Screwston, Texas

Ask a Rapper: Grammy-Winning Mixtape Messiah Chamillionaire

The hip-hop world is a less than sensible place -lots of times, you're even required to clarify when bad means bad and when bad means good- so once a week we're going to get with a rapper and ask them to explain things. Have something you always wanted to ask a rapper? Email [email protected].

This Week's Rapper: Chamillionaire

This Week's Subject(s): The currency rate of a Chamillion; Houston artists aiming for fans outside of Houston; the age-old question: did he ghostwrite for Paul Wall on Get Ya Mind Correct?

Ask a Rapper: Okay, so this first question is just sort of something we've wondered for a while now: Exactly how many zeros are in a Chamillion? Is that, like, the same as a normal million or is it better?

Chamillionaire: It's a little bit more, man [laughs]. Two zeros more than the average million.

AAR: So you've made it known that you're shutting down the Mixtape Messiah franchise. To us, hearing that was the same as when we heard The Wire was being taken off the air. It sucked. Why close it out? It's arguably the most recognizable mixtape series in Texas.

C: When you say mixtapes and rapping over other people's beats, people know Texas artists do that. That's one of the thing [Mixtape Messiah] was known for. But I think it's just time to step it up and do something else.

AAR: Why?

C: It's either you're gonna be super-good with the quality or you're just gonna be... it's only the best and then everyone else, in my opinion. When it comes to the mixtapes, I was like, "How can I step it up further and get away from everyone else?" It's still gonna be the same rawness and the same quality that they're used to but it'll make them excited about something new.

AAR: You're all for Houston artists doing albums that appeal to people outside of town, right? Isn't that a tough line to toe though?

C: Yeah, but the difference is I'm not... you could go listen to Sound of Revenge. It doesn't even sound like a Texas album at all. So I'm actually a person that has had success doing that. People will go, "Well you should just do what you do on your mixtape." I've been doing my mixtapes for the longest [time] - none of them have ever went platinum.

AAR: [laughs]

C: Honestly, everybody seems like they have the answer. Slim Thug was a telling example for me. He dropped his last album, and I think it's the epitome of what Texas music is "supposed" to sound like. He didn't sell out for anything. I love it all the way through. It just didn't do as good as I thought it should've.

Everybody in Texas really wanted that and he gave it to him and they didn't support it. You know why? Because half of the people out here in Texas that used to jam Screwed music aren't even jamming Screwed music anymore; they're, like, wearing skinny jeans and copying what the rest of the world is doing. You know what I mean?

I used to hear Texas music and Screwed music when I was riding by and I don't hear it any more. I can't remember the last time I heard someone riding past me jamming a Screwed CD. That's crazy, in Texas, when before you couldn't run from it.

AAR: We absolutely have to ask this: the big rumor among music nerds is that you used to ghostwrite for Paul [Wall]. He just seemed to go a little bit harder back around the Get Ya Mind Correct time. Is there any truth at all to that?

C: Nah. I used to inspire Paul. Paul is a chameleon himself. Right now, I can tell if he's in the room with Lil' Keke when I hear from him, ya understand? I can tell if he's in the room with whoever he's in the room with just by the way his verse sounds. I think that's kinda like what was happening. I used to be in the studio and I used to try to go so hard.

If I didn't like something from Paul I'd be like, "Nah, I'm not feeling that, you gon' have to go harder because I'm about to kill it." Then he'd actually go back and redo it. And I remember one time he actually, like, I'd say a punch line and he would think of a punch line that was kinda like mine but a little different and he'd just put a little twist on it. I'd just be looking at him like, "Man, watcha doin'?"

AAR: [laughs]

C: I think his whole goal of it was, he was really the more flamboyant one of the group and I was the more lyrical one, you know what I'm saying. So he was trying to step up his lyrical abilities to keep up with me in his mind, you know what I mean. And it worked. Even with me.

When I used to be doing the Color Changin' Click thing, sometimes I'd have to be worried about one of the members or somebody coming in and spitting a better verse than me so I'd always have to go hard. If I'm over here by myself and there's nobody over here next to me, like, who am I competing with? Sometimes you need that.

But I never sat in the studio and wrote his lyrics for him. I can't even take credit for that.

Download the very good 4-disc set Mixtape Messiah 7 for free at Chamillionaire Online. Follow him on Twitter at @chamillionaire.

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Shea Serrano