Last Friday, Houston rapper Chamillionaire performed in Fort Hood, Texas as part of a free concert to honor the victims of the tragic army base shooting that claimed 13 lives and wounded over 30 American soldiers on November 5. As the only hip-hop artist to take part in the “Fort Hood Community Strong” show, Cham was honored to help uplift fans in his home state. Here, the Grammy-winner shares his personal experiences at ground zero with XXLMag.com. It’s Chamillitary, mayne!
I had a show in Wichita the day before and was pretty tired but I forgot about how tired I was when we entered the airport in Killeen and saw a group of USO soldiers waiting to take pictures. They seemed to be so appreciative and they seemed to be real fans.
[The soldiers] directed us to a van and we headed to the hotel. En route, they told us some of their daily activities on base and some very interesting Iraq war stories. They also told us about some not so good experiences they had with previous rap artists that performed at Fort Hood in the past. They might not have realized how well me and my travel party knew some of the people that they mentioned but we just listened and laughed.
When we got to the hotel we dropped off our bags and immediately headed to Fort Hood because there was a press conference that I had to participate in. There was expected to be over 50,000 soldiers and families present at the event but we got there early and the football field sized stadium was somewhat empty.
There were about 15 to 20 trailers lined up behind the stage for all of the talent that would be performing and just as we pulled up to them I could see my name and Aaron Lewis on one of the trailer doors. Aaron Lewis is the lead singer of a group called Staind and is actually one of the coolest people you could meet.
[Adam] told me about how he climbs trees and hunts deer with a bow and arrow in his free time. He also told me how painful it was to get a tattoo on his Adam’s apple. He seemed to be the most carefree out of all of the entertainers that I met and he even left some cash on the table in the trailer like he was at home. Me and my crew made jokes about how we thought he would react if we took his money and hid it somewhere, but decided not to play any games with him.
There was a long list of other entertainers that would also be participating at the event, including Nick Jonas, comedian Dana Carvey, The Lt. Dan Band, The Zac Brown band, and Mallory Lewis & Lamb Chop. We all were introduced to each other before participating in a press conference where we all had a chance to express our will to support the troops of Fort Hood. This was actually my first time meeting Nick Jonas and I actually saw a girl who cried tears of joy when she saw him. I told my DJ that Nick reminded me of one of the characters from that Twilight movie because of how the young female fans where acting around him.
After the press conference, I took pictures with multiple groups of soldiers and three Houston Texan cheerleaders that were backstage. The stadium was filling up quickly and I could hear the large crowd of soldiers cheering for Aaron Lewis who was on the stage singing and playing his guitar. After his performance I heard the crowd cheering loud when they announced my name so I started heading to the stage to get ready to go on.
When I finally got on the stage I could see a massive crowd that extended back as far as the entire football field. A fan in the front was holding up a picture of me and him and a marker like he wanted me to sign it in the middle of the show. I acknowledged him and shouted multiple demands at the crowd like throw your hands up in the air and jump as high as you can.
I knew that since I was dealing with a stadium full of soldiers that they would be good at following directions.
I could tell they were enjoying the show by the looks on their faces once I went into performing “Ridin’ Dirty.” This wasn’t the normal hip-hop crowd you might see at a rap concert but they stood out in the cold and supported like they understood that every song was in honor of their hard work and dedication for our country.
After the performance, the crowd cheered in approval and I went back to a tent that was set up to sign autographs for fans. Me, Nick Jonas, and comedian Dana Carvey signed autographs for a never-ending line of soldiers and family members. Some of them had my mixtapes and asked me if I could sign them and others just wanted to take pictures so they could capture the moment.
It was so cold out there that my fingers where starting to freeze but just as I thought I couldn’t go any further they told me that they needed me to head back to my trailer to take some pictures with some more soldiers. When I got there General Grimsley of Fort Hood presented me with a large award that was inscribed with writing thanking me for my support of the troops. The award was a surprise for me and was definitely something that I could feel proud of.
I know the reason this Community Strong event was put together was show support to the military community in light of the recent tragedy that happened at Fort Hood, but I’m glad that the mood of the event seemed to be more positive than somber. I made it back to my hotel room with a trophy, a gold USO dog tag, and a military bag full of other items that were given to me. Thank you to the soldiers and families of Fort Hood for such a memorable experience.