Chamillionaire, Ultimate Victory

Chamillionaire: Keeping tabs on Trump, Rosie and Imus; selling mucho ringtones.

When did mainstream rap become more relevant than its underground counterpart? Talib Kweli and El-P released self-congratulatory pap this year, while Kanye West's sincere, introspective Graduation sold almost a million copies in its first week. Now Chamillionaire's Ultimate Victory is ridiculously topical and, if not always thought-provoking, usually hilarious: "Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump stay arguing about nonsense, they'd treat me as good as Hugh Hef if I had a mansion full of blonde chicks." "If adultery was a felony, then Clinton would be a convict," he raps on "The Morning News." Later, on "The Evening News," he references Don Imus, Virginia Tech and Anna Nicole Smith in the same stanza. Along the way, Cham celebrates himself for getting rich, selling mucho ringtones and traveling to foreign countries, but his nerdy, charming style makes you forgive the braggadocio. Chamillionaire is the rare rapper who avoids beef, and here he name-drops or features as guests just about every MC imaginable: UGK, Slick Rick, Krayzie Bone and Lil Wayne, among others. Nothing here is as infectious as 2006 megahit "Ridin'," but Cham's mostly under-the-radar producers' understated beats let his likable flow sparkle.

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