You might be wondering what happened to this guy. Was he a one hit wonder? Commercially, none of his songs have been able to match the same chart-topping success of Ridin’.
That single turned me into a die-hard fan. I tried to find whatever songs of his I could, and that was the first time I gained exposure to mixtape culture. I followed him to the release of his second studio album. I enjoyed a couple songs, but I was surprised at his choice of singles. Why’d he pick that song?
Turns out he didn’t. Once he made it big, he lost a lot of creative control. He kept pretty open communication with his fans. I learned about stuff like the 360 deal.
When he was preparing for this third studio release, executives would try to takeover. “You know what’s hot right now? The Gilmore Girls. Let’s get one of the girls to sing on one of your tracks.”
Chamillionaire shot back, “Man, I don’t want work with no Gilmore Girl!”
Around the same time, he lost one of his close friends Pimp C of UGK fame. Pimp had collaborated on a track, and Cham had the idea of releasing the song as a single with all proceeds going out to supporting Pimp’s family. Studio execs wouldn’t allow it, and that was that.
Chamillionaire walked away and has gone full-on independent. He hasn’t looked back since.
“Money isn’t everything” is a line that’s overused. Can you walk away from money? That’s a much better dilemma.
By signing on with a major label, he had a team of promoters and supporters. He wouldn’t ever have to do things all on his own again. But how much had to be sacrificed in turn?
Back in 200, Conan O’Brien made a speech to Harvard and said, “Success is a lot like a bright white tuxedo. You feel terrific when you get it, but then you’re desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it.”
Losing control and doing things you’re not really into… those aspects aren’t just limited to the music industry. You have friends and co-workers talking all the time about how they hate what they do. But they keep doing it because they’ve successfully landed job security.
Chamillionaire reached the big leagues. He had in his hands what many people consider success. Yet, he wasn’t scared of losing it. His job security was having himself.
When I turned down the chance to sign on the JET Program for a fourth year, I threw away a lot of job security. Add to that, I had no idea what I would do next. Still, I wanted to believe in Cham’s actions– stepping away and staying creative would be worth it.