Che Smith, the rapper and hip-hop artist better known as Rhymefest, winced a few weeks ago when Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a swipe at absentee fathers.
“It’s rhetoric,” says the performer. “It’s not that fathers don’t want to be there. Many fathers can’t provide for their families, and they’re embarrassed. They leave because they think their families will be better off.”
Rhymefest speaks from personal experience. His father was absent much of the singer’s life.
“My mom was 15 and my dad was 18 when she got pregnant. It was the ’70s and he left the picture. My mom and I grew up together,” says Rhymefest, co-writer of award-winning songs with Kanye West (“Jesus Walks”) and Common and John Legend (“Glory”).
A few years ago, Rhymefest went looking for his dad and found him on the streets of the city’s West Side.
“He was homeless for 30 years. I realized he didn’t abandon me. He was homeless and struggling with alcoholism,” Rhymefest said in an interview. The rapper made a documentary, “In My Father’s House,” about their reunion.
Rhymefest brought his dad back to his home to recover. “But I didn’t know how to do it,” he says. “I didn’t feel comfortable bringing an alcoholic into my home.”
So he turned to Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit that offered job classes, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other services “that helped put our relationship and our family back on track.”
On Nov. 5, Rhymefest will share his family’s story at Heartland’s annual Candlelight Ball at the Palmer House Hilton hotel.
Lefkofsky teams with Rush
Eric Lefkofsky‘s Tempus technology company is teaming up with Rush University Medical Center in a project that uses data and analytics to help doctors customize treatment for cancer patients. It’s the latest collaboration in the tech entrepreneur’s quest to cure cancer.
“Technology has come a long way since the human genome was first mapped more than 15 years ago, but many cancer patients are still being treated with a one-size-fits-all approach that may not fit the specific molecular composition of their cancer,” Lefkofsky says in a release. The Tempus CEO knows a lot about data. He also co-founded Groupon, a tech company that’s found success in analyzing online clicks.
Now Lefkofsky is zeroing in on cancer. His company uses “genomic sequencing” and analyzes molecular and therapeutic data that physicians use to make decisions about cancer treatments.
Tempus has also collaborated with Northwestern University’s Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Michigan and a clinical trial group at the University of Chicago.
Not even mom knows
State Sen. Daniel Biss isn’t up for re-election this season so the Evanston Democrat has “the luxury,” he says, of putting all his efforts into educating voters.
His political action committee takes to task Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Republican Party and its presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who is portrayed in one TV ad by an actor with a blond wig.
The ads by Leading Illinois for Tomorrow (LIFT) are tough on Rauner, who has said he supports Trump for president but hasn’t commented much beyond that. They’re the kind of ads you might expect from a political candidate in the throes of an election.
So does Biss have designs on the state’s top job?
“I’m answering the same way when my mom asks. I don’t have any secret internal plan” to seek higher office, he says, reminding me that his work on a super PAC means he must steer clear of any political campaigning.
So what about down the road for the former math professor. “I just want to make a difference right now in the state,” he says. “And right now, the state is in trouble.”
Rancic mum on Trump
Chicago businessman Bill Rancic, “The Apprentice” winner who went on to work for Donald Trump in Chicago, has been noticeably absent from the presidential campaign.
Back in January, the Orland Park native said this about Trump: “I think he’d be a great president, certainly. I got to watch him from the inside, and I was able to see how he works and how he does deals and how he was able to negotiate in difficult times.”
Rancic hasn’t said a peep since. No response to Trump’s comments about immigrants, the parents of a war hero or vulgar language about women.
Rancic and his spokeswoman, one of his sisters, have ignored requests for comment. A friend says they’re declining to talk.
Is Rancic worried about backlash from Trump, who he’s credited for his success, or his business interests?
He’s involved in real estate, appeared on reality TV shows with his wife, Giuliana Rancic, opened restaurants and pitched for Rogaine. Most recently, he’s written a novel called “First Light.” He’ll be talking about that this week in Naperville and Nov. 14 at Books-a-Million in the Loop.
The Bolshoi connection
When Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, the new CEO of Auditorium Theatre, told arts supporters last week how deeply committed she is to dance, she meant it.
She’s married to Alexei Moskalenko, a former dancer with the famed Bolshoi Ballet.
The two recently moved to Chicago from Indiana, where she headed a performing arts center and he taught ballet. He’s expected to continue that in Chicago.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.