Chamillionaire is not your average rapper. He has never been. Looking at his career, how many artists won a GRAMMY with a catchy song about police brutality that went viral before the term viral even existed? Who else would feature Slick Rick on their sophomore album's lead single in the 21st century? And beyond the music, Cham is known for spending his time philosophizing about social media marketing plans on conferences and hanging out with fellow tech entrepreneurs, which makes sense since he was one of the first artists to truly use the internet as a promotional tool.
The hip hop landscape has changed tremendously since the man known as King Koopa ruled his kingdom filled with punchlines and creative-braggalicous-motivational-raps. But Cham's push for business diversity is why his post-commercial career path is going so much more differently than other rappers after their zenith has elapsed. So many previously superstar rappers are now busily shaping an extensive relationship with the feds (isdmxinjail.com anyone?) or have fallen victim to Iverson-syndrome, continuing to ball themselves into massive debt even after their income has lessened.
On the other hand, Chamillionaire used his contacts, capital and past experience in the music indursty to take a step much further into the business world. At the same time his position in the general public eye has declined since leaving the major label rap scene behind in 2011, his position in the tech world has been ascending.
"Chamillionaire has a way more refined sense of what customer behavior is like than most Ivy League graduates with nice powerpoint slides that I meet." - Upfront Ventures' Mark Suster
As recently revealed, Cham was signed as an entrepreneur-in-resistance by the tech-venture capitalist company Upfront Ventures, after serving as an advisor for several years. What´s so special is that Cham didn’t get into this position by being a popular name whose face a company could plaster on billboards and ads (see the Dr.Dre/Beats/Apple deal). Instead, he got hired as a skilled individual with a valuable business mind that will elevate Upfront's bottom line (even though Upfront Ventures can't complain about a lack of media coverage now, either).
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Skills is the buzz word here, skills that Cham shaped over the course of years in the music industry. Back when social media platforms where still in their baby shoes and unprofitable for artists, Cham used online platforms like Shout to get his music played online and connect to fans. In addition, he was one of the very first to truly take advantage of his own site, giving away free music through these platforms, forming an exclusive demand for his fans and getting feedback in return. It’s this kind of experience that would tell Cham what would work and what wouldn’t, giving him a great hands on idea of technology's potential.
Instead of rapping about spending money, a passion most emcees seem to share, Cham actually made sure to invest his in real estate, companies and most importantly building his own knowledge base, attending tech conferences to increase his marketing experiences. With that dedication, Cham worked his way into a field that simply seems to be giving him much more than the WWE drama of commercial hip hop. As he stated in a 2010 interview with Upfront, he feels that he, “...can do so much more than rap with the rest of my life. I want to start feeding this stuff out so that the younger generation will start getting it and paying attention to this stuff [technology, marketing, business]."
Cham was smart enough to realize that everything fades eventually, especially fame and success in the music industry. Exceptions like the Jay's and Em's of this world only prove this rule. It is only wise for most artists to keep every business option open and invest in business models while still giving their all to the music. Cham is once again a front runner, showing that it's indeed possible to make a living outside the regular rap hustle.
And while I'm sure there are some saying he "fell off," Cham didn't fail as a recording artists. A GRAMMY, a platinum plaque, multiple successful mixtapes and a fan base with a loyalty level Chris Brown can only dream of suggest otherwise. Nor should any artist, currently on top or aspiring to get there, shy away from attempting to make a living through their art alone. Still it's exemplary to see a public figure focused on securing his financial security outside of music's perilous domain, all while still feeding music to his most loyal fans.
Chamillionaire is anything but your average rap personality; he has always been more complex than that. The days of his biggest music success and coverage on the evening news might be into the past, yet he has finally achieved to fully live by what his Ultimate Victory album stands for - forging your own path to happiness. Victory.
[Kevin Taylor is an aspiring music writer and master of the killer crossover. This is his Twitter.]