Chamillionaire

Grammy Award winner. Rap artist. Venture capitalist & entrepreneur.

Athletes and entertainers face unique wealth management opportunities, considerations and challenges. The athletes and entertainers we interviewed shared their personal stories and perspectives to highlight the need for more financial education in the sports and entertainment world. We thank them for being strong advocates of financial literacy.

Chamillionaire’s advice

“Understand the power of spending your money the right way. Cars and jewelry depreciate in value, but you can also spend money on investments that make money. My wealth allows me to give back and help other people.”

Basketball or rap

Chamillionaire (“Cham”), born Hakeem Seriki, was raised in Houston, shuttling back and forth between his divorced parents. He had little awareness of money, except that his family didn’t have a lot of it. Friendships opened his eyes to what life was like for some other children. “I didn’t know what an allowance was. That was surprising to me.” In Cham’s community, the path to success was limited to basketball or rap, “and I wasn’t tall enough to play basketball.”

First-time millionaire

Cham always had a way with words. In high school, he started rapping and performing on the Houston hip-hop circuit under the moniker Chamillionaire. The name represents his chameleon-like ability to adjust and prosper in different environments through consuming information and fostering relationships. Two popular independent albums led to a deal with Universal Records in 2005. A generous advance from the music contract made Cham a bona fide multimillionaire.

He bought his mother a home and a new car. At first, he found it difficult to spend money on himself. Then he purchased a car with cash. “It didn’t make a dent in my bank account.” In the entertainment world, the star is expected to spend. “You’re the breadwinner for family and friends and presumed to live a certain lifestyle.” He bought more expensive cars and jewelry, material symbols of success to his audience. “I remember buying a $150,000 chain necklace. Everyone was staring at it. In the moment, it felt great, but I had an unrealistic expectation of how money works. Taxes are a reality that I wasn’t thinking about. I’ve wasted a lot of money.”


He bought more expensive cars and jewelry, material symbols of success to his audience. … In the moment, it felt great, but I had an unrealistic expectation of how money works. … I’ve wasted a lot of money.


A number one hit

Cham’s first major solo release, The Sound of Revenge, debuted in the Billboard Top Ten. The single Ridin’ topped the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy in 2007 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The song describes his numerous run-ins with the police who pulled him over on suspicion of “ridin’ dirty”—driving while in possession of illegal narcotics or firearms. The police never found any contraband. The lyrics, which speak to racial profiling and police brutality, could have been ripped from today’s headlines.

Trust issues

On the heels of his success, Cham was approached by financial advisors. “I had trust issues. No one understood my journey. How I got to where I am. They were just selling themselves and looking for a transaction.” He believes that any professional advisor, from managers to agents to financial advisors, should be interested in educating their clients. “They need to be teaching you. People who made it into my world gave me information before asking for anything. They built trust.”

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