Chamillionaire, mid-rantPhoto: Filmmagic
Like everyone else, we were big fans of Chamillionaire’s 2005 smash “Ridin’” — at least the first 3,000 times we heard it. So, even though these things are usually really boring, we attended last night’s listening party for the Houston rapper’s sophomore album, Ultimate Victory, in the hopes that something interesting would happen. As far as sterile industry events go, something did.
Onstage at New York’s Legacy recording studio, the unexpectedly emotional MC used his mike time to rant: on his estranged dad (apparently Cham hasn’t talked to his father since he was a teen), on his record label and fans stressing numbers (“How many ringtones you got? How many sales on iTunes?”), and on intrusive handlers (“Nah, I’m not wrapping this up … I paid for this, they gonna hear me.”). After the party, we caught up with the guest of honor.
Was that a preplanned speech?
Nah, man. People see you on TV, and they see little glimpses of you here and there, but they never get a chance to really hear you talk. And even when you do interviews, there’s no way just to infect the whole world. Usually, the best times have been at award shows, ‘cause everybody’s watching! I was supposed to do Larry King. They’re lucky they didn’t let me on there, ‘cause I would have said something. I don’t know what I would have said, ‘cause [the show’s] definitely not scripted. I think that sticks with people. They know it’s really coming from the heart.
I remember seeing you on the MTV Video Music Awards talking about your canceled 20/20 interview on racial profiling. You seem to take these things really personally.
I have to, man. I don’t see how people can’t. [If] you just rap to get money … what is your purpose? If you’re a person that rhymes just to rhyme … I could say a thousand words that rhyme right now. But it’s gotta mean something.
You’re not making any money off the mix tapes, are you?
Nope, nope. I don’t even care about making money off of it. People always talking about rappers: how much they made, how much they sold. I don’t even care. I got a lot of money I don’t even spend. I just try to keep Uncle Sam from taking it all.
It sounds like you’d be happier back in Houston, without all the national attention.
Man, I be threatening my publicist with that all the time. I say, “One day, I’m gonna make the quickest grand exit out of the rap game ever, and I will not come back.” I was never a person that really wanted to be famous. It’s cool that everyone pats you on your back, but it’s something bigger than that. It’s not about bling-bling, it’s not about any of that materialistic stuff. It’s about living life and enjoying it. That’s what I’m trying to do now … I went swimming the other day. I was thinking, When the last time I went swimming? I went swimming when I was a little kid.
Where’d you go swimming?
In my house! I got a pool and never went swimming in it! I was in the pool, on the phone, talking to her [points to his publicist]. She didn’t even know. I was in my boxers.
If you did drop out of the spotlight sometime down the line, do you have any ideas on how you might do it?
I don’t know man, but it’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be on national TV. It’s gonna be crazy. And I’m gonna love it. They can talk bad about me, but I’m gonna be in peace. —Amos Barshad