Enter the Lizard

Houston rap is all the rage nowadays. In the past year, “H-Town” has berthed some of the biggest hip-hop hits of 2006, from Paul Wall to Mike Jones. But none have matched both the mainstream success and underground credibility of the venerable daddy of them all, the “Mixtape Messiah,” Chamillionaire. On Thursday, Nov. 2, club-hoppers, “G-men,” nay-sayers and non-believers alike will bear witness to the lyrical power of the Houston homeboy, as he performs at FAU’s 2006 Freaker’s Ball.

While some may play him off as a one-hit-wonder – his breakthrough hit “Ridin'” was one of the biggest hits of 2006 – it’s his long standing history in the hot streets of Houston that lit Cham’s star.

Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, Hakeem Seriki grew up chasing the beats of north-side Houston while stuck between two worlds – one of dedication to his family and, the other, the secular realm of inner-city hip-hop. Early on, Seriki began to mix in with the hands that ran the city’s hip-hop underground. Along with childhood friend Paul Wall, Cham launched into a series of successful mixtape ventures and radio spots that set him apart from the other Houston acts. Young Cham was lyrically tight, blazingly fast and sung his own hooks – a practice not too common in the over-sampled hip-hop scene.

Cham and Paul Wall, with an urge to better control their own destiny, broke from the tight-knit group of Houston’s mixtape maestros and released Get Ya Mind Correct in 2002. The indie album was an instant success, garnering heaps of acclaim – the disc was nominated for Best Indie Album of 2003 by the Source Awards – and selling over 100,000 copies, a monumental feat for any unsigned artist. Correct vaulted Cham and Wall into the eyes and ears of the major labels, each of whom salivated over the idea of signing the two southern-style rappers. But like most hip-hop collaborations, Cham and Wall’s ended in a bitter feud.

Fast forward to 2005. Chamillionaire scores a deal with Universal Records, solidifying both himself and his indie-label, Chamillitary, among the mainstream. His major-label debut, The Sound of Revenge, purportedly named as payback to the other former member of his running-crew, Mike Jones, has done just that. To call Revenge successful would be a massive understatement. To date the record has gone platinum and spawned MTV’s 2006 Best Rap Video of the Year, “Ridin’,” and the now blossoming hit, “Grown and Sexy.”

“Ridin'” itself may be well played enough into the public’s collective conscious by now, but it certainly hasn’t lacked impact. The track ‘rode dirty’ on the number one spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, and the ring-tone version has recently been certified triple platinum – making it far and away the highest

selling cell phone download of all time. What does it mean for “Ridin’?” Well if you haven’t heard the track enough already, you’re still bound to hear it a couple hundred more times in all it’s high-pitched, cell-phonic glory.

In another brilliant ode to the hit single, Weird Al Yankovic – the acerbic musical satirist who penned “Amish Paradise” after Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” – crafted his own version of “Ridin’,” affectionately dubbed “White and Nerdy.” The track plays out in classic Weird Al fashion, juxtaposing lines about crooked cops and racial profiling with Dungeons and Dragons and computer games. While Coolio went ballistic over Yankovic’s transformation of his own song, filing suit against the eccentric yuckster for copyright infringement, Cham is taking it all in stride. He recently told MTV he was flattered that Yankovic chose to parody “Ridin’,” saying, “Weird Al is not going to parody your song if you’re not doing it big. It’s an honor when he does that.” Cham’s moves proved he doesn’t take himself too seriously – a refreshing trait amongst a sea of “hardcore” rap types and laughable figures.

Those worried that Chamillionaire is only the latest string of hip-hop one-hitters, destined to fade away faster than Mark Foley’s political career, better think again. Cham’s already working on his follow up to Revenge, entitled The Ultimate Victory. Victory – to be released in early 2007 – pairs Cham with industry heavyweights like Alicia Keys, Rasaq, Lil’ Wayne and Scarface and promises to feature even more of the fiery, deep lyrics that made him a star to begin with.

There’s even word that a Paul Wall/Mike, Jones/Chamillionaire reunion is in the works. Cham told reporters at the VMA that he’s talking to his old-school Houston crew about squashing their long -time feuds.

While the question remains whether FAU concert-goers will show up on Nov. 2, with a promise to hear more than just “Ridin,” Chamillionaire thinks his star is still on the rise.

“Right now a lot of people paint this picture like I am some big bad guy but I’m cool people. I have been doing this for a long time,” he told Concrete magazine at the launch of Revenge. “They are just beginning to find out who Chamillionaire is.”

Chamillionaire performs along with Young Dro at the FAU Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 for students on the day of the show and $20 for the general public on the day of show. Visit www.ticketmaster.com, or contact the FAU box office at (954) 462-0222 for more information.