Who was the last rapper not named Will Smith whose album you could unabashedly play in front of your mother?

Kelly Fraser
His grill could probably bankroll Liechtenstein (Courtesy of Universal).

Chamillionaire, the Houston rapper behind the summer smash “Ridin,’ ” has sneakily become the good guy of hip hop. On his 2005 debut, The Sound of Revenge, Cham didn’t use any swear words other than the n-word. Ultimate Victory, his latest, has none, either. Still, whereas Will Smith and similarly clean rappers will always be viewed as soft, Chamillionaire maintains a street image. If you weren’t told about the lack of swearing, you probably wouldn’t notice it.

Cham’s decision to keep his album clean is far from the only thing that distinguishes him from other rappers. On Revenge, he showed his ability to combine mainstream hits with personal reflections as well as to record meaningful, oftentimes heavy, subject matter over strong beats with catchy hooks. And he can sing, too – he’s like a Southern Nate Dogg.

Nothing on Victory is going to get the airplay “Ridin’ ” did, but the album as a whole has even more of an aura of importance and grandiosity than Revenge. There are a lot of strings and, combined with Cham’s singing and frequent rapid-fire delivery, they make the songs more complete than average cuts.

“Hip Hop Police” has Cham rapping from his own perspective as well as from the view of a “hip-hop policeman.” In the voice of the latter he cleverly spits, “In the car we confiscated The Chronic and The Clipse / Diary that you had and all your Blueprints / On the Death Row booklet we found your two prints / Your thumb and your index, the judge will love this.” This nostalgic sentiment is also echoed on “Evening News.”

Kane Beatz, who as recently as a year ago was selling beats on the Internet, produced the bulk of the album, including the guitar-heavy, quick-hitting “Standing Ovation,” providing an anthem-like background for Cham to get boastful. “Industry Groupies” is worth a mention if only because it samples Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

Cham shows his laid-back side on “Pimp Mode” and the smoother-than-velvet “The Ultimate Vacation,” which both help change the pace through19 tracks that are not entirely without redundancy.

Chamillionaire fans who’ve impatiently awaited his sophomore project (especially since Cham shouted “March 27” all over his mixtapes) won’t be disappointed. It’s still the Cham they know and love, but he takes on bigger issues while maintaining the swag that made him famous. So go ahead, play Victory at your next house party. Even if Mom’s there.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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