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Hoodwinked 

Hip-hop star Chingy was in Halifax this week, and boy, was he tired. Matt Charlton gets a front-row seat at the circus.

The cogswell street home of Z103’s studios is buzzing with activity prior to the arrival of the participants of today’s meet-and-greet. The walls are lined with promo posters. A DJ spins R&B tracks in the corner. Plates of chips are stacked and distributed throughout the room. Coming and going at a frenzied pace are a series of spiky-haired males dressed in trendy t-shirts, two security workers, who look genetically assembled to destroy, and an almost comical steady flow of beautiful women the two other groups are continuously sneaking looks at.

What’s the cause of all this? The arrival of hip-hop artist Chingy.

It was in 2003 that “Right Thurrr” dropped: A club-shaking anthem, the song quickly propelled the young St. Louis rapper to superstardom. Riding the wave of success the single granted him, Chingy became a household name and teen idol. While some wrote him off as a Nelly clone, the success of his aptly named debut album, Jackpot, was undeniable.

Skip forward three years and the only thing of significance that has dropped for Chingy is his record sales. While his follow-up album, Powerballin, was relatively well received, it failed to produce a single that had the same heat as “Right Thurrr.” The sophomore album saw the artist’s Canadian sales dip from Jackpot’s 71,827 to a fledgling 21,650 units moved.

With the new Hoodstar, Chingy seems more determined than ever to find his way back to the top of his game. While the first single, “Pullin’ Me Back,” has had decent success thus far, the record label doesn’t seem to be taking any chances this time around. And so we find Chingy in Halifax for some press, a brief meet-and-greet with contest winners in Z103’s offices and an autograph-signing later in the afternoon at Spring Garden’s HMV.

It’s with hushed excitement the call is finally made: “He’s here.”

All at once, everyone in the room sets into motion. Some seem to know what that motion should be. Others nervously make one up, look awkward for a second, then walk away.

Following his own two bodyguards, Chingy struts through the “Police Club” and into a back room. After a frantic search turns up a missing order of KFC buffalo wings for the artist, he begins to meet the media.

Walking into the back room, two things are quickly noticeable about the rapper. First, the guy has more diamonds than a Mappins outlet. From massive earrings to a necklace so long you could moor a boat with it, he’s only about two items short of having to provide snow-blindness goggles to the onlookers. Second, Chingy looks exhausted.

As he answers questions about his album, he is affable, humble and comes off as sincere and well-spoken. He seems to genuinely believe in the songs, which are divided into a Hood side and a Star side to map the two elements of his persona. Still, it’s when asked about his current travelling schedule that Chingy seems to open up.

“I didn’t really get any sleep,” he says in his Southern drawl. “We’ve been travelling all yesterday. It has just been planes, planes, planes and that stuff really can frustrate you. You have to be up in the morning at three, four and five, so when you do this you want them to just make it comfortable. It drains you. Just when you get off the plane you have to work and then get back on the plane again.”

With this, the 10-minute interview slot is up, and the next journalist—this one carrying a Chingy calendar and two of the artist’s CDs—steps toward the room.

With a meet-and-greet and then a mob of screaming fans waiting for him later that afternoon at HMV, Chingy’s day is far from over. As he sits quietly on Z103’s couch he seems to have settled into the routine and knows it’s part of the trail back to the top.

“I’m a cool dude, so I please as many fans as I can please. I just do what I can do.”

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