Hi. I'm the Rap Critic. Let's talk about Chamillionaire. Now, back in the mid 2000's, there was a short time when Texas was all the rage in Hip-Hop. For a brief 2 or 3 years, you couldn't escape Houston rappers such as Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Lil Flip, and even old school cats like UGK started coming back on the scene. But among these emcees, few of them had as big a hit as Chamillionaire with Ridin', a forceful tune with a vibrating bass line, thumping drums, driving synths, and an unforgettable hook that brought him a number one hit on the billboard charts. Although, for a song that was such a club banger, it was actually an anthem against racial prejudice embedded in the American Police force, the likes of which we hadn't seen achieve such popularity since… well, N.W.A. For those who don't know, the phrase "ridin' dirty" refers to having something illegal in your car while driving, usually drugs. And in the context of the chorus...
They see me rollin, They hatin Patrolling they tryin to catch me ridin dirty Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
He's referring to racist cops who use their badge as an excuse to hassle people of color because they assume if they're rollin' in a nice ride, it MUST be because they're dealing drugs, and so these racist cops can't wait to reaffirm their biased views and pull over a black man with the intent of, "put them in their place," as it were, that place being jail. And this is a very real problem. Seeing that black people are only about 13 percent of the American population, there is a disproportionate amount of Black people who are arrested for having marijuana in comparison to white people being arrested for having it, and if you've ever been to a predominantly white college, you know that that's not simply because white kids "don't have as much"… So, in a slick way, this song is calling out that racial disparity, and by the sing-song nature of the chorus, it seems to take pleasure in subverting the cops' expectations
Grindin' to see if they can see me lean I'm tinted so it ain't easy to be seen
Okay, so, we start off with Chamillionaire telling us of his desire to be seen, quickly followed by him telling us that because his car's tinted, you can't really see him… okay… not the strongest way to start a song like this, but whatever…
Ride with a new chick, she like hold up
AUGH!!! *calms down* Sorry, after that "We Dem Boyz" review, I'd just rather not hear that phrase in a rap song for a while
Next to the playstation controller Is a full clip in my pistola, Send a jacker into a coma
Alright, here he's saying that if you try to steal his stuff, he'll… wait, wasn't this song about the police?
Send a jacker into a coma Girl you ain't know, I'm crazy like Krayzie Bone
Wait, is he telling all of this to the girl he's in the car with? Well, I guess telling her that he can protect himself from any carjackers probably would make her feel safe, but… maybe when talking to a lady in your car, you shouldn't immediately follow up your line about owning a gun with a line about being mentally unstable…
Just tryin to bone ain't tryin to have no babies
That's… nice… so, how about those cops?
Laws on patrol and you know they hate me
Okay, so finally we get to the point: police harassing him purely based on the fact that he has a nice car
Twin steady twistin like "hit this though"
Wait, so your friend is twisting up something that he wants you to take a hit of? Oh… oh…
Police pull up from behind and is in his throat
And when the police pulled up, he swallowed this thing that he wanted you to take a hit of?
Windows down gotta stop pollution
And then, you immediately rolled down the windows, to get rid of the smell this certain thing carried with it?
CDs change, niggas like "who is that producing?"
Hey, don't change the subject, you are ridin' dirty! Well, I guess he never explicitly said that he WASN'T ridin' dirty, he just said they're trying to catch him ridin' dirty, but to his credit, he never said he was smoking anything while driving either: he said that his friend was about to light something up, and offered it to him, but he never took it. However, of course, if the cops smelled any weed on them at all, it'd be game over for the both of them, a fate that, statistically would be 3 times less likely to happen if they were white. Now, this is a bit of a nuanced criticism I'm going with here, because I'm not saying that if a black dude should be caught doing something illegal, he shouldn't go to jail, far from it; however, I'm saying that a young black male driving a nice car should be held under the same scrutiny by police officers as if he were, say, a late 20's, early 30's upper class white guy in a nice car. By the way, thank you, music video, for that illustration. But yeah, this guy's a young, rich rapper who got where he was by being a talented artist, and if he wants to enjoy the fruits of his success, he shouldn't be profiled because of it!
Got warrants in every city except Houston
Yeah, so what he has a warrant for his arrest in*change tone* every city in American except Houston? Jeez, man! And… what are you doing in Houston that's illegal anywhere else? Well, regardless, look, I understand about racial profiling and all that, but if you've got warrant's in almost every city in America, there's no way it's racial profiling at that point. I'm pretty sure you're just kind of a criminal. Either that, or he needs to stop letting his stoner friends ride passenger. Regardless, that was not a good way to end that verse. I mean, for the most part Cham doesn't directly come off as the stereotype that the police are making him out to be, so I tried to give the guy the benefit of a doubt, but a line like that throws all of it out the window, especially at the tail end there. I don't know, maybe a guest verse from Krayzie Bone could give us a more empathetic character, a guy who's getting hassled by cops, even though he's done nothing wrong
I been drinkin and smokin holy shit cause I really can't focus
Okay… never mind that idea…
I gotta get to home 'fore the po po's scope this
Okay, so… maybe he's drinking and smoking… at the same time… but hey, he might not be hurting anybody!
I gotta get to home 'fore the po po's scope this Big ol Excursion swerving all up in the curb and...
Oh, on the curb? So, he's driving a Huge car down a… sidewalk…. that's… bad...
Doin a hundred while I puff on the blunt
Oh, driving at 100 miles per hour onto a sidewalk… that is… not better… Yeah, there's no justification for this! You can argue about making weed legal all day, but I think you'll have far fewer supporters for driving 100 miles per hour while drunk and high. Sorry, I'm gonna have to side with the police when it comes to actions that can directly lead to...
*plays car crash at the end of the song*
...well, that. Weird that we're supposed to be rooting for Krayzie Bone in this song as the cool badass when the tail end of the song shows you the exact reason why it's illegal to be impaired behind the wheel of a car!
DAMN! I done spilled my drink…
Yo I gotta hit the back streets Wanted by the 6 pounds and I got heat Glock Glock shots to the block we creep creep Pop Pop hope cops don't see me
Oh, so you're committing murder now? The hell? We don't even know why he's doing it either! There's no justification for this happening, just out of nowhere, he decides, in his intoxicated stupor, that he's going to kill someone
With no regards for the law we dodge em like fuck em all
Okay, how is this song supposed to work again? Because the way the chorus and this verse is coming together, it sounds like they're saying "Hey! Isn't it stupid how racist cops assume black people to be criminals?" *guncock*"Let's justify these assumptions!" Well, maybe something else is going on! Maybe, the idea is that Krayzie Bone is the one who's REALLY the criminal, but since the cops are so busy following Chamillionaire because he has a nice ride, they're letting the REAL criminal get away! Yeah, so Krayzie Bone is committing crimes, while Chamillionaire has nothing to do with--
We bust shots off in the air Krayzie Bone and Chamillionaire
Oh, so they ARE hanging out together. Well, there goes THAT theory
And they upset for sure cause they think they know That they catchin me with plenty of the drank and dro
Well, if you're hanging out with Krayzie Bone, they will! Sorry, but Krayzie kinda ruined your vibe here. Whereas MAYBE you could excuse the last lyric in the first verse and take at face value the fact that Chamillionaire hadn't explicitly stated that he had done anything illegal, verifying the chorus as a justified chant against corruption in the American legal system, Krayzie Bone negates all of that, and makes it not about the common man mad at corruption in the police department, but about a reckless thug mad at police officers for doing their jobs, and sure, you can have a song about criminal lifestyles and all that, but the smugness and assuredness of that chorus led me to believe you guys were supposed to be the ones in the right in this scenario, being done wrong by the man, but when you're committing criminal acts, obviously out of love for being a criminal, since we have absolutely no reasonings behind your activities beyond "wow, isn't shooting people and driving over the speed limit cool!?" yeah, I'm sorry, but that doesn't garner as much empathy
So they get behind me tryin to check my tags, look at my rearview and they smilin Thinkin they'll catch me on the wrong, they keep tryin Steady denyin that it's racial profiling
You know, I'd be right there with ya on this if you hadn't mentioned the little part about having warrants in almost every city for your arrest! Call me cynical, but I highly doubt those warrants came from you running into EVERY racist cop in America. Okay, maybe I should let that line go, it was in the first verse, and from the way it was written, it might not have even been originally intended for this song. This is the third verse, and everything's completely different now… I guess…
Glove compartment gotta get my cash Cause the crooked cops try to come up fast
You know, you could see this as a bad character move on his part, but honestly, hey, he just knows the game: in the case of crooked police, it's not about justice and equality on their end, so Cham might as well play along. And actually, when you think about stuff like parking tickets, speeding tickets, and getting out of jail on bail, the only lesson to really take away from all that is, "give us enough money, and we'll leave you alone". So, yeah, it's messed up, but Cham is circumventing wasting time with the system by giving the man what he wants
And been a baller that I am I talk to them, giving a damn bout not feeling my attitude When they realize I ain't even ridin dirty bet you'll be leavin with an even madder mood
Yeah, take THAT, One time! Your racial prejudice blew up right in your face, giving me a legitimate reason to not take you seriously as an officer. You're an embarrassment to the force, acting on such bigoted, baseless principles! Just… don't look over there at Krayzie Bone, just, just look at me
Well, overall, I'd give this song a 3 out of 5. A LOT of this song is carried on a stellar hook and fun, bouncy production, and both emcees are quite lyrical with their delivery, by the end of the song encapsulating a lot of the distrust that black people in general have against the police. However, the constant deviations from the topic, most of which only serve to brag about getting chicks, being intoxicated and violent, ultimately fulfill the same role that racist cops look for when persecuting black people, and despite it still being drenched with tight wordplay, that fact alone throws out a lot of that goodwill. It's still a better than average song, and attempted to do more than typical mainstream rap song was doing at the time, but unfortunately, it didn't focus on delivering the topic strong enough to rate it higher
Well, I'm the Rap Critic. You don't have to like my opinion, but before you ask, of COURSE I loved the Weird Al parody. you'd have to be some kind of moron to not love Weird Al, man…