Chamillionaire is living the hip-hop dream. One minute he’s a Houston rapper selling mixtapes on the streets, then he writes a banging song about jealous police trying to pull him over and suddenly he’s collecting Grammy awards and royalty checks. Chamillionaire’s staggered flow chopped n' screwed it’s way into America’s heart with staggering speed; at my niece’s 13th birthday party the kids danced ecstatically to Ridin Dirty even though the only thing they were ridin was the backseat of their mom’s mini-van. Now comes the dreaded sophomore album, the moment when artists find out if …
DJBooth Album Review
Now comes the dreaded sophomore album, the moment when artists find out if they have a career, or had a career. Chamillionaire’s second album Ultimate Victory drops Sept. 18th and in an effort to ensure he doesn’t become another “remember when he was hot” rapper (see Mims for further explanation) he’s released Mixtape Messiah 3. The cut and paste feel of the mixtape probably won’t be enough to win any converts to Chamillionaire’s congregation, but it at least deserves a listen for its moments of staggering honesty.
Honestly, I don’t really have to even write this review, Chamillionaire already did it for me. On the brilliantly titled track Don’t Hurt Em Hammer he mixes rapped verses with a couple minutes of straight speaking during which he’s incredibly honest: the business side of the industry has left him largely disillusioned with hip-hop, he’s often only going through the motions in the booth, and he’s spitting his punchline heavy flow primarily to cater to mass appeal. He’s by no means ready to retire; hip-hop’s just become as much a job as a work of love. I have to give him huge respect for the honesty; this is exactly what a lot of artists in the game truly feel but would never admit. It’s also a pretty accurate assessment of his work on the mixtape.
Rhyming over someone else’s beat can be a dangerous proposition, you better be prepared to get compared to the original MC. Mixtape Messiah 3 gets about half its material from other artists and Chamillionaire comes up short on almost all of them. Nothin But Lies uses Kanye’s West’s beat from Can’t Tell Me Nothing and Chamillionaire drops a decent flow that can’t touch Kanye’s lyrically complexity. Similarly, Failure’s Not An Option has him rhyming over T.I ’s beat for Big Things Poppin but he has nowhere near the charisma and swagger of T.I. and his flow sounds almost boring in comparison. Mo Scrilla uses the beat from Young Jeezy’s Go Getta, minus R. Kelly. Chamillionaire just doesn’t have the hard and raspy delivery of Jeezy that made Go Getta so addictively bangin'. He’s not a bad MC, just an above average one who isn’t in the same class as the true heavyweights. He’s certainly putting in work so that means he’s either not really feelin’ it or he just doesn’t have the talent to be great, probably a mixture of both.
Chamillionaire’s strength as a rapper is his sense of rhythm and cadence, it’s what made Ridin Dirty a hit, and Mixtape Messiah’s got something to offer his screwed n’chopped roots. Get Ya Burners Out starts the mixtape out with a cinematic and riding beat that he nails with a sharp delivery. If this is any indication of the material on Ultimate Victory we should expect to hear his voice bumpin’ out of speakers in the club for a while longer. Livin Good is a little over two minutes of head nodding talk about his cars and money over rolling snares and a rolling bass. It’s a good ride but you can’t help but wonder if this is the “160 bars about nothin” he mentioned in Don’t Hurt Em Hammer.
Ultimately Chamillionaire’s a perfect example of hip-hop’s current state; artists are often forced to choose between financial success and their love for hip-hop as an art form. He does his best work on the deeply personal It’s Just Pain, a lyrically dope open letter to God. Is this how good Chamillionaire could be without the marketing demands of record labels and radio play? We may never know. But don’t hate the player, hate the game right. Right?
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 07/24/07
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Bet That ft. Chamillionaire & Goldrush" (2006)
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