The Throwback: How Chingy hit it big with 'Right Thurr' and 'Holidae In'
"To this day, people stay at the Holiday Inn based off that song," says the St. Louis rapper.
The Throwback is a recurring column where we deep dive into hit songs from years past.
SONG(S): "Right Thurr" and "Holidae In"
CHART HISTORY: No. 2 and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively
LEGACY: Forever changing the pronunciation of "there" and upping Holiday Inn's coolness factor.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: The St. Louis rapper is joining forces with country duo Meg & Tyler for their new genre-blending single "The Woah Down," out now. He'll then release his new EP, Crown Jewel, this summer.
Chingy yearns for a past era of hip-hop. The rapper, who rose to fame in 2003 with three chart-topping hits, believes the early 2000s featured much more of an "original and authentic" sound than what he sees today as "everybody following the same pattern." For his part, Chingy says he refused to ever be put in a box, even when it was coming from his own label. "When I came out, they tried to make me urban," he recalls. "But my music instantly crossed over and went mainstream and pop. It spoke for itself and said, 'No, this is not just urban, this is for everybody." He proved that as his first three singles not only landed at No. 1 on Billboard's rap charts but also peaked in the top three of the all-encompassing Hot 100. Now, 17 years later, Chingy — who jokes that he's always just "One Call Away" — takes EW behind-the-scenes of his jackpot success.
The 2003 release of "Right Thurr" suddenly turned Chingy into one of the hottest names in music at only 23 years old. But the path began being paved years earlier, having written the track at the age of 16. "For the people who didn't know me and just got to know Chingy, they may feel like, 'Oh, where did he come from?!.'" says the rapper born Howard Bailey Jr. "But this wasn't an overnight success for me. I paid my dues, and I grinded and I really put my heart and passion into this. It seemed like it happened fast, but really it was overdue. It was time for that to happen for me."
Like fellow St. Louis native Nelly with "Hot in Herre," Chingy's Midwest twang resulted in the memorable "Right Thurr" pronunciation. "That's just how I talk, so I don't think nothing of it." he says. "It was just every day slang for me and the people I was around." While Chingy first began coming up with the song in 1996, years later it was a visit to the home of producer duo the Trak Starz that finally brought it to life. "They popped in a beat CD for me to listen to and the first beat that came on was 'Right Thurr,' and I was like, 'Oh, I got something today,'' he recalls. "I just know when I hear a beat that matches a song I wrote." Having only originally come up with just the hook and one verse, Chingy was pressured to finish by Disturbing Tha Peace co-founder Chaka Zulu, who believed they had something special.
For Chingy, he says he knew they had a hit when he saw the video's famous chicken head dance coming together — not to mention fans constantly requesting that famous verbage. "People were always like, 'Say there!'" he shares. "They still do it. I was recently at the sports store getting some dumbbells for home since we're in quarantine, and this fan came up to me and did it. It just don't stop. [Laughs] But I appreciate it." The staying power doesn't surprise Chingy, who compares music to antique cars. "Let's say you got an antique Chevy from the '60s, to this day people will drive those cars because there's nothing like them," he explains. "Well, that's how music is, that's how 'Right Thurr' is. It's an antique record, a classic. You can play it today and people are going to dance and have fun, because the vibration is just a great feel."
Only months after bursting onto the scene with "Right Thurr," the release of "Holidae In" proved that Chingy was no one-hit wonder. What inspires one to write a song about partying at a hotel chain that is far from ballin'? Well, they say write what you know. "We used to do that a lot at the Holiday Inn," he says. "Back in my teenage days and 20s, we'd have hotel parties, drinking, smoking, doing what teenagers do." When it came to actually working on the track, Chingy says it organically came together during a studio visit from a young lady who he was seeing at the time. "I had her say, 'Whatchu doing?' and then I was like, 'Nothing, chillin' at the Holidae In.'" And so the hook was born.
But, unlike "Right Thurr," Chingy wasn't looking to make this a solo effort. His dream scenario of landing rap legend Snoop Dogg and new heavyweight Ludacris (who had signed Chingy to his label) eventually came to fruition. "Those were two guys who came before me, and I appreciate their art and their work, so being able to get them on the record, which was a big record, was huge," says Chingy. "And being that I wrote it, and coming off of 'Right Thurr,' which I wrote by myself, it was like my ability of making hit songs was undeniable at that point."
Also undeniable was Snoop Dogg living up to being Snoop Dogg. "Snoop was smoking the video up," Chingy recalls with a laugh. "I didn't make it, but later on that night Snoop had a party at his house. A lot of my family went; I was tired, I went to the hotel and went to sleep." He says Snoop believes that "Holidae In" forced people to stop sleeping on him. "Snoop told me at the time that I resurrected him," shares Chingy. "He said that record resurrected him and put him in a whole new light." And the numbers back it up, considering Snoop's first single after the success of "Holidae In" was "Drop it Like It's Hot," which would become his first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100.
It also might have helped resurrect the actual Holiday Inn brand. With the song becoming a party anthem, Chingy says his manager tried to reach out to the hotel chain to collaborate. "I guess they didn't want to do it, which I think was probably their loss," declares Chingy. "Well, I'm not going to say their loss; they capitalized, just in a different way. To this day, people stay at the Holiday Inn based off that song."