Chamillionaire: Victory Lap

posted October 07, 2007 12:00:00 AM CDT | 30 comments

Sometimes fame develops character. Houston rap music purists may remember Chamillionaire as an abrasive, energetic emcee that bragged about money, women and poll position amongst the would-be class of 2005 H-Town stars. Today, as the most financially successful of that grouping, Chamillionaire looks back and says, Thats not me.

The 27 year-old released his Ultimate Victory to the masses less than two weeks ago, a companion to 2005s platinum-selling Sound of Revenge. Revenge is no longer Chams motivation, and whatever victory hes championing, may be taking place spiritually, rather than on the charts. After dismal first week numbers, perhaps gasping in the wake of 50 Cent and Kanye Wests free-for-all, Chamillionaire isnt blaming his label, hes not crying foul to bootleggers and hes not dissing anybody for that push. Instead, the poised rapper reminds HipHopDX readers that this is the same place his journey-to-platinum began in 2005.

Rather than candy paint, Chamillionaire speaks candidly about candy-coated medicine in his music, late producer Disco D, addiction, and when hes not truly being himself. While fickle fans laugh at the charts, Chamillionaire is gassing up for his victory lap.

DX: Todays rap fan reads Soundscan. I cant ignore the fact that your first week numbers were less-than-stellar. What is your reaction to the numbers you saw?
C: Honestly, man, it sounds crazy, but Im not as disappointed. Im not. Im not worried about first week numbers, and I know a lot of artists say that, but I really mean it. I remember my last album [Sound of Revenge], its like deja-vu: I came out not doing as good as some of the industry people would have expected, but I went on the road, I grinded it out, I had a backup plan, and it worked. People saw me go platinum last time. Yeah, I went platinum and I had a hit in Ridin Dirty, but it took a whole year; I stayed on the road for a whole year. I didnt even go home. This is like the beginning of that phase again. I even hear some people say, Youre a bigger artist, you dont have to go through that no more. Even the big artists, weve got to do it now. Hip Hop, as we know it, is completely changing. The Kanye [West] and 50 Cent [competition] was cool, but people have even more and more fascination with first week numbers. Labels, fans, artists, everybody gives up on a CD after seven days of sales a CD that you worked on for a whole year. To me, thats ridiculous.

Our goal was to make a dope album. If we can get plenty of people to say the albums dope, then thats the first part. Last time, people wasnt saying my album was good. They just liked Ridin Dirty. So now I tried to give them a whole bunch of songs that they like. People said I had Pop or crossover success, but I dont care, I wouldve given that record to anybody when I first started, and nobody couldve told me that record was gonna be that big. It wasnt a Pop-sounding record, it just ended up crossing into the Pop world. I kept the same formula this time. I went in there and made better music which I feel this albums 10 times better, and then Im gonna go out there and push it.

DX: Look at Nina Simone or Sam Cooke. Both are remembered as pioneers and iconic artists in Jazz and Soul respectively, but they never had the Motown sales. Some of Hip Hops most heralded artists, whether UGK, O.C. or Jadakiss never had the sales, but they have the integrity. Youve experienced both sales and acclaim. Would that be okay with you, to have a bigger legacy than chart appearances?
C: Thats real! I actually look at the game now, and theres a lot of people who might have the biggest audience at radio or the biggest ringtones, but its so many people that came and gone and were disposable, not remembered. Even now, when I speak, I speak with a purpose; youre gonna remember what I said. Instead of just making words rhyme to rhyme, nowadays, people will say, Chamillionaires too preachy. To me, thats cool, cause theres only a select few people that will say something nowadays. I cant think of nobody since Pac that stood for something. When I get up there to talk, at least theyll hear something from me. When I get up at an awards ceremony, Ill say something real. If I get on TV, Ill say something real. To me, that legacy is a lot better. When Im all said and done, people are gonna look back at Chamillionaire.

DX: Sometimes its bigger than Hip Hop. You A&Rd a lot of this album yourself. One of the producers you worked with was the late Disco D. He probably got his biggest hit in Rock Star with you and Lil Wayne. Hes not here to see it. How does that sit with you, even if you never personally met him, that somebody that worked on this album didnt live to hear it?
C: Its crazy cause people think that the version on the album is produced by him, but its actually not. Im the only one that has the original version of his song with me and Lil Wayne, cause when I sent it to him, he rapped on the original version of the track that Disco D did. The whole process of that was crazy. My album went through different phases of coming out. It was supposed to come out a while back but didnt; people dont understand the behind-the-scenes. Even when [Disco D] committed suicide, it was like, Man, what am I supposed to do now? How do I tell Lil Wayne to rap on a new song? Everybody around me, people liked the song; this was before the rock star trend even happened. Imagine that happening he committed suicide, then I got to negotiate with his parents over their son that passed away, and I dont even feel comfortable doing that, and then theres all these other rock star songs coming out. Dealing with all of that, I couldve said, Man, this is messed up, but I just dealt with it.

[Initially], Disco D hit me through Myspace. He was surprised that I hit him back. He told me that as far as southern rappers, he felt that me and Lil Wayne was his favorites, and he was excited by the fact that me and [Wayne] were doing his track together. I only had the two-track, I didnt have the full files. After that, I found out that he committed suicide. I was trippin off that, like he seemed so happy. I wouldnt expect that. Then his friends hit me and told me that he had put the files up on a server, and we logged on, and got the files. It was like he was leaving the files for me or somethin. A lot of people dont know this story. People hit me tryin to get the old version of the song and stuff, but I dont feel comfortable releasing that version.

DX: In last months XXL, the interview mentioned that you recently quit drinking Red Bull because you sensed an addiction. Rappers love drinking, smoking, whatever. How do you see the correlation between fame and addiction?
C: Man, thats real. It can change a lot of stuff. It can change you, it can change the people around you, it really does. Even me, Ive changed a little bit because of fame. When you get on Forbes ["Hip Hop Cash Kings"] and stuff, man, people start treating you differently. Just now, we just walked through Canadian customs and the guy there was asking me all kinds of questions about that stuff my ringtones, just for us to get through Canadian customs. It can be a real addiction where you can start to soak that in and love it a little too much, but you can become this big monster, somebody whos not in touch with reality. Whatever your weakness is if its women, if its money, if its drugs theres only a few that can stay completely grounded. My thing is, I never really wanted to be famous like that, so I look at it from a distance. I still havent adjusted yet. I think thats a good thing.

DX: A bonus song on the album is Still Countin Cash. Youre humble, but youre also from a Houston culture thats known for bragging. How do you balance both?
C: Its kinda hard. Youve got to balance it out, thats my thing. Money doesnt make me or break me, but I think theres so many people attached to the younger version of me. When I was young, I was rappin about money and didnt have it. They all kind of expect me to rap that same way. Now people will be like, Chamillionaire changed, but its only because theyre not attached to who I am now. Now, to give them what they want, I have to give them a little bit of the old me, which is rappin about money and braggin, when the real me, if you look me in the eye and ask me if thats me, thats not me. Ive got paper; Ive got paper for real now! But I just dont feel comfortable braggin to people about money. Thats not even cool. The old me wouldve really just dissed somebody. Me, Im growing into somebody whos not comfortable being like that. Nowadays, I just hide the medicine inside the candy. I still do the braggadocious style. When I do Mixtape Messiah CDs, I just try to randomly say a whole bunch of craziness, cause I know thats what they want to hear. You just gotta give em what they want.

DX: Youre one of the most grounded Hip Hop stars of today. What is your favorite book, or something that you soak up wisdom from?
C: Music industry books, man. My problem is, man, I want to be so successful that I might think too much. I want to know everything - when it comes to my project, my finances, everything. It was hard for me to get a business manager. Im the person that tries to go in Bank of America and do every little thing with my money. Sometimes the best businessman needs to delegate duties to other people. Thats my hardest thing. I try to do everything myself because I want to know it all. Theres so many artists who know nothing about their contracts. You could ask them about ASCAP or publishing or per-diems and stuff, theyll have no idea. If Im gonna be in this rap world as a businessman, then Im gonna know as much as I can. I read books like that. Then theres a lady named Wendy Day. She got Rap Coalition, and its really informative on industry stuff. She might not even know it, but I get a lot of my guidance from her too. When it comes to fiction or stuff like that, I dont get down, cause Im all about real life.

DX: Hip Hop Honors is this week. If Chamillionaire was on the awards committee, who would you vote in?
C: To me, if I could, Id take 2Pac. I know a lot people would randomly say that, but Pac wasnt really as big when he was alive. He got big after passed away, and people start to see the message behind his stuff. I think he epitomized everything. There was a bad side, a good side, everything. He was somebody everybody could relate to. Hed spit at the camera and do crazy stuff. I really think there was a motive behind the madness. Look at the Thug Life thing. He got so powerful to where he had all the thugs listening to his words, almost like a preacher. He always hid the medicine inside the candy and gave em Dear Mama and stuff. I feel like there was a purpose behind him. A lot of people make words rhyme just to make them rhyme, and I think it was a lot deeper with him.

If it had to be somebody whos alive, somebody who I think dont get a lot of credit is Will Smith. It sounds crazy, but he did his thing rappin, and what hes doing now, as far as movies and being a role-model, to me, Im impressed by what hes done with his career.

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