Having established an intimate affiliation with the gravely grit of the underground and having surveyed the placid peaks of the mainstream, Grammy Award winning Chamillionaire wears his determination like a second skin. It’s encompassing, seamless, presence compels him to continue to work hard. This immutable drive is fueling Koopa’s potent creativity. Releasing Mixtape Messiah 6 on January 13th, and preparing for his third studio album Venom, Hakeem “Chamillionaire” Seriki is an exhilarating archetype of how to make it within hip-hop.
Amid a hectic schedule, Chamillionaire has negotiated the necessary time to devote to Ballerstatus.com, giving an exclusive interview about his many upcoming projects like hosting Ballerstatus.com’s own mixtape, Digital Dynasty 4. Smoothly transitioning from everything from witnessing the Presidential Inauguration to presenting the South’s lyrical integrity, Chamillionaire repeatedly demonstrates that hard work pays off.
BallerStatus.com: You’ve been a blessed man. One thing that I admire about you is the relentless work ethic that you possess. Who or what engrained such a work ethic into you?
Chamillionaire: It’s just my nature; I’ve always been like this my whole life. Really, I’m just trying to get my core back to the way it was, [like] when I first used to do mixtapes before the majors. Like if you go to the majors, a lot of times, you know a lot of underground fans will support you, then they’ll start leaving you because they feel like you went commercial.
So, what I’m doing is, trying to flood the market and the region with it. As much, [so] it’ll remind them why they like you. And, I think it’s working right now, man. I stay in the studio all day, all holidays. You know, at all times, it’s a business. I feel like that’s what you gotta do to have success. You know, hard work pays off. So, hopefully, all of this will pay off for me. But, right now it’s just trying to get the fans what they want. Nowadays, people want a lot of content, one freestyle is not enough for them, one disc is not enough for them. They want more and more music. So, I’m just trying to keep up with the demand and what the fans want.
BallerStatus.com: Digital sales are beginning to outpace record sales, and with outside forces emphasizing the slanging of ringtones, in what ways do you cultivate a good record and not just a hot ringtone?
Chamillionaire: I honestly don’t even think about all that type of stuff, because if you do, you end up getting in trouble. A lot of times, people always think there’s a formula to everything. You might think, “Ok, well this is going to be the record that’s gonna take off [for] ringtones,” and it’ll be the opposite, you know? What you got to do is what you think to be good music. Think about the audience that you’re trying to attack and [go] hit it as hard as you can.
I think that when it comes to an artist — like say for instance, Rick Ross or [Young] Jeezy or even [Lil] Wayne — I think they know the audience that they’re trying to attack and they just attack it. That audience will go and support it, whether it’s an album or whether it’s ringtones. I think that’s the main thing you have to do. Because, everybody has a different story, you can’t just try to make a ringtone song; it’ll sound forced in the end. You can’t fool the fans [because] they’ll be able to tell. I’m not trying to do that. I’m not going after ringtone sales or anything. I want the consumers to feel like they want it, and that’s what I’m going for.v
BallerStatus.com: Being born in Washington, D.C,. how do you feel about returning to your birthplace to witness the Presidential Inauguration?
Chamillionaire: Uh, hold on a second, I thought we were about to get pulled over by the police … I mean the Inauguration for me man, is like — I mean, this is not even on some publicity stuff, it’s like being a part of history. When people always come up to me and ask me for an autograph, all the time. In all honesty, in my adult life, or I can’t even remember in my younger life, remember looking up to anybody. The feeling that people [have] when they come up to me and they want an autograph, I don’t understand that feeling; because I don’t even have that feeling for nobody.
The closest feeling [that] I have to that is when I saw Barack get elected as President, you know what I’m saying? That was like that feeling, I was like “Man, I wish I could meet this guy.” Almost like a fan. So, because of that feeling, that’s why I want to go back. It makes me want to get up every day. I keep thinking about it, I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s like a new day and time, it makes me feel good every day I wake up.
BallerStatus.com: As you have matured as a man and as an MC, do you feel like your lyrics reflect a heightened political awareness?
Chamillionaire: Nah, absolutely not. That’s one thing that people have misconstrued about me. I think that if you have some songs like “Hip-Hop Police” come out or you have “Ridin'” come out and a lot of people start calling that a socially conscious record. I don’t mind what ever tag [that] you put on it. All it is, is just a different expression of how I’m feeling in the booth that day. And sometimes a bigger song will blow up. Or people might know you for that and it [begins] to generalize you. I’m not here to try to be Al Sharpton’s worst enemy or anything like that. I’m just here to make good music. I can’t really control what ends up being a big hit or what people like. You know what I mean?
BallerStatus.com: Is the “N” word still abolished from your vocabulary?
Chamillionaire: Yes. I’m a man of my word. I don’t go back on my stuff when I say it. I really don’t think it should be a big deal. You know what I’m saying? Dope music is dope music. I just now finished eating at Waffle House and everybody in there was freaking going crazy. Mothers and everybody was coming up to me — and you can see it when you look at them in their eyes, how serious they are when they say it, that they feel you. I can tell they really meant it. They knew so much about the purpose and what I stand for. People be rooting for me to not change that. It would be crazy if I just went against everything I said, just because I was trying to get success. What kinda person would I be? That wouldn’t even be real, I couldn’t even wake up and look at myself in the mirror everyday. I don’t really care what a fan or anybody say. But, I can only be me.
BallerStatus.com: 2009 is starting off as a productive year for you. You’re staying on the road promoting Mixtape Messiah 6 and your next album, Venom. What can you tell me about these projects?
Chamillionaire: The Mixtape Messiah series, like right now is one of the hottest mixtapes out in the Southern region. I think it’s the hottest, really. As far as how it moves underground, it’s crazy. I do in-stores (appearances) and all kinda stuff like that for them. I got a list of them set up for this one. With this one, I included more Texas artists and stuff, because, a lot of my fans — we hear this talk that Texas is dead and all this nonsense. The one thing that somebody said to me that was so real [is that] before the major came, before success ever came, whatever the industry views as success … people look at BET or whatever and think that that’s when you’re successful.
Them clowns can be making no money; they can be making zero. But you got people out here in the streets killing it, selling millions of mixtapes. Like, like right now, the reason why a lot of industry people might know about it, the Mixtape Messiah, because of what my publicist be doing. You know, how they be blasting out and me doing interviews like what we’re doing now. But for the most part, if they didn’t, if they never put out all these Mixtape Messiah freestyles out for me, some people wouldn’t even realize how big it is out here. It’s just that perception is everything. Now we’re just doing a combination of both — killing the streets super heavy. I don’t think that there’s a person out here that can say that their mixtape is doing bigger right now, like more numbers or anything. We’re attacking the streets where it’s popular.
You know, all this is really just for the album. I don’t even care about no mixtape money or none of that, you know what I’m saying? The fans — I told them on this mixtape — I’ma do this mixtape and do as many mixtapes as they want because they like them and they support them. They just gotta support my album. If they support the album, then I’ma keep on giving them [mixtapes] to them all day. If they don’t, I’m not going to do no mixtapes. It takes a lot of work to do all these mixtapes. It’s not like I’m doing these mixtapes and trying to sell them a weak album. I feel like the album is better than every mixtape that I’ve dropped. I feel like it’s my best body of work. I feel like it’s better than Sound of Revenge and better than Ultimate Victory. And I’ll put money on that. It’s all leading up toward the album. You got a lot of naysayers out that who be like “Chamillionaire this” and “Texas that.” I’m not even playing, I don’t even care who’s in my way. I feel like I’m going to attack it as hard as I can with that “go hard or go home” mentality. If that don’t work, then forget I’ll go do something else.
BallerStatus.com: How many tracks are on Venom?
Chamillionaire: We’re still not done. I’m still working right now. I want to put a little bit more. The label kinda wants to put a little bit less. I’ll probably gonna argue a little bit, or meet them half way or something. After I’ve put out so much material, and if a CD comes out and it only have like 12 songs on it, I feel like that’s kinda like a rip-off to a fan that’s paying for it. But, then it also can be overkill if you put too many tracks and all of it is just filler. I don’t feel like that’s the case right now. I feel like I got a lot of bangers. The hardest thing is going to be figuring out which ones go on. I haven’t really been telling everybody all my features because I’m not really sure which ones is going to make the album yet. But, I know it’s gonna be fire though.
BallerStatus.com: What motivated you to move from Motown to Republic?
Chamillionaire: Republic is who I worked with when I did my first album, Sound of Revenge, that was with Republic. Then Universal went through a split. They split up, and they sent me, on the split to Motown, which was cool. I’ll shout out and say thanks to everybody on the Motown staff for all the work that they did for me. To me, it was just a better chemistry with the people that I originally started off with. There’s no learning new people or none of that, it aint like that. Everyone on the Republic side, I kinda know them real well, they know my likes and dislikes. I feel like that chemistry is needed.
BallerStatus.com: Another anticipated project that you’re working on is hosting BallerStatus’ own Digital Dynasty 4. How did this come about?
Chamillionaire: Well that’s basically my publicists. Well actually, that comes from me just doing a lot of freestyles. I’ve been doing freestyles and I’ve been on my publicists, I’m willing to do drops, I’ll do whatever. It goes back to that groundwork issue. Artists, after they have a certain level of success -– or, they don’t have a certain level of success — some people feel like they don’t got to do all the littler things. And I feel like now-a-days, I don’t care who you are, in all honesty, I don’t care who you are, you kinda gotta do all this other stuff. Like, I need you just as much as that person might need me. You know what I’m saying? And I’m kinda realistic with that.
I’m not going to sit here and tell everybody that just because I have money that I don’t need to do drops or I don’t need to, you know, get these small markets. I’m trying to do all that because that’s what I’ve always done when I was independent. That’s what I did on my first album. It’s really just going back to grassroots. I’m at a point right now where I’m doing all that type of stuff; no Hollywood stuff. If I’m in a studio and anybody sends me a drop, I’ll send them all back [because] I’m not playing around. I feel like I said before, hard work pays off. All this type of stuff reaches different audiences and you kinda got to do that to get more exposure.
BallerStatus.com: In what ways do you challenge yourself to be innovative and creative?
Chamillionaire: Man, I just go in there and try to do something different than I did last time I did it. People will hear me do some stuff, I’m a risk taker. I’ll do a song for the internet; I kinda keep my ear to see what people are saying. The beauty of a mixtape, I can put out whatever I want just to see what people think about it. Sometimes people will love it, sometimes people will hate it. At the end of the day, I just try to do something different that I did last time. That’s how you come up with dope ideas. I would have never known to do a “Roll Call,” if I wouldn’t have tried. I was like one day in the studio, I’m like, “Ok, I’m ’bout to imitate other rappers.” And after I did it, I was like “Man, that’s kind dope, lemme put it out and see what people think about it.” And I started releasing “Roll Calls” where I was imitating [Young] Jeezy, Plies, and Snoop and all these different artists. Then after awhile I’d do it [and after] it gets old to me, I’ll do something else. I don’t even do those “Roll Calls” no more.
That’s kinda what I do, just keep coming out with something different and fresh sounding. [But] with this album though, I’m not trying to recreate the wheel. You know, I didn’t try to come with something new, innovative, Daft Punk-sound, nothing like that. I’m basically doing what I do, as best as I know how to. Then when it comes to talking that talk, and punchlines, whatever, I feel like I can stand on the work. And then also there’s that street music. I tried to do the best that I possibly could. I did a song with Three 6 Mafia that I think is super raw. If you ask me what it’s about, it’s about people that just be getting mad. I’m almost laughing. You know how people be getting mad at whoever’s success? Even if I fail, people get mad, if I win people get mad. What you mad for? Live your own life. So, I’m just on that record [listing] all of the reasons that people get mad for. It’s really a dumb thing to be pulling your hair out over somebody else’s life. It goes real hard, it’s a real hard single. But, that’s different than a lot of the other records that I did. That’s what I try to do. It’s different but, but I think people will understand it. I’m not going to do nothing where they’re like, oh I don’t get this. Not on this album.
BallerStatus.com: With your catalogue of music, do you feel confident that the South has proven that it has quality lyricists?
Chamillionaire: You know what, I don’t even care about that no more, honestly. Look at the South. Whether they got lyricists or not, they’re killing them right now, the South is killing. Lyrics or not, all people judge you is by success anyway. There’s so many classic albums that come out and don’t sell. Everybody on the net will be like, “Yo, that’s classic [and] it’ll be bloggers talking about it.”
We were just now talking about the Q-Tip album. I’m in Austin, and everybody was like the Q-Tip album is so dope. It’s the Q-Tip that you want to hear and everybody has an opinion. But, you’ll have bloggers all on the net saying something, but at the end of the day, if he doesn’t sell then what’s gonna happen? Everybody’s gonna talk bad about him; it don’t even matter. I’m not even on some mission to try to make anybody think that I’m a dope lyricist. I don’t even care about that no more. I’m comfortable in my own swag, in my own self. I don’t even care about anybody from anywhere outside the South that don’t feel like the South got quality lyricists. If they don’t like André 3000 or Weezy or Scarface or Bun B — you know all the people by now, then oh well.
BallerStatus.com: You’re immersed in multiple businesses. Within hip-hop you have you own Chamilliarty Entertainment label; the tour bus company and the Fly Rides car shop in Houston. How important is time management and how do you delegate your time between professional requirements and personal responsibilities?
Chamillionaire: That’s a real good question, man. That’s real hard, super hard. Really, I don’t even talk on the phone a lot. It’s really hard for me to concentrate because I’m doing six things at once. It’s not like I can’t multi-task, but it’s better when you’re concentrating on something. If I’m in the studio and everybody is trying to call me, they really can’t get into touch with me because I only accept e-mails because sometimes I read my raps right off the Sidekick. I can still get the messages, of course, but I can’t get on the phone and have an hour conversation. And then I got so many things I’m juggling with all these other businesses.
That’s the way it has to be. I have to have all these other businesses. I wouldn’t be able to make the amount of money I make or do what I do if I didn’t do multiple businesses. If I was just in the booth just rapping all day, I wouldn’t be able to front all of this stuff that I be fronting. I got all kinda stuff going on. It’s a gift and a curse because you really don’t get the time to sit in the studio all day and freaking just sit there, you know, and think of a million punch lines.
A lot of people don’t even realize that when I’m going the studio and I’m doing these raps. I can go in there and in like two days do a whole mixtape. Then I’ll go right back to doing all the other stuff that I was doing, I multi-task. I’ll be in the car, right now, after the interview, writing in my headphones, in my two-way. I’ll keep that record in there and when I get to the studio, I’ll knock it out. I’ll knock out the drops I gotta do for somebody else. It’s just real hard. It seem like it ain’t enough time in the day. I got to sleep late, I wake up early. I wish there was more time in the day. But, I’m learning to multi-task real good. And also, I don’t put that much trust in a lot of people. I always try to do everything myself; I’m learning to put trust in other people to help delegate and do some things too. I’m working on that.
BallerStatus.com: Well, is there anything else that you’d like to expound upon?
Chamillionaire: Give the fans my number (832)514-4730. That’s the number, I change my voicemail everyday. I check all my messages. I like to stay tuned [and] I keep my ear to what the fans want, [and to] what people are saying … good or bad. Even my haters will call me, I like to hear what they’re saying too. That’s my voicemail and that’s how I stay in touch with a lot of people. There’ll be people telling me that I need to come to a certain city. Or, I’ll call a fan back and ask him questions and they’ll end up telling me all kinds of stuff that I didn’t know. It’s real good, you can learn a lot from the fans … Anybody can hit me up!