The Chicago, IL-based Rhymefest (born Che Smith) first gained national attention as the co-songwriter of Kanye West's Grammy-winning "Jesus Walks." His association with West actually went back several years prior; the MC's independently released Raw Dawg, issued in 2001, was produced entirely by a pre-fame West. Later signed to Mark Ronson's J-distributed Allido label, Rhymefest put together Blue Collar for a March 2006 release date. Its first single, "Brand New," also featured production work from West, as well as extensive assistance from No I.D. (Common, G-Unit). Nearly four years later, after inking a new deal with the dN|Be label, Rhymefest issued his EMI-distributed follow-up, El Che. The album featured guest contributions from Phonte, Darien Brockington, and Saigon.