Chamillionaire not a geek, but he plays one on Twitter
Over the last decade, Hakeem Seriki has lived up to one-half of his stage name.
After dominating the iTunes charts, winning a Grammy Award in 2007 and nurturing his music label on Universal Records, Chamillionaire certainly has money in the bank.
But the rapper is fulfilling his self-professed transformation. In chameleon-like fashion, he appears to be changing -- from feared underground-rap up-and-comer to a technology-consumed geek.
He spends a great deal of time on Twitter, conversing directly with fans and sending dozens of tweets some days. That time commitment is one of the reasons Miley Cyrus says she ditched Twitter.
Perhaps surprisingly, the platinum-selling rapper is a regular at technology conferences. He showed up at Digital Hollywood last year and sat on the panel of judges at TechCrunch50 last month. Pop & Hiss met up with Chamillionaire a few weeks ago at 140: The Twitter Conference in Los Angeles, where the rapper participated in panels the first day and, unlike most celebs, returned the second day to listen.
Looking around the room, Chamillionaire, with his backward cap, T-shirt and gold chain necklace, isn't hard to pick out from the sharply dressed twenty- and thirtysomethings. We predict the vast majority have Jack Johnson on their iPods.
Why is Chamillionaire here?
"People always put you in a box as a rapper," Chamillionaire said passionately, "especially when I get up on a panel and start speaking, and I start speaking when I got some sense. They're like, 'Oh, well, I didn't expect him to have sense.'
"I'm a human before I'm even a rapper," he said. "I'm just like you. I want to know about interesting things and new things that are coming out. If Google is coming out with Google Wave, I want to know too, just like you want to know."
Is Chamillionaire a closet geek? "Not necessarily, man," he said. "I just think knowledge makes the world go 'round, man. So, if that makes me a geek, then cool."
Before Twitter was in the public eye, Chamillionaire had met Twitter's co-founders at -- where else -- a tech conference. "They were telling me all about Twitter," Chamillionaire said. "And I was like, 'Man, I don't now if that's going to work, man. I think people want more, not less.' "
Chamillionaire may not have a future as a tech visionary, but he can definitely put it to good business use. He still makes music, but his priorities have shifted since the days when he was an unknown crafting mixtapes at home.
Now, Chamillionaire has more conversations about consumer bases and social-media marketing than rhyme schemes. "It's kind of hard because it messes up the creative part," he said. "My last album, I had to be the administrator on the whole project. So, I basically had to deal with every signature, every lawyer."
"I try to balance it, but at the end of the day, man, it's like 90% business, 10% music."
-- Mark Milian
Follow my random thoughts on rock music and technology on Twitter @markmilian.