Houston's MLK Parade Foundation recently announced the crowning of Chamillionaire as a co-Grand Marshal in the 2009 MLK parade. At first blush, some might think that a dude who spends a great deal of time talking about his dick, his riches, and his gun is an unusual choice to represent Dr. King's vision, but a close reading of Cham's lyrics reveal a kinship with some of Dr. King's writings.
Hair Balls broached this subject with Foundation CEO Charles Stamps by first reciting lyrics from Cham's "I Got Hos," in order to identify its counterpart in King's cannon. "I got hos/ I got so many hos/ Callin' on my phone/ Nah, they won't leave me alone/Brown skin, redbone, yellow bone/Comin' to my home/ They scream and they moan."
Stamps said it was unfair to cherry-pick those lyrics and explained that "What we look at is a person's contributions to the community, the positive influence that he has on his peers....we're trying to bridge, if you will, the gap...between my generation and that generation."
He later elaborated in an e-mail: "Rappers are a target group that I am trying to reach..They are very influential with our kids...If I can motivate them to become aware of that influence, and how it affects our kids, then just maybe we can begin the process of closing the generation gap by encouraging them to become more responsible with their lyrics, and by being a positive influence."
Contributions to the community are definitely important, so Stamps guided us to Cham's bio on the Foundation website, which duly discussed the many college scholarships he established, money he donated for parks in blighted neighborhoods, and his work with the elderly.
Oh wait - no it didn't. It mentioned his Grammys and commercial success - which is cool, too. Stamps said the bio was supposed to include his community efforts, and he immediately contacted Cham's publicist, Nancy Byron, to help him update things. When Hair Balls asked if Byron could think of any great things Cham's done to "give back to the community," she did mention that he volunteered for hours at a POD in the aftermath of Ike.
Even those unfamiliar with Cham's work can see its relation to Dr. King's speeches and sermons, and how Cham echoes Dr. King's clarion call for unity and peace.
"We running the game nigga, I'ma run you out the game nigga
I ain't gonna let no pussy niggas represent my city nigga,
nuh uh, especially not no gimmick pussy niggas"
--Cham, "Run You Out the Game."
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. Except for pussy niggas."
--Dr. King, Letter From Birmingham Jail
"8,000 square footage of bricks on some private property
Plenty of surveillance for residents who be watchin me
You ain't got to worry about if police or cops'll see
All you need to worry about is if my new Glock'll see."
-Cham, "Living Good."
"And God grant that we will get on board and start marching with God - and with our Glocks -- because we got orders now to break down the bondage and the walls of colonialism, exploitation, and imperialism, to break them down to the point that no man will trample over another man, unless that man is on the grounds of my palatial estate, but that all men will respect the dignity and worth of all human personality."
--Dr. King, "The Birth of a New Nation"
"My money move I get statements so I can view my dollars
A one then a zero, zero be leapin' all the commas
I can poke I promise
Baby look dope as Pocahontas In the Bahamas
Counting money in my pajamas"
--Cham, "The Real Thang"
"But not only have we gotten jobs through Operation Breadbasket in Chicago; there was another area through this economic program, and that was the development of financial institutions which were controlled by Negroes and which were sensitive to problems of economic deprivation of the Negro community. These financial institutions offer a program whereby account holders can make deposits and withdrawals while wearing pajamas, robes, or 'just-puttering-around-the-house' clothes. Amen."
--Dr. King, "Where Do We Go From Here?"
(Note: We're double-checking some of those King quotes.)
Update: We've gotten the charity work details.
On a personal level, there are many causes that are dear to Chamillionaire's heart, especially anything to do with helping children; something that was inspired by his upbringing. Taking a cue from his Mother, who routinely took in foster kids while he was growing up, Chamillionaire himself currently homes 3 foster children. Cancer research and his church are also causes to which Chamillionaire contributes regularly. Chamillionaire's fierce love for his city means that you will always find him present in times of need. Whether it is donations for hurricane repairs to schools, or giving his time to raise awareness for those causes he holds dear, Chamillionaire is a philanthropic staple in the Houston community.
-- Craig Malisow