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ALBUM: "Ultimate Victory"

Backstory: Since coming up out of Houston's Swishahouse camp alongside the likes of Paul Wall, Slim Thug and Mike Jones, Chamillionaire has arguably been the most successful of all the H-Town rappers. His debut album, "The Sound of Revenge," was certified platinum and he scored a 2007 Grammy for his infectious single "Ridin.'"

Why you should care: Cut from a slightly different cloth, Cham is not your average sizzurp-sipping and bling-slinging rapper. Instead, he endeavors to create highly lyrical, thought provoking hip-hop from a southern perspective, and for the most part, he does it well. The tracks "Morning News" and "Evening News" are highly politicized examinations of current social phenomena, in which Cham references everything from Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump's beef to the troop surge in Iraq and FEMA's Katrina blundering.

Verdict: Surprisingly good. Even though Cham's tinny, nasal voice is a far cry from Luda's baritone, he's clearly in contention for the title of the South's best lyricist. Singing most of his own hooks over well-selected beats by Kane, Beat Bullies, Happy Perez and JR Rotem, with additional work by the Runners and Play N Skillz, Cham delivers an album that's almost completely listenable and at times totally dope. Only "The Ultimate Vacation," an escapist fantasy that's sort of the hip-hop equivalent to The Beach Boy's "Kokomo," and the cliched "Industry Groupie" fall short of the mark.

X-Factor: An early adopter of the movement against gratuitous profanity, Chamillionaire doesn't use any curses or the n-word at any point on "Ultimate Victory" and edits out all curses from his guest artist's verses. Way to go, Cham!

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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