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Chamillionaire, ‘Ultimate Victory’ (Chamillitary/ Universal)

In hip-hop, the only thing worse than not having a hit is actually having one. Case in point: Amid the blowup of the Houston syrup scene that delivered bangers from Paul Wall and Slim Thug, Chamillionaire clubbed everybody with “Ridin’,” a bombastic tune that became 2006’s unofficial summer jam. So ubiquitous was the singsongy hook that it became the biggest-selling ringtone of all time and somehow made everybody think verse-dropping guest Krayzie Bone was worth a damn.

But Ultimate Victory shows Cham now struggling. A wildly talented rhymer, he’s capable of a slow-rolling cadence or double-time tongue-twisting, and is at his best cutting people down. (This time around, targets include Bill O’Reilly, George W. Bush, Michael Richards, and Don Imus.) But Cham gets distracted by money an awful lot. He spends more than half the album bragging about his ability to get cash (“Won’t Let You Down”) and how he spends it (“Ultimate Vacation”). These are Ultimate Victory‘s most swing-and-miss moments.

In fact, it takes 18 songs before the real Chamillionaire shows up, on the title track’s breathless three minutes of hunger and no chorus. Cham’s strength is not songwriting — he admits, “This ain’t even a song / This is a beat I must release therapy on.” It’s not a fatal flaw, but it makes this less an ultimate victory and more like a bronze-medal fizzle.

Now Hear This: Chamillionaire – “Industry Groupie” DOWNLOAD MP3