"There are a lot of people who are just followers and do things because everyone else is doing it. I'm trying to lead by example," says Grammy Award winning rapper Chamillionaire. "I won't do anything just for a dollar. Money will make people do crazy things and I’m not one of those people."
The Houston-based entrepreneur strives to constantly elevate, adapt and grow through his music, his business ventures, and his relationships. These traits helped him become a mixtape phenomenon before he had a major recording contract. Chamillionaire has managed to become an internet forerunner at a time when others have failed to capitalize on the web's reach, a platinum plus selling artist during a time of sagging record sales, and a businessman who runs several successful companies.
All of his achievements and past experiences played a major part in shaping the direction of Chamillionaire's second major label album, “The Ultimate Victory.” In fact, it was his time on the road and in the studio that provided a purpose for the man also known as The Mixtape Messiah as he crafted his new release. "Behind the scenes, a lot of artists talk about everything that they think is wrong with the world, but when it comes time to address the issues through their music, they don't," he explains. "I decided I couldn't sit back and needed to be the one to say something."
He does just that on "Hip-Hop Police," a look at how the media and a variety of public figures continue to place blame on rap music for social issues, making loving hip hop equivalent to committing a crime. Then there's the insightful "Evening News," where Chamillionaire examines -- with a sarcastic tone - what constitutes newsworthiness on a planet filled with legitimately significant events and genuine human suffering.
"Everyday I watch the news and look at how crazy the world is," he explains. "It humbles you to see other people's problems and to see the amount of adversity others seem to be going through. If you think you're going through hard times, you can always turn on the TV to see someone else who's going through things 10 times worse than you. But then again, the media will also dedicate a majority of their time focusing on topics that I feel are not as news worthy, often times making celebrity gossip their main focal point. I wanted to do a record with some social commentary but also not be too heavy handed when it comes to discussing the stuff that we should really be focusing on. I wanted to find the perfect balance and go right down the middle."
With the 2006 released "Ridin'" featuring Krayzie Bone, the anti-police profiling smash single that became a record breaking mastertone with over 4 million sold, Chamillionaire proved that he could make commercially viable music that matters. Yet while touring the world to promote his November 2005 released debut album, “The Sound of Revenge,” Chamillionaire saw one negative consequence of performing to diverse audiences. Each time he said the N-word in any of his songs, many of his white fans would rap along with him.
"It made me say to myself, 'OK, I'm going to have to do this run again and I don't want to be subliminally teaching people to say it," Chamillionaire says. "That's why I made the decision at the beginning stages of “The Ultimate Victory” to erase it from my vocabulary, long before the Don Imus controversy even started brewing."
Even though he sprinkled the N-word in his rhymes, Chamillionaire was never one to emphasize curse words in his previous material. Growing up as a child of four in a strict household run by a Christian mother and a Muslim father, he was not allowed to curse. In fact, his parents didn't even want him to listen to rap. However, they did instill a tireless work ethic into a young Hakeem Seriki, something that ironically has helped him throughout each stage of his rap career.
As the eldest child in the household, Chamillionaire had to assume a multitude of parental responsibilities at a young age, which included juggling multiple jobs to help financially support his family. He stocked trucks, held down a number of different positions through a temp agency, and even transported blood and urine for a medical lab. It wasn't until he grew tired of his job passing out fliers and promoting for clubs that Chamillionaire made a conscious effort to pursue more lucrative vocations.
Being an aspiring rapper in Houston at the turn of the century was not necessarily an easy move and because there were no major labels scouring the streets of H-Town at the time, Chamillionaire had to find a way to get noticed. "It was either eat or get eaten," he says. "We were bred to learn how to sell records out of our trunk independently and mixtapes were the easiest way to get your music out. People would bootleg them, download and burn them."
Chamillionaire poured his energy into rapping, connected with the Swishahouse movement, and then started his own The Color Changin' Click before becoming a solo superstar. Every step of the way he learned and studied how to become successful in the music business: how to make sure you got paid for your work, how to treat DJs, how to interact with fans, and how to deal with fame.
Once his Houston contemporaries, including Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall came out with substantial buzzes surrounding their projects in the first half of 2005, most people wondered what would happen to Chamillionaire. The man himself wasn't worried.
"I just worked hard and continued doing what I was doing," he recalls. "I was never worried about anybody else. All you can do is get into the studio and put 110 percent into making the best music you can, and then you go out into the marketplace and push it 110 percent. That's my formula for everything."
It's a formula that enabled The Sound of Revenge to sell more than 1.5 million copies and set Chamillionaire up as a successful businessman. His Houston based Fly Rydes car shop which he co-owns with his business partner Ernest designs, rents, and sells cars to corporations and high net worth individuals. He owns a tour bus company; His emerging Chamillitary Entertainment label has a talented roster: rappers Famous AKA Lil Ken and Yung Ro, and R&B act Tony Henry. He has also become a real estate magnate.
And for the man who has won a Grammy, an MTV Video Music Award, two BET Hip Hop Awards, who was certified by the RIAA as the biggest selling individual ringtone artist in history, and even saw the legendary Weird Al Yankovich turn "Ridin" into a smash hit parody, "White and Nerdy," it was being presented with the certified platinum plaque for The Sound of Revenge that meant the most to him.
"For me to come out and sell less than what was expected during the first week as a new artist to the mainstream, people and critics didn’t even think that I could reach gold. I surpassed that mark,” Chamillionaire says. “Then Ridin' was later released and it propelled the album to go even further. In the long run I did everything that everybody said I couldn’t do. That platinum plaque to me was really important, it symbolized a lot."
And for a man that continues to challenge himself to be innovative, creative and successful, Chamillionaire shows no signs of slowing down in any way. "People are scared to roll the dice," he says. "I feel like if you work hard, you'll always have good results. I'm living proof of that."
Time and time again.