As I’ve mentioned to you all before, I’m infatuated by, if not obsessed with, the cycle in which Top 40 music enters into and exists within our sphere of relevancy. I would even go as far as to say that if I could create my own curriculum at Bard, I would be majoring in “washed up rappers.”
But there’s a lot I don’t understand. For example, in every dramatization of a rapper’s rise to fame (“8 Mile,” “Notorious,” “Empire”) there’s always this big stress on getting “the single,” that one track that will catch the ear of the right person and put you on the map. And that makes sense. What good is an album to a major label if there are no radio hits? Ask Freddie Gibbs. Piñata was one of the best hip-hop albums this year but it was barely recognized by the public because DJ Felli Fel couldn’t drop it on Power 106.
So okay, you get the single. You’re on the radio. Then what? In my opinion, it seems almost harder to maintain Top 40 fame then it is to initially catch it.
50 Cent’s career started with “In Da Club,” a massive single, and now he rules over the whole G-Unit empire and even sponsors a fucking NASCAR team. Same goes for Jeremih with “Birthday Sex,” the first of three huge Top 10 singles for him over the past five years. But then others, for no outright reason, slip through the cracks and disappear after promising starts.
These are the people I become addicted to. The people who accidentally come on when your iPod’s on shuffle. The people who DJs don’t even really include in their throwback sets because they’re too cautious of crowd reception, so they play Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” instead. I’m the person that sits and reads their blogs and watches their interviews on YouTube with under 500 views.
So I share with you today, the whereabouts of some of my favorite one (or two) hit wonders from the early 2000s that for no specific reason were unable to keep their name in the charts.
In the early to mid 2000’s, the music industry found itself in a complicated position when the FCC began to crack down on censorship regulations. This was primarily targeted at the hip hop community, who were being held responsible for a national heightening in crime rate. This, as a result, spawned the era of “ringtone rap”, as hip hop artists were forced to lyrically limit themselves to catchy hooks, sex, and dance moves in order to make record sales. Despite the fact that the early and mid 2000’s have been infamously labeled the darkest era of hip hop, (most notably by Nas with the release of his album Hip Hop Is Dead in 2006), Billboard seemed to disagree. Choreographed dance tracks were invading Top 40 charts.
One of the most memorable names attributed to this era of rap music was DJ Unk, an Atlanta based rapper and DJ who put himself on the map with his club hit “Walk It Out” and, later, “2 Step.” Unk had been around for a while, making music with his pals since the late 90’s but only picked up steam when he joined the Southern Style DJs in the early 2000’s. This is when he met Big Oomp, who signed him to his record label. You know Big Oomp even if you don’t. He always had that little kid screaming “Big Oomp Camp” at the beginning of all his tracks, remember? Despite scouring the Internet, I still have no idea who the fuck that little kid is.
After the release of Beat’n Down Yo Block! in 2006, DJ Unk, lead by the success of “Walk It Out,” rose to Top 40 stardom. And for a moment, he was on the cusp of cementing himself into the southern rap explosion like his fellow ATLiens T.I. and Jeezy. For a new artist with two debut singles getting massive radio play, Unk was backed by all the right people: hopping on Three 6’s “I’d Rather” and snagging Jim Jones, T-Pain, E-40, Soulja Boy, and André 3000 for remixes of “Walk It Out” and “2 Step.” Unk even performed at the BET awards in 2006, raising the star filled crowed to their feet, as his seemingly endless stream of backup dancers exhibited just how one should go about walking it out.
In 2008 Unk put out his sophomore album 2ecend Season which featured the single “In Yo Face.” Though used in the NBA 2k9 video game trailer, the track fell short compared to the two mega hits he had pumped out in his previous album. Unk’s name was never seen on Billboard charts again. This is the point when Unk kind of disappeared.
A year after the release of “In Yo Face” Unk suffered a heart attack. He thankfully turned out to be okay, but it explains why his disappearance from the music scene happened at such a pivotal moment in his career.
The day after his heart attack, Unk took to twitter to discuss the new lifestyle changes he planned to sustain:
“No more Kush, Purp, Piff, Haze, Sour desiel for me! No more drinks! Got to do this for my health! Live healthy! be healthy! Live unhealthy and suffer the concequences!. Keep god first and haters last! It’s not over till the fat lady sing.”
“No more hot wings, no fried food, no more seafood ! Dam what must I eat?(air) and (water)?”
In 2013 he released an unlistenable frat rap track called “Have A Toast.” It’s accompanied by a music video that essentially montages an evening of Unk performing at a bizarre college rave with only white people in the crowd. It sounds like one of those nightmare KIIS FM songs that you would impulsively turn off.
Nowadays, Unk is recognized mostly as a DJ. He tours across America, playing primarily all ages clubs, still performing his two platinum record tracks which, I have no doubt, can still get a crowd throwing elbows. I’m in the process of trying to get my school to hire him for our Spring Fling.
Let me know if his website works for any of you guys, because it didn’t for me: www.djunkmusic.com
I’ll begin by mentioning that I play “Right Thurr” anytime I’ve drunkenly gained control over the music at parties. Howard Baily Jr., better known as Chingy, began his career in the early 2000’s when he was taken under the wing of hip hop megastar Ludacris who signed him to his record label Disturbing tha Peace.
After heavy promotion from his new label, Chingy’s first single “Right Thurr” became the hip hop summer anthem of 2003, peaking at #2 on Billboard’s 100. With a chart topping single and the mentorship of Ludacris, Chingy was put in close quarters with some of the most powerful names in the industry, sitting VIP at clubs with rappers like Run DMC, LL Cool J (according to an old management page) and fellow St. Louis native, Nelly.
Riding off the energy from his hit single, the album Jackpot, released a few months later, was able to quench the thirst of awaiting hip hop listeners. Off the strength of two more Top 5 hits on the Billboard chart— the club banger “Holidae Inn,” which featured Ludacris and Snoop Dogg, and the for-the-ladies jam “One Call Away” — the album went platinum within a year of its release. Other guest appearances on the album included 2 Chainz (when he was still Tity Boi), Trina and Jermaine Dupri.
But Chingy’s success didn’t stop there. He left DTP, signed to Capitol Records, and at this point was actually big enough to pick which artists he wanted to work with. His next album. Powerballin, included two Top 20 hits and featured R. Kelly, Bun B, Lil Wayne, Janet Jackson, David Banner and Nate Dogg. I mean, seriously, some of the most impressive collaborators to cite on a résumé. (Am I the only one still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Janet Jackson and Nate Dogg were on a Chingy album?)
Things started going south for Ching-a-ling after the release of his third album Hate It Or Love It. It didn’t do horribly considering one of the tracks, “Dem Jeans,” still went platinum, but it became apparent that the novelty of Chingy’s feel good southern flare was wearing off.
This is when we started forgetting Chingy. He released another album under Def Jam, but it was poorly promoted and virtually no one listened to it.
But Chingy didn’t disappear quietly from the limelight. In 2011, he caused quite a stir when he publicly announced his belief of “Black Hebrew Israelites,” which as I understand it, means he believes in the notion that black Americans are descendants of ancient Israelites (I will note that mainstream Jews aren’t really down with this concept). He made a pretty intense music video for his religiously charged track “King Judah” that reinforces these beliefs.
Last year Chingy admitted to Vlad TV that he had lost his record deal due to rumors that he was having relations with a transsexual woman. Apparently, in the early 2000’s Chingy and Ludacris had been at a club one night when a woman asked to take a picture with him. Turns out the woman was Sydney Starr, a transsexual video vixen who years later sold the photo to tabloids and claimed they had been dating. Though Chingy never clarified whether the label involved was Capitol or Def Jam, he claimed a “major label” broke off a deal after this rumor went public, claiming the scandal was “too damaging” to overlook. He even went as far as to say this was the leading cause of his career’s failure. Though the legitimacy of his accusation was never confirmed or denied by a second party, the allegations against his former record label are certainly believable, especially when considering the womanizing, rough part of St. Louis image that Chingy promoted in his earlier albums.
Now this really bummed me out. I know Chingy’s career was already on it’s deathbed after his last album, but it’s a shame to think it was kicked into it’s grave over a false homosexual rumor. I felt so bad for Ching-a-ling, I was even willing to look past his kind of bizarre religious views.
What if Chingy’s just a normal dude that got brainwashed by the wrong person, like Will Smith or something (I like Will Smith, leave me alone).
I was wrong. Turns out he’s actually kind of nuts. In a different segment of this same interview with Vlad TV, Chingy goes on a really bonkers rant about symbolism and the illuminati. Though he doesn’t directly say he’s a member, he talks a lot about the definition of the word Illuminati and then poses the question “so what’s wrong with being illuminated?” He then proceeds to argue how we should all try out the path of illumination. Hmmm.
Well guys, things only get worse from here. So it turns out Chingy is a big time conspiracy theorist, his most recent claim being that Mike Brown’s death and the Ferguson riots are a government conspiracy set up to establish a police state. He also thinks ISIS is a conspiracy. You can listen to him rant about it here.
I stopped looking into the whereabouts of Chingy after stumbling across his Instagram. It felt like a safe place to end my research. And with that, I’ll leave you with a slideshow of Chingy’s most intense Instagram posts (his account was deleted but I managed to salvage a few of his posts from dark corners of the Internet.)
I miss Chingy and Unk everyday.