SANTA MONICA, California — Chingy, the first artist on Disturbing Tha Peace Records, is often asked why he hooked up with Ludacris and not fellow St. Louis rapper Nelly.
"It was God's plan, homey," he answers. "It wasn't mine."
And for this particular plan, God took his time. The 23-year-old rhyme slinger behind the summer hit "Right Thurr" has been rapping for more than 15 years. He was 10 when he recorded his first track, 12 when he took his first stage and 16 when he released his first CD, with the group Without Warning. When he was 20, he took on the moniker Chingy.
"That's a saying me and my homeboys have for money," he explained recently. "You know how you say to somebody, they ballin'? We be like, they chingy. And I thought it had a nice ring to it, so I made it my name and ran with it. ... I used to have the name Thugsy, but so many people portrayed it to be thugs and all that ... and I'd rather be about money."
A year ago Chingy began working with production team the Trackmasters (Jay-Z, Nas), who got his music to Luda and his manager, Chaka Zulu. "They called back in the next day or two and was like, 'The music is serious,' and they wanted to get it poppin'," Chingy recalled.
Last fall, before Disturbing Tha Peace agreed to release Chingy's Jackpot, due July 15, the label tested one of his songs, the party anthem "Right Thurr," at a few clubs. It was an instant hit, just as it has been at radio this summer, with some even calling it the next "Hot in Herre."
"I know people are drawn to the terms I'm using on the chorus and the way we talk — 'thurr,' 'herre,' stuff like that," Chingy said. "I mean, that's just how we talk. We can't help it. You come to St. Louis, you gon' see little kids, old people talkin' like that."
Chingy calls "Right Thurr" an homage to pretty women. "With nice bodies that you might see in nightclubs, malls, everywhere," he adds. "You could just be standing out in a club and some attractive girl walks past you and you be like, 'Damn, look at that girl right thurr.' "
"Right Thurr" instantly caught the ear of Jermaine Dupri and Trina, who contributed verses to a remix and will appear in the video. The original clip features cameos from Ludacris, Disturbing Tha Peace and the St. Lunatics' Murphy Lee, who appears on Jackpot.
Lee is also on a song called "Sample Dat Ass" — "It's a strip club song," explained Chingy, who said he has always been friends with Nelly and his crew.
Other guests on the album include DJ Quik, who produced the track "Bagg Up," the DTP crew, and Snoop Dogg and Ludacris on "Holiday Inn."
"Ludacris kinda reminds me of myself, man," Chingy said of his mentor, who heavily hyped Jackpot at the recent BET Awards. "We just laid-back guys here to do a job. And at the end of the day he's Chris, and at the end of the day I'm Howard. We all just cool, man, it's beautiful."
Chingy credits his personality for helping him survive the long road to success he's traveled. "Staying focused, being humble [and] laid-back, just having a good personality and just knowing how to deal with certain situations brought me a long way," he explained.
Rather than handle upsetting situations in negative ways, he handled them calmly and then wrote raps about what other ideas he had.
"I know I can't go out there and actually kill somebody, but if somebody's really pissing me off and I'm probably thinking about that, I'mma write about it," he said. "I just write about whatever I feel; that's what drives me on my album. But this album is really about introducing myself. That's why it's titled Jackpot. I'm tryin' to hit big. You dig?"