"That's the one thing you niggas gotta get right," Champtown declares on "So What You Say." "You catch cases, I catch flights." He's describing his life as "an insane CEO." Apparently it's difficult being the east side's kingshit emcee and the coordinator for a roster full of releases you get the impression Racial Profilin might have dropped sooner if Champ hadn't had 750 phone calls to return. But that's the album's central theme, the bleed between self-promotional boasts, economic realities and Champ's place in Detroit hip-hop history. His delivery alternates between hysterical and pragmatic; sometimes he sounds like Ice Cube fighting off an assailant, elsewhere he's the efficient businessman, with clipped, informative phrases that qualify his veteran status. "I drop names why?" goes "2 Pages of Truth." "Because I know them well." "Where in the Hell Did Hip Hop Go?" (featuring Chuck D and Kool Herc) is its own history lesson, railing on the theft of the music's art by the forces of commerce. But Champtown is on both sides of that. He never lets us forget his mogul status, but he's also clear that he's done it the hard way, from the streets up. Even the lively "Party" reasserts his legitimacy over suburban opportunists and out-of-town ballers. At times Champ seems too self-conscious. We know he's the cagey, confident vet; why does he keep telling us about it? But that's probably due to Racial Profilin's lengthy gestation. And there's nothing wrong with a little refresher course, especially when it's this entertaining. Production from QD3, Ghanz and Champ himself keeps Profilin ticking at a consistent, catchy mid-tempo, like an on-ramp curving steadily onto a wide-open freeway, Champtown's cynical humor fills every corner, and D'phuzion's turn on the ragged, relentless "Gutta" is a stunner. The insane CEO's empire is definitely in the black.
Champtown's CD release party for Racial Profilin is Thursday, April 20, at Fifth Avenue Downtown, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-471-2555.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].