Pronounced "shy," like the colloquial term for his hometown of Chicago, Chi McBride didn't get into acting until he was 30 years old. He is probably most recognized for his role as principal Steven Harper on Fox's Boston Public. Before his first movie, he worked for a phone company, trained as a gospel singer, and joined the hip-hop band Covert. With McBride as a producer and vocalist, the band released their first and only album For Your Bootay Only in 1991. Not soon after, he started appearing as a guest star on Fox sitcoms, including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His feature-length debut happened a year later in Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. Billed as simply Chi, he then gained small roles for the Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentleman and the Tina Turner story What's Love Got to Do With It?
In 1993, McBride found a spot for himself on NBC for The John Larroquette Show, playing the janitor Heavy Gene. Teaming up next with the Hudlin brothers, he then appeared in the HBO Twilight Zone-style trilogy Cosmic Slop, hosted by George Clinton. His next few diverse projects were supporting roles in Peter Jackson's horror comedy The Frighteners, Bill Duke's period crime flick Hoodlum, and the action thriller Mercury Rising.