It is no secret that 2 Chainz has been in the rap game a long time. Those who are fans of Hip-Hop will know he was Tity Boi before 2 Chainz and was a prominent Southern artist in the 2000s. Since his name change he has seen more commercial success than an artist under the name Tity Boi could ever have received – he even stated the name change was to be more family friendly. His first tape after the name change, T.R.U REALigion was also his first project to chart, so what does that tell you?
Despite the commercial success there was always that preconception of 2 Chainz that he was just a wack, one layered rapper only capable of putting out club hits. The early 2010s it was impossible to not hear him rapping, whether it be guest verse on tracks like Bandz a Make Her Dance & Rich as Fuck, or his own singles I’m Different and Birthday Song, Chainz was really putting in that grind to make his name known. But as trap music’s popularity increased there was always going to be critics and it became a joke that 2 Chainz couldn’t rap, and he began to bear the brunt of abuse hurled towards the scene.
As the years passed his position at the forefront of the game somewhat declined, but his passion for making music and being an all round eccentric individual did not. The popularity of Action Bronson’s Fuck That’s Delicious show meant that more rappers were wanted for these types of shows, in came 2 Chainz with Most Expensivest, a perfect way to keep him in the spotlight and it was his braggadocios yet relatable qualities that saw his perception from the fans become more positive. His 2017 album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music was well received and his work through these past few years has seen him evolve into one of the better rappers about right now. From that album to his guest appearances he was building a repertoire that was very, very respectful.
Step forward Rap or Go to the League, his magnum opus. In my opinion it’s his best work, as a body of work it is cohesive, very well paced and keeps you enthralled whilst listening – there isn’t a song that makes you want to skip. He knows which songs might sonically get irritable and keeps them contained within short outbursts well placed within the album. His features, whilst A-list, don’t overshadow him and that’s a big statement considering Kendrick, Weezy, Chance and more all feature. Instead 2 Chainz takes the leading role (as one should on their album) and they merely make up a litany of wonderfully talented supporting acts.
There’s some beats that are something we’re not too used to hearing him rap on, but he really comes into his own here. Stuff you’d think would suit an artist like Kendrick or Freddie Gibbs better but there’s some soulful samples and some melodic trap sprinkled throughout that make you realise his versatility is one of the key aspects of his game. The maturity of the sound is a credit to his growth and perseverance as an artist. He knows what does and doesn’t work for him and works with that instead of trying to work around it, for example with I’m Different the best thing about that beat was the piano and it was instantly recognisable. On Statute of Limitations there’s a similar piano loop interpolated and it really fucking works.
One of the biggest criticisms of 2 Chainz work is that he is not lyrically, well, good. He’s rapped “She got a big booty so I call her big booty” and “My stove deserve a shoutout I’m like what up stove” to critical lament and was even ridiculed and memed by people all over the internet but during these past few years he’s been able to showcase his lyrical ability and help change the stereotype that trap rappers can’t rap. According to Hip Hop By The Numbers he uses 3,473 words 1,179 unique words 426 bars 4,424 syllables throughout the album, that means 33.9% of his words are unique. This was compared to Eminem’s Kamikaze which came in with 32.5% unique words and Dreamville’s J.I.D’s DiCaprio 2 which had 30.9%. This just rubbishes the notion that this man can’t spit, 2 Chainz is really out here doing the most.
There is a poignancy within his rapping, like when he reflects on selling his mother drugs or when on I Said Me for example he raps “Think I was born with trap in my system/ ‘Cause I was raised around the packs and the pistols”, in a line that not only gives props to his success in the trap but also paints a harsh reality many young black Americans are growing up in. This is where that versatility comes back however, as in his next line he paints an incredulously funny-yet-unfortunate picture with “On her knees so long she tore her meniscus”. The outrageous nature of his delivery and just some of the content is what has set him a part from a lot of rappers and is also what produces some of his best work. Who else is dismissing other rappers alter egos as Maltese or can rap about phone calls with Donatella Versace? I mentioned before his relatability is a big part of his appeal, and I’ve not heard a rapper be able to talk about their financial situation, in this case the tax he has to pay, and mention how 37% is practically 50%. It’s something so simple and trivial yet so authentic.
On Rap or Go to the League, 2 Chainz is at his best; flashy, funny, fired up and best of all he’s being real. This is an artist that has heard the criticisms of all his past work, took them on the chin and made a whole lot of people eat their words.
words by Rohan Parmar.