Hip Hop Fridays: Chamillionaire Has A Bigger Weapon by Andy J. Solages
A short while ago a friend told me of how one of his younger friends had remarked that “all of the stuff out now is corny” and that my friend was lucky to have come up while Tupac and Biggie were still alive. The young brother’s comment amused us because we remember our high school and college conversations about all the wack music that was out while Pac and B.I.G. were living. It is something to watch “Golden Ages” being born as we find a place for what came before in the cultural conversations of the present. I had no idea I was experiencing what Ballerstatus called the “NYC Golden Era” while I was blasting my Wutang Clan tapes between intermittently productive school hours and comedic slips into some fine sister’s "friend zone." With a little distance, a “Golden Age” doesn’t appear too hard to create. Much of the music that didn’t move me in the 90’s has faded from my memory, while the thoughtful, vulgar, and otherwise entertaining tracks I enjoyed still remain.
Although I wonder if some of us might find this too unorthodox for Hip-Hop Fridays, I am going to admit that I am actually enjoying Hip-Hop right now. With that statement, I’m sure to meet my hate mail quota this month. I will go as far to say that I am enjoying it as much as I did when some of my favorites like OutKast’s ATLiens or Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx were released. This isn’t to say that I love all or even most of today’s music, but I always have something to which I can listen. I am fortunate to have an MP3 player that conveniently provides me with music from the past and present and I usually come across a few CDs a year that I deem worthy of my collection. So with significantly less time than I had as an adolescent to listen to music, and while thinking only of my self and not how impressionable people will react to a song, I can not complain much about 2006 since I already added CDs such as Ghostface’s Fishscale and R.S.'s Louder Than Words to my library and can look forward to offerings from Rhymefest, Lupe Fiasco, X-Clan, and UGK’s Pimp C this year. So while I have sympathy for anyone who is grousing about a contemporary sound, like “Snap Music,” or who is pining for a past era, I’m willing to keep some of my choices away from any children around me and leave other adults to their own choices.
Among the newer artists, who I have added to my personal library, is one who has achieved mainstream success with a song that I hope is being noted by those of my peers who are awaiting the mainstream “return” of “Golden Age” Hip-Hop artists, of the “conscious” variety, or greater mainstream success of artists, such as dead prez. When I began to listen to Chamillionaire’s The Sound of Revenge months ago, I shared with a friend how rare it was to hear an artist feature an issue such as racial profiling in his song while still maintaining the “swagger” that enhanced his appeal on his other songs. We had no idea then that ‘Riding’ would be a single and that it would move Hip-Hop’s latest Cham to the top. If 2006 is ever included in a block of years called a “Golden Era” we’ll actually be able to say that one of the top songs was about racial profiling. Who saw that coming?
The following is an excerpt of Chamillionaire’s lyrics on the originally released version of ‘Riding’, which features Krayzie Bone:
I know what you’re thinking so
I try to let you go
Turn on my blinker light
And then I swing it slow
And they accept the show
Cause they think they know
That they catching me with plenty of the drank and dro
So they get behind me to try to check my tags
Look in my rear view and they smiling
Thinking they'll catch me in the wrong, and keep trying
Bitch steady denying that it's racial profiling
Houston Texas, you can check my tags
Pull me over try to check my slab
Glove compartment gotta get my cash
Cause the crooked cops try to come up fast
And being the baller that I am
I talk to them
Giving a damn about them
Not feeling my attitudes
And when they realize
That I ain't even riding dirty
Bitch you be leaving in with an even madder mood
And I'm a laugh at you….
So why is this song successful? Is it simply the result of proper promotion that other artists who are known as explicitly “political” simply don’t receive in today’s climate? Perhaps the "Chamillitary" has picked that “Bigger Weapon” that Boots Reilly of The Coup spoke of. Besides the catchiness of the hook, my sense is that Chamillionaire’s approach in the song is what allows ‘Riding’ to crossover to people who might have never heard a CD by dead prez or older artists such as Paris or Kam (I wonder if I’m the only brother on the East Coast who automatically thinks of the West Coast’s Kam, rather than Cam’ron of the Dipset, when someone says “Cam.”) Cham doesn’t offer us a grim fantasy of harming police officers who might engage in racial profiling, but instead presents himself as confident, empowered, and successful even in the face of a challenge to his manhood that some of us are all too familiar with. He offers us a song that is still upbeat. There have been a few times where I have wished to hear more songs like Do Or Die’s Victory or T.I.’s Motivation that include sprinkles of content we might associate with being “Pro Black” or “Conscious.” There certainly is a place for songs where, even if there are elements of fantasy, our people are winners in the face of opposition other than the standard “haters” that appear as characters in our songs. In that light, my fantasy collaboration of the week is a song featuring Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers and T.I. This may sound odd given their different approaches, but I think the self-confidence, which some might take as simple arrogance, that both of them project on their respective songs would make for a fantastic track. Imagine a God and a King referencing their talents, being themselves, enjoying themselves, and expressing how they overcome opposition, and obstacles, or whatever those two Black Men decided to spit about.
In any case, we want to know what our viewers think. Why do you think Chamillionaire’s song about racial profiling has become popular with a Hip-Hop generation that so many seem to write off as being averse to listening to anything with “political” content? Is there anything that other artists, who might wish to include certain messages in their songs, can learn from Chamillionaire’s example? Post your views in our Dialogue Room or hit us up on the Black Electorate Voice Mail at 856-964-4664.
Andy J. Solages is Contributing Editor of Black Electorate.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy J. Solages
Friday, June 9, 2006