Chamillionaire has to be somewhat upset at
his status right now. During Houston's fairy tale boom in Hip Hop a few years
ago, his marginally-talented yet consistently-propped compatriots and former Swishahouse
label mates Slim Thug, Mike Jones and Paul Wall
received nationwide recognition and top-selling albums. Meanwhile, Cham
was more known for his split from Swishahouse than for his
lukewarm debut single "Turn It Up," featuring yet another ear-violator, Lil'
Flip in 2005.
All of that changed however when he dropped his monster second act, the trunk rattling tale about corrupt cops "Ridin'." Backed by a re-energized Krayzie Bone and perhaps the most memorable rap hook of 2006, the single propelled Chamillionaire's The Sound Of Revenge to platinum sales, the highest-selling ringtone of all time, a Grammy earlier this year and most important of all, the long-overdue respect he so rightfully deserved.
Yet despite his immense success, Cham is still one sour individual. Not only is he unwillingly throwing his entire town on his back after his former partners have languished since their initial breakthroughs, but he also has the daunting task of going toe-to-toe-to-toe with hip-hop's biggest heavyweights - Kanye West and 50 Cent - with his sophomore set, The Ultimate Victory, reaching stores just a week after their huge releases. For any other rapper, this immense pressure would burst their pipes, but Chamillionaire keeps his cool, delivery one of the more cohesive albums this year.
Blending his trademark, butter-smooth melodies with hard-hitting beats and intricate punch lines, The Ultimate Victory is an interesting blend of braggadocio, thought-provoking, political undertones and bravado, something rarely seen from today's mainstream emcee; much less one known for their ringtone jingles. Jumping on society's ills with the opening cut "The Morning News," Cham laments, "Uncle Sam says to pay your tax/even just to learn, gotta pay for a class/part-time hustles really ain't gon' last/so today's forecast is to make more cash."
Keeping with the album's overall social commentary, Cham touches upon a variety of topics. Whether dismissing slores on "Industry Groupie" (nicely incorporating other artists and their work), swatting down aspiring losers over the apocalyptic rumbles of "Won't Let You Down," or even relaxing in "Pimp Mode" with fellow Houstonian legend Bun B, Chamillionaire effortlessly transitions from one subject to the next without coming off too overbearing or preachy. But the album's true shining point is the Slick Rick-guested "Hip Hop Police," where the two play both the role of the corrupt cop and unlucky victim.
What make this album more compelling are the instrumentals that back Cham's leveled-yet-commanding voice. Reuniting with "Ridin'" producers Play-N-Skillz on the second single "The Bill Collecta" results in another top-notch collaboration, while Kane Beatz - who provides the majority of Victory's soundscapes - wantonly samples Swedish glam medal rockers Europe's "The Final Countdown" on the aforementioned "Industry Groupie."
The Ultimate Victory may sound as if Chamillionaire is determined to serve that cold dish from The Sound Of Revenge, but it surprisingly takes an entirely different route, providing one of the most interesting musical meals for the fall season. Chamillionaire definitely takes home another chip to add to his mantle with this one.