Album Review: Chamillionaire – Ammunition
One would think that after a series of mixtapes and being that Ammunition is his first major release since 2007’s Ultimate Victory, Chamillionaire would offer his listeners something new or refreshing. The highly anticipated EP marks the Houston emcee’s departure from Universal Records and in case you didn’t gather from the minute-long diatribe against the “middle man” turned corny intro, was released independently. Cham builds Ammunition around this aspect, constantly reminding the audience, on every single song, that he is not like other rappers. He will, “Never change,” and he will, “Always remain the same.” Indeed, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Despite this, there are some shining moments throughout the nine-song project. “On My Way” comes to mind, which is a smooth track coupled with great production. Lyrically, the song isn’t up to par with the rest of Ammunition. However, Cham strays from his standard sixteen-bar braggadocio verses and focuses on making an enjoyable song. The track also features Lee Lonn on the hook, providing a nice change of pace from Chamillionaire’s punch lines and deep vocal tone.
“Lets Get That” is also a stand out, although the remix featuring Doughbeezy and Marcus Manchild is notably better. Here, we get to hear Cham do what he does best spitting with his rapid-fire flow, “Got tired of waitin’, got tired of hopin’/ Now my chain so icy you could ride a slope-n’/ I’ve extended swangas, stay wide and pokin’/ and the paint so wet, I feel like I’m floatin’.” Cham’s recruitments for the remix arguably outshine his own verse although Doughbeezy is sure to remind the listener of whose song he’s on paying homage as he raps, “I’m comin’ up quick, got ‘em lookin’ like ‘how?’/ But I’m lookin’ right back like ‘Nigga fuck you!’/ I dropped my mixtape, then the next day I did a song with a nigga I look up to!” Marcus Manchild’s verse is particularly impressive because of his explosive delivery and style.
The biggest question mark of Ammunition is “You Gon Learn” featuring Saigon. Interestingly enough, Cham’s verses on the track are two of the best on the entire project. The problem lies with chorus and the song’s confusingly vague concept and message. The chorus is important when discussing the song because Cham is clearly trying to make a statement. He uses phrases like, “Turn your scriptures to page ten, because loyalty is everything and flip-floppin’ should be a sin” and “Pass the offerin’ plate again, if you supportin’ the movement then prove it by what you spend/ Everything has a price, if you ain’t learned anything in ya life, (just do whatever you like) you gon’ learn tonight.” It sounds good but what exactly is he talking about? Flip-flopping? And what movement should we be spending our money on?
Several interpretations are valid but the verses, although great, only give us glimpses as to what he’s referring to. There are brief moments of clarity like when he proclaims, “My congregation is heavy – conversations is skilled/ Put money inside the plate that I’m offerin’ ‘till it spill/ Blasphemy if you actually got gangsta after a deal/ The book of Bernard Freeman say ‘thou is not trill’,” but we’re lost beyond that (especially with his second verse). Saigon’s verse, also good, is more focused but still doesn’t expand on Cham’s open-ended declarations. Also, it is worth noting Saigon’s verse, even if it sounds just like almost every other verse he’s ever written. He comes in rapping, “I’ve been known for attackin’ the preacher who doesn’t practice what he preach/ Slappin’ a rapper to keep inaccuracies in his speech/ Say he packin’ when he reach – it ain’t for nothin’ before the jack to call his peeps/ To go and back ‘em cuz he sweet.”
Other songs like “Never Enough,” “Running Laps” and “Won’t Change” are decent efforts. Maybe they’re even good but it’s just Cham’s same old story. The story goes a little something like this; “I have integrity because I won’t change my sound for anyone. I’m underappreciated and my skills aren’t acknowledged. Critics and haters always have something to say (whoops!).” Ammunition reeks of self-righteousness especially with lines like, “They sell they souls for soles, Jordans, and foolish things/ Careful, the truth stings – I know that you had a dream/ But ain’t no Martin Luther Kings out on Martin Luther King.” Conversely, there’s the chorus for “Lets Get That” that says, “Just give me two homes in different locations, just make one a little mo’ spacious/ And two Rollies dipped in gold faces/ And two girls that’s known to switch places.” In the words of Jay-Z, “Is it Oochie Wally Wally or is it One Mic? Is it Black Girl Lost or shorty owe you for ice?”
Chamillionaire is a good emcee. He’s extremely talented and his sixteens are ferocious. With that being said, his arrogance opens him up to criticism and the cadences of Ammunition are no exception. In football terms, Cham is like the Joe Flacco of Hip Hop. He’s good and maybe even great in some areas. But when you constantly build yourself up and put yourself out there, an ego-check is necessary. On a more positive note, Ammunition is actually a solid effort. The production makes the songs catchy and enjoyable, but it may need to be listened to in small doses… even with only nine songs. Hopefully Cham got all of his declarations and proclamations out of his system, so that the content of his next project is a better representation of what he’s capable of as an artist.