George Clinton ‘tears the roof off’ Rhymefest’s campaign fundraiser

30 Dec

George "P-Funk" Clinton performs his classic single "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)". (Photo by Len Kody)

By Len Kody

George “P-Funk” Clinton headlined a festive campaign fundraiser Tuesday night for rapper-turned-politician Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Smith is running for alderman of Chicago’s 20th ward.

The fundraiser was held at the Lincoln Hall bar and music venue, located on N. Lincoln Ave. It was an evening that mixed music with politics.

Lincoln Hall bar and music venue. (Photo by Len Kody)

“It’s the same shit in a different package,” said political consultant Kitty Kurth, of Kurth Lampe, when asked to compare show business with the business of politics.

Kurth was quoting an observation often made by her husband and partner, Kevin Lampe, who worked as a stand-up comedian in the late 1980s. Kurth and Lampe helped organize Tuesday’s fundraiser for Smith.

Che “Rhymefest” Smith straddles the line between politics and showbiz. (Photo by Len Kody)

Julie Kerouac of Progressive Solutions Consulting also helped put on the show.

“I’m a political organizer,” she said, admitting that it was her first time organizing anything like a rock concert.

On the whole, though, Kerouac considers her candidate’s unorthodox background an asset to the campaign.

“He already had something like 30,000 friends on Facebook,” she said.

Indeed, it was Rhymefest’s connections in the entertainment industry that proved so useful in securing music icon George Clinton as the fundraiser’s main event.

Local up-and-comers and Che Smith supporters St8 of Grace supplied the evening’s warm-up act and an interesting perspective on how they approach political issues in their music. In an interview, they spoke about a gig performing for the troops.

Listen to “St8 of Grace” front man talk about the the intersection of entertainment and politics.

Smith’s background as an entertainer showed in his obvious ease when, after St8 of Grace had taken their final bow, he took the stage to give a campaign speech.

But, old habits must die hard. As the next act for the night – local jazz and hip hop group, Zzaje – began to warm up for their set, Smith did not leave the the stage with out freestyling a few dozen bars of verse. The result was a stump speech with a beat.

Smith delivered on at least one of his campaign promises Tuesday night—funk superstar George “P-Funk” Clinton performing his chart topping hits in a cozy, intimate venue. The crowd in Lincoln Hall rushed the stage when Clinton emerged.

The Lincoln Hall venue was intimate enough that many fans could (and did) reach out and touch funk legend George Clinton. (Photo by Len Kody)

Clinton performed sans Parliament-Funkadelic, who are his usual back up band. Instead, Zzaje remained on stage after their own set to provide P-Funk his musical accompaniment. Clinton got plenty of help from the the large and demographically diverse crowd of enthusiastic fans who came to see him—when he capped of his set with “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” nearly everybody sang along with him.

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