From Public Enemy to MF Doom, rappers have been referencing comic books in their music for decades. The cultural phenomena that are comic books and hip-hop have cultivated a relationship over the years, with both appreciating seemingly endless growth, in terms of cultural relevance. While this connection has always been recognized by the hip-hop community as an aspect of rap culture, it was not until the last year or so that the comics industry began embracing the relationship.

After the success of 2015’s Run the Jewels variants, Marvel expanded the scope of the marriage of comics and hip-hop through a line of variants paying homage to a range of iconic hip-hop albums launched alongside with the All-New, All-Different lineup.

At C2E2, I had the opportunity to sit down with an artist whose album was featured on one of these variants, the famed Chicago rapper and Grammy-winning lyricist Rhymefest. His mixtape, MAN IN THE MIRRORwas featured on the hip-hop variant for the first issue of INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN. Rhymefest, a lifelong fan of comics and frequent customer of First Aid Comics (located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago) arrived clad in full costume, cosplaying Black Panther.

READ: Haven’t read INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN #1? Check out our review!

Rhymefest is a very active member of his community, known predominantly for his political outspokenness and his role as the creative director of Donda’s House. Donda’s House is a non-profit organization that provides Chicago youth with access to recording equipment, musical education, and a safe environment in which they can better their craft. It was established to honor the life of Dr. Donda West, the late mother of Rhymefest’s childhood friend and longtime collaborator Kanye West. In our interview, Rhymefest talks about the role that political ideology plays in creating art, specifically in hip-hop and comic books.

In the short time we had to speak together, Rhymefest and I also discussed the relationship between rap and comic books, both in regards to the mediums themselves and from his perspective as an established member of both communities. He recommended a few books to me, which I have since read and enjoyed. You’ll have to watch to find out what they are, and of course, to learn what comics are in Rhymefest’s pull box at First Aid Comics.

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