time when he tried to file a police report after he was robbed on Saturday, August 27.
THE VIDEO RHYMEFEST took with his cell phone shows two Chicago officers who gave the rapper a hard time when he tried to file a police report after he was robbed on Saturday, August 27.

Rhymefest was shocked at the behavior of two Black and one white policemen at the police station located at 71st and Cottage Grove and doubly insulted when one of them asked him if he got robbed at 43rd and Cottage Grove why did he come this far from where the original crime took place to make out a report.

“That’s not a question you should ask someone who has been robbed who was reporting a crime. It doesn’t matter where they are. All that matters is that you make this report. We pay our dollars for them to serve and protect.”

Arriving at the police station, Rhymefest said he was surprised to see a (Black) female police officer eating and playing Candy Crunch. “I told her I wanted to make a report of a violent robbery and she said ‘OK’ and to “hold on” but she kept playing her Candy Crunch,” he recalled. “I said, really? She kept playing her video game. I said really”?

At that point, Rhymefest said another Black female officer wanted to help and asked him to tell her what happened. “But, first she told me to put my hands on the desk so I can see them so she could feel secure.

“I put my hands on the table but we all know that was bizarre. I’m telling her, but she said, ‘Well, he didn’t get your phone. He must not have been that great of a robber.”

Disgusted, Rhymefest said, “At that point, I said one officer is stuffing her face and playing Candy Crunch and you’re patronizing me. Are you going to take my report?”

He was stunned when the officer told him, “Don’t ask about the other officer and you don’t ask any questions. We ask you all the questions.”

At that point, Rhymefest asked for her superior. “Low and behold the (white) sergeant was standing in the corner behind her. He said to me, ‘If you’re going to mouth off to my officer, you’re not going to make a report today. I’m not taking no damn report. Get out of here. Leave. No report for you’.”

“At that point, I turned on my camera, but then they became more concerned about the camera than the crime. They said you can’t record in here. Turn that off. They are very camera conscious at this point but they should be. At the end of the day, the citizens have been driven to this.

“I was traumatized, robbed twice,” Rhymefest said, “and that is problematic.”

The police finally apologized after he went on Twitter and after they found out who he was, but Rhymefest said, “I am not interested in an apology. I am interested in making sure that the next person who doesn’t have a Grammy is treated respectfully. I am interested in making sure that the community is whole and strong.”

Despite being told to leave the police station, Rhymefest said he was not leaving until he made out that report, which he did with the help of another white male officer.

After he filed the report, Rhymefest told one of the Black female officers, “You know sister,” but she said, ‘I’m not none {sic} of your sister.’ I said yes you are whether you want to be or not you are. I said, you know what sister? All I wanted to do was to be treated with professionalism and respect.

“She told me ‘You have to understand we’re desensitized.’ “She was saying they are desensitized to the feeling of their people. That was the last slap in the face,” said Rhymefest.

The next day, Rhymefest wrote a song called “Cops and Robbers.” He posted on Twitter on his Sound Cloud.


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