Chingy -- the latest rapper to make it big -- is all about having a good time. Even his name is fun: Chingy. It sounds like the jingle of a million coins spitting from a slot machine. No surprise, then, that Chingy's million-selling Capitol Records debut is called Jackpot.
The St. Louis native hit gold last summer with the anthemic "Right Thurr." Although fellow Missourian Nelly was the first to show Chingy the ropes, Jackpot was produced by Dirty South star Ludacris, who signed the up-and-comer to his own Disturbing Tha Peace label. "Chingy was introduced smoothly," says DJ Chris "Superman" McNeil of Hot 107.1 FM.
McNeil is quick to point out that both Ludacris and Snoop Dogg rap on the album. "Basically, there are several people in the Disturbing Tha Peace clique -- folks like I-20 and Lil' Fate -- who should've come out before him, but Chingy got his album done first. People can't be mad, because he's shining right now."
"Folks in Memphis are generally resistant to anything new," McNeil continues, "but I get requests for him all day long." He compares Chingy's Disturbing Tha Peace album to the recent output on Jay-Z's Rockafella label: "If you're introduced along with somebody who's a bigger star, just that association -- whether it's Ludacris and Chingy, or Jay-Z and Cam'ron or M.O.P. -- will give that newcomer a chance to shine."
"Chingy is hitting across the board," McNeil says. "People in the South really relate to him. I went to L.A. recently, and they were killing 'Right Thurr' out there too. He has the right people marketing him."
But Chingy's appeal as an everyman rapper might be his downfall as well. The phonetic spelling of "Right Thurr" echoes Nelly's 2002 smash "Hot In Herre," while the cadence of "He's Herre" sounds like a blatant rip-off of Eminem's "Square Dance." And on the 16-track Jackpot disc, Chingy's Midwestern twang begins to wear thin. Like Rufus Thomas' beleaguered follow-ups to "Walking the Dog" ("Can Your Monkey Do the Dog," "Somebody Stole My Dog," etc.) all those double consonants add up to a tired -- albeit well-meaning -- joke.
"An average rap CD has between 10 and 15 songs," McNeil explains. "Three or four might be bangin', and two or three might actually hit the radio. Frankly, as long as an artist has a single that's big enough to push him over gold or platinum status, it doesn't really matter what the rest of the album sounds like."
As McNeil points out, Jackpot has sold more than two million copies on the strength of "Right Thurr" alone.
Now Chingy is ruling the airwaves again with his latest single, "Holidae In," a bouncy ode to the hotel party scene. With a chorus that's likely to become the catchphrase of 2003 ("Whachu doin'?/Nothing chillin' at the Holidae In/Who you wit'?/Me and my peeps, won't you bring four of your friends/What we gon' do?/Feel on each other and sip on some Hen/One thing leading to another, let the party begin"), the song has superseded OutKast and even the late great Tupac Shakur on last week's Billboard charts.
Snoop Dogg and Ludacris both guest on the song and in the video, which is in heavy rotation on MTV. Earlier this month, the trio performed the R-rated hit on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, dropping lyrics like, "I took a chick in the bathroom seeing what's popping/You know what's on my mind, shirts off and panties dropping" and "Now she naked strip teasing, me I'm just cheesing/She gave me a reason to be a damn heathen" into middle America.
"Everybody loves Chingy," McNeil says. "The kids love him. The grownups love him."
But how do the folks at Holiday Inn feel about all this free publicity? "We don't have an opinion on the artist," says Virginia Bush of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, the chain's parent company. "While the spelling on the title of that song gives Chingy creative license, we do not endorse his, or any other, rap videos or productions." Holiday Inn, Bush explains, "has decided not to take any legal action."
While Bush neglected to mention whether or not room 490 -- tagged in the song -- was in high demand, McNeil confirms that hotel parties are happening events on the current scene. "Of course, folks still like to hang out in the clubs, but you save more money and cut back on the risk of getting in trouble if you have a house or hotel party. The police bring a different element to the party scene," he says, citing the recent crackdown at local clubs. "Plus, if you go into a club, you're gonna pay $80-$90 for a bottle of Moët. Do it like Chingy, and you can pick up a bottle of Hennessey at a liquor store for $40 tops and have your own party in a safe place that's off the streets."
Chingy and the DTP Family are performing at the Spot, 616 Marshall Avenue, on Friday, November 28th, "18 to get in, 21 to get crunk."