Chingy knows how it feels to be at the top of the rap game. His debut album Jackpot, which dropped fourteen years ago today, went double platinum. Three of his singles hit the top three on the Billboard charts. Everything was going so well for the St-Louis born rapper.

And then, the fall. Within a few years, Chingy’s momentum crashed to a halt. He found himself without a major label, distribution deal, or his former industry cachet. “I watched people in the industry who were cool turn their backs,” says Chingy. “I feel like my career was sabotaged.”

That’s not to say he shouldn’t be proud of his run. His album Jackpot was an underappreciated classic, with “Right Thurr,” “Holidae Inn,” and “One Call Away” dominating the charts. But toward the end of prime, Chingy was on the losing end of public feuds with label-mate Ludacris and Disturbing Tha Peace records.

“Everything took a decline,” Chingy says, with regards to the DTP feud. But he isn’t bitter. He’s refocused his energy on bettering himself as a person, studying metaphysics and cosmology while trying to rebuild his musical platform.

HNHH: This week marks the 14th anniversary of Jackpot. How does it feel to look back at the 14 years since that album was released?

Chingy: When I perform “Right Thurr,” people still dance to it and party to it like it was dropped yesterday. It’s a beautiful thing. As much as I don’t get credit for it, that song goes down in the history books. I changed the way people view the terminology and the way we speak in my city, St. Louis. All around the world people were saying “right thurr.” So that’s historic for me.

Why do you think “Right Thurr” resonated with people as much as it did?

For one, it’s dancey. The beat got you dancing. And the flow was different. Just like how producers use instruments in beats, my voice was an instrument over the track. My voice was distinctive to people. And the term “thurr.” I said that my way, and that’s what caught people.

What have you been up to in recent years?

I’m performing on the road and working on a new project called Dead Rose. I have a big show in Amsterdam later this month. So I’ve been traveling and making this new music. That’s what it’s been about for me. I’ve had some tragedies in my life recently. I lost my mother two months ago, my auntie three months ago, some cousins I was close to. I’ve been dealing with a lot. But I was put here to make music and paint my vision through art of speech. So that’s what I do.

I read that you’ve been continuing your education recently?

I’ve always been into history and the origins of creation. I studied kinesis sciences and the metaphysics of religion and thought. I got a degree in astrology and cosmology. I studied astronomy and numerology and learned about words and logic and the mind. I want to expand my mind. I’ve always been that way. I want to know the real history and the origins of creation. While people are focused on smoking weed and drinking liquor, ignorant things, I want to know about the world. Why do they call spelling class spelling class? Because they put you under a spell and hypnotize you to put you under some control. That’s the type of stuff I want to know about.

The South has kind of overtaken the coasts as a dominant force in hip hop. Why do you think the South has become such a prolific source of new artists?

Southern hip hop is popular because the kids growing up today want to be hip and stylish. They think the way to do that is to rap. They see the cars, they see the girls, they see the lifestyle, they see the money, and that’s what makes it popular. The kids want that. You get people who don’t even know how to rap trying to do it. But I come from an era when I paid my dues around the world before I made it. It was a real struggle to make it. Now with the internet, it’s not a struggle. And it’s not artistic. It’s not art. Where I came from you thrived off of originality and sounding different. Now everybody sounds the same.

You’ve been in hip hop for over 20 years. If you could go back and give advice to yourself during those early 2000s years when you hit it big, what would you tell yourself?

I’d tell myself to make sure from the jump that you have your business situated correctly and everything covered financially. You need a good entertainment lawyer and an agent to make sure everything is in order. When you’re an artist, you’re more worried about the artistic part. So I would make sure that I had people around me who I could trust from the beginning.

You had three straight hits in 2003 and 2004 with “Right Thurr,” “Holidae Inn,” and “One Call Away.” What was the lifestyle like for you in the early 2000s?

Life was great when Jackpot first came out and I had all of those big records. I was on the road doing shows, and I was getting acknowledged and appreciated for my accomplishments. I was just living, man. I had money and I was on a worldwide platform. I’m still doing those things, but now my musical platform isn’t being heard as much. With streaming sites like Spotify being in bed with record companies, things are made hard for independent artists.

Do you think that your impact on hip hop has been underappreciated overall?

Yes, very much so. I remember the Billboard Awards in 2003 when I won two awards. I was there that night and I presented. But I didn’t get to go onstage and accept my awards. They sent mine to my house. I didn’t get why. I should have been able to accept my awards like everybody else. They destroyed a kid’s dream. I had no idea who did that. I have an idea now because when I got back with (Ludacris’ label) Disturbing tha Peace in 2006, I learned that they had the Billboard Awards on lock. Basically, they were in good with them. I thought back to when me and them separated and I realized maybe they did that.  

Are things cool with you and Ludacris now?

Yeah, he’s cool. I don’t speak to him much, but if I see him in passing I say what’s up. But it is what it is.

Do you think label issues hurt your career?

I believe my career was slowed down by label issues, to a certain extent. If you think back to 2005 when I had the hit record “Pullin’ Me Back,” Capitol Records was going into a slump and my album fell with it. I got caught up in all that. My career also got caught up in a lot of lies and rumors that weren’t true. The media was trying to assassinate my character and sabotage me. That had a big effect on my career as well.

You’ve mentioned changing your lifestyle and outlook in recent years. Would you consider yourself happier now than you were back in the early 2000s?

Not necessarily. Back then everything was going the way I wanted it to in my career. Then that took a decline. I’m still happy, I’m just not happy with the way a lot of things went. You’re not to blame for everything. There are people in this world who have executive positions who can put limitations on a person who doesn’t have that position. People limit people. I feel like my career was sabotaged. I don’t feel I deserve it.

With the conditions I’ve been put in by the people who run this planet, the oppressors and suppressors, of course I felt some type of threat.But I just keep moving forward, man.