Chingy will forever go down in history as an artist who created timeless music. Hit singles “Right Thurr,” “Holidae In,” and “One Call Away” became a movement in itself in the early 2000’s, with fans memorizing and reciting every word to every lyric for generations to come.
The St. Louis rapper and producer exploded onto the rap scene with his country accent and slang. Getting his start opening for Nelly in 2003, Chingy, real name Howard Bailey Jr. quickly went under the wings of Ludacris and signed to his Disturbing Tha Peace imprint.
With the success of “Right Thurr” playing in every club, every radio station, every function, Chingy’s debut album Jackpot easily sold over two million copies upon release.
Fast forward to 2020, Chingy hasn’t let up one bit.
Now, he defies musical genres and links with Nashviille’s Meg & Tyler to release “The Woah Down,” a combination of rap and country similar to “Old Town Road.”
Chingy’s distinct voice and Meg & Tyler’s vocal range is paired with a cinematic visual directed by Jeremy Ryan.
AllHipHop caught up with Chingy to discuss how he got his start, why he doesn’t smoke weed, his new single “The Woah Down,” relationship with DJ Quik, and more!
AllHipHop: How’s St. Louis? Are you guys on lockdown as well?
Chingy: Yeah, I’m in St. Louis. I was just with my daughter. She’s one, her name’s Galaxy. At the crib now, laidback. I need to get my damn haircut!
AllHipHop: Quarantine can’t be that bad if you have a one-year-old daughter.
Chingy: It’s not bad because I’m constantly creating in the studio. In times like this, all musicians and creatives should get some work done. Create some music, that’s what I’ve been doing.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to 20 years ago when you started opening to Nelly.
Chingy: People have to know that I know a lot of them who were in the crew and the group. Ali from the St. Lunatics’ younger brother is a childhood friend I grew up with. I know Kyjuan from the Lunatics. It’s St. Louis so of course, we know each other. How that happened was me, Amad (Ali’s younger brother), another friend named Kai, we’re in the studio making music. This was 2000, we decided to do the group thing. We called the group 3 Strikes. T-Love was a friend of Nelly’s and ours who was managing Nelly at the time. This is when Nelly first came out, he was huge. “Country Grammar,” all the hits were poppin’. T-Love wanted to manage us. They needed somebody to open on this tour run, so T-Love got us to open.
AllHipHop: What happened to the group?
Chingy: You know how groups are. If everybody’s not on the same page, there’s ups and downs. But as soon as I got out of the group, that’s when… [claps].
AllHipHop: What’d it mean for Ludacris to take you under his wings back then?
Chingy: I got signed December 14th, 2002. 2000 I was opening on that tour with Nelly, 2002 I got my deal in December. I got with Disturbing tha Peace through my producers The Trak Starz. Zo had a connect with Chaka Zulu, who’s manager and owner of Disturbing Tha Peace. Chaka Zulu is who actually found me, Ludacris didn’t. A lot of people think Ludacris found me, but it was Chaka who noticed what I was doing and took it from there. We sent my music to a lot of record labels.
AllHipHop: Was this right before “Right Thurr”?
Chingy: “Right Thurr” came out the next year, was the #1 song in the country in 2003. It all seemed like it happened fast, but I’ve been doing music since the 80’s. It’s been a long road, it didn’t happen overnight. The success part as far as becoming Chingy, worldwide or professionally, that part was due. It was time for that.
AllHipHop: You worked hard for that.
Chingy: Very hard. I still work hard right now. It doesn’t stop for me. I’m independent right now so label or not, I’m going to work hard. I love music. I’m passionate about it. Compassionate, that’s what I do.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to “Right Thurr.” Did you think it would have the impact that it did?
Chingy: The hook and the first verse was written when I was 16, in ‘96. ‘96 versus it coming out in 2003. I always had that record, but I finished it in 2002 with the second and third verse. We put it on vinyl. Did I think it’d blow up like that? No, I didn’t know. I knew it was a great dance record. People were always interested in how I talk, when I say certain words, which took it over the top along with the chickenhead dance.
AllHipHop: The dance everyone’s doing in the video?
Chingy: They still do challenges to this day, it was a historical moment for me. It’s history, along with the terminology, the song. You know how old, antique cars become classics? Music is the same way. “Right Thurr” is an antique record that’s classic. To this day, people love it. To this day, people play it. To this day, people do challenges. To this day, they love that record. It stood the test of time, along with “Holidae In,” “One Call Away,” “Pullin’ Me Back.”
AllHipHop: Do you ever get sick of performing those songs?
Chingy: Not at all. I don’t get tired of it because I love performing. I perform it all the time, so I’m used to it. It doesn’t bother me at all.
AllHipHop: What inspires you to create music today?
Chingy: If I’m listening to a playlist, the radio, or someone’s music playing, I hear something. It doesn’t have to be rap music. It can be R&B music, country music, pop music, whatever I get inspired by. I hear good music that might inspire me, I’ll be like “you know what, I like what they’re doing. Let me go create something.” Ideas tend to pop in my head when I’m sitting thinking or chillin’. I could be riding, ideas will pop in my head and I’ll lay something down. It’s a natural process.
AllHipHop: Let’s talk about your new single “The Woah Down.”
Chingy: I’m very excited. It’s a new single with Meg & Tyler, a country duo from Nashville. Meg was on The Voice, Tyler does a lot of beats for country acts. My cousin Stan was down in Nashville, he’s doing something with Gibson guitar. Meg & Tyler did a showcase. Somebody that told Meg & Tyler that I was Stan’s cousin, so they asked him about it. Stan said “we should go to Nashville, vibe with Meg & Tyler and see their studio.” Wherever I’m going if it’s a studio involved, I’m trying to work.
I woke up with this idea in my head for a beat. When I got to Tyler’s studio, I asked him to let me see the drum machine. I started coming up with the rhythm section, then had Tyler put some guitar, bass, strings over the track. Meg already had the “Woah Down” as the title, so she’s thinking of the hook. Me and Meg collaborated on the hook. I went in there, laid my verses down. There’s a little dance to it too.
AllHipHop: Do you envision it going up on TikTok?
Chingy: Creating it, I wasn’t visualizing it like that. Even “Right Thurr” too, I wasn’t visualizing “oh, this is the dance for the song. The song’s going to be big.” It’s groovy, it’s a great record to dance to. My cousin actually came up with a dance, we’re like “perfect!” Especially for today’s world and for social media today. Everybody’s into dancing, everybody’s into doing dance routines on TikTok.
AllHipHop: Was it inspired by “Old Town Road”?
Chingy: Not at all. Going to the studio, we finna make something happen. We didn’t know how it was going to come out sound and genre-wise. It’s pop country with a little hip-hop in it. This summer, I have an EP coming out called Crown Jewel. It’s more of a hip-hop conscious project. I’m rapping on there for real, no dance stuff. A great project talking about the third eye, which I call the first eye. The seat of the soul, where our awareness is at. It’s a meaningful project for all my conscious people who are aware and hip to the knowledge.
AllHipHop: You cut out alcohol and are vegan. How has that lifestyle been?
Chingy: Being on the road, alcohol’s thrown at you so much. I started drinking alcohol at a young age when I was 14. Becoming Chingy — after shows, before shows, afterparties, I was getting f##ked up. Seriously. Around 2011, I got tired of it. I wanted to quit drinking. I’d gotten sick the last 2 times from drinking because when I start drinking, I couldn’t stop.
AllHipHop: Did it affect your performance?
Chingy: In a good way, yeah. I’d go out there and rip it. I rip it without the liquor but when I get messed me up, we all do our thing. Being vegan, I haven’t eaten pork and beef since I was 19. Chicken, turkey, and fish, I quit around 2011 also. I cut out dairy a while ago. They keep these ingredients and preservatives in a lot of food so it’s hard to get around it sometimes. You have to be disciplined. I disciplin myself mentally to do everything. Even today with this virus, having a healthy immune system and getting your proper supplements, minerals, vitamins, super grain foods is very important to fight off viruses. I’m real big on working out and staying healthy. Everything I do I discipline myself mentally.
AllHipHop: Do you smoke weed?
Chingy: Nah, I quit smoking weed a long time ago. I’ma tell you why I quit smoking weed: somebody laced this blunt with some coke. I was flipping out. I was with my cousin on the West side of St. Louis at our people’s neighborhood, it’s a Blood neighborhood. I smoked and flipped out. I got out the car, rolling around. Something very interesting happened, we’re at our homeboy’s house. I was sitting on the porch and kept saying “man, am I shot? Am I shot?” They said “nah you trippin’.” When we left, someone came and shot on the porch. Shot the chair I was sitting in. I looked at it as a spiritual awakening, so I quit and moved forward.
AllHipHop: Saw your “enjoy yaself” video, talk about remaining positive during these times.
Chingy: I’m very mentally-disciplined. Times like this, everybody needs mental discipline. People need to get to know themselves, not personality-wise. Not what type of clothes you like, or shoes. Get to know yourself on the inside. When I say have fun and enjoy yourself, that’s because I love music. I can go record. I enjoy doing that so even in downtime, you find things you enjoy doing. I enjoy recording. Or, I might go upstairs and read. I enjoy reading.
AllHipHop: What are we reading?
Chingy: I always read The Kybalion because it’s very powerful. A set of hermetic principles which deal with mentality, correspondence, polarity, rhythm, gender, cause/effect, vibration. Very powerful book. Another one is Mastermind, which talks about perception, feelings, emotions.
AllHipHop: Who’s in your Top 5?
Chingy: I was recently listening to Future and Drake. I like that record “Life Is Good,” I like that beat. I’m always listening to Pharrell “Happy.” What’s cool to me, I listen to John Lennon a lot. He was a real spiritual dude, he passed before I was even born. It says a lot about the timelessness of somebody’s music. I’m always listening to Tupac and Eazy-E.
AllHipHop: What’s your favorite Tupac song?
Chingy: “Dear Mama.” I got a lot of favorite songs from Tupac, but “Dear Mama” right now.
AllHipHop: Shout out to Power 106 in the Live!
Chingy: I love LA. LA has always supported me to the fullest. California’s one of my biggest regions for my career, selling anything period. Me growing up, I catered more to the West Coast music. That bounce and West Coast flavor, you can find it in my music. May Eazy-E rest in peace, that’s my first favorite rapper. Then DJ Quik. He was right there in the “Right Thurr” video deejaying. 2 of my favorite artists right there.
AllHipHop: Do you still talk to Quik?
Chingy: Last time in California, me and Quik were in the studio. I got on one of his records. I talked to him the other day, we always communicate. I always ask him about the Death Row days. [chuckles] Last time in the studio, he said “Chingy you have to stop asking me about that, it brings back horrible memories.” Those were some interesting times. I like to go to the horse’s mouth, who was around? Who was there? He said “man, stop asking me about them.”
AllHipHop: Someone asked did you ever go to Chicago?
Chingy: I did a show in Chicago in this big field, I almost felt like Michael Jackson. They had to get me out of there. People were about to knock the van over, there were thousands of them. It was really, really crazy, I felt like Michael Jackson that day.
AllHipHop: Best memory on the Millenium Tour?
Chingy: Seeing all the artists come together, work together, do the tour together. The fans were the best thing to me because they showed me love every night. Big love, I appreciated that. I had a blast the whole tour. I’m always interacting with the fans and the people.
AllHipHop: What’s a crazy thing a fan has done?
Chingy: One time years ago, I was going out back after the show. This girl jumped on the truck and raised her skirt up. She didn’t have any panties on. She was riding with us on the truck, she was trippin’. That was crazy! We’re like “what the f##k? Damn.”
AllHipHop: What are some goals for yourself at this point?
Chingy: Keep doing music, dropping an album Crown Jewel this summer. “Woah Down” out now. I’ve been investing. I invested in McDonald’s, trying to stay in that world. I’m thinking about opening up a vegan restaurant, a little cafe type joint. It’s going to be called Galaxy’s.
AllHipHop: Why McDonald’s then?
Chingy: McDonald’s is a big company. A big brand. A big operation. They’re never going to lose money.