2 Chainz. 2 Albums. It’s simple math, so there’s nothing hard to decipher. When people ask me if I really like 2 Chainz, you have to understand where the ‘likeliness’ comes from, and in his case, it’s strictly entertainment. I will never actually take him serious as a lyrical rapper, but then again there needs to be sustainable balance when it comes to Hip Hop (or Rap; whichever category you’d throw 2 Chainz in). A fellow writer/tweeter, Sean, had a great article about the Misconception of Hip Hop, and the fact that there needs to be a necessary balance of conscious and entertainment. The problem is that the entertainment is what the majority of the mainstream listens to and thus generalizes Hip Hop as being strictly that – that’s not the case. My recollections of 2 Chainz is when he went by Tity Boi on DTP; I didn’t follow him through the mixtape years, but to see that he’s been in the game this long and is essentially ‘reborn’, you have to admire his hustle.
Now, as far as albums go, B.O.A.T.S (Based on A TRU Story) was his debut and although he put up (in today’s music industry) decent numbers, the album wasn’t anything memorable than just a bunch of singles. It’s funny that I was listening to it the morning I started writing this, and you could tell that the hype was there; he held onto the purpose of his character, but it wasn’t a complete album. Some will argue (and I agree) that his mixtape T.R.U REALigion was a lot better, and thus continued the trend of mixtapes being better than albums (I’m looking at a lot rappers right now). When it was announced that he would have a sequel to the album, I didn’t know how to feel at that particular time, because I thought that the hype around 2 Chainz had died because he was on literally everyone’s song, especially the mega hit Fuckin’ Problems on the hook. The ‘turn up’ phase of rap is the most popular, and the sound of it has been saturating the game more than it should, but there will always be a phase – remember when there was a new ‘dance’ track every other week? That died, so eventually, this will to. But the important thing to remember is that through all of the noise, there’s eventually something that will stand out, and I was taking my chances listening to this album. Hopefully I would be right in my assessment.
Starting off with Fork, the expectation was “alright, here goes the usual 2 Chainz foolishness,” but what was weird was that he stuck around with his original trap roots and incorporated it with what would happen if he his rap career wouldn’t work out. I’ve heard a lot of conversations where artists with hopes of a big career in music would go ‘back to the block’ and return to the street life if it all didn’t work out. It’s what keeps people hungry and active to get what they want out of life, and that’s one thing I think 2 Chainz personifies. How else would you explain over 100 features in pretty much a year and a half? Hungry and active; never remaining comfortable.
One of the reasons behind the title of the album Me Time revolves around the fact that 2 Chainz released his album a couple of days before his birthday (September 12th). It’s convenient that 36 not only refers to the amount of ounces in a brick (of cocaine), but it’s also the number of age he was turning. Very clever, sir, but I was hoping that it was longer, because I liked the beat, although it wasn’t anything that was overwhelmingly spectacular. However, Feds Watchin’ was surprising to hear because when you hear Pharrell Williams on a 2 Chainz track, your initial reaction is ‘what the hell’, but the beat was so fresh that I couldn’t even be mad at it. There’s always this suspicion (maybe because it’s 9/10 times true) that law enforcement is always on a stakeout when you’re young, black, and rich, so if the police are watching, you might as well look the part that you’re ‘portraying’ right? Also, 2 Chainz had a bunch of run-ins with the law whether he was the victim or in the wrong, so the track has purpose. Pharrell being on the track (because it’s basically been his year) ensures that the song is pretty much a hit as it is. You know what I don’t understand? I don’t know what it is, but the popular thing is to have Jamaicans on their tracks to portray some sort of roughness and ‘ethnic clashing’ to their music. Pusha T does this, Kanye West sampled a bunch of reggae songs and had a reggae artist on Yeezus, French friggen Montana rapped over a terribly sampled Chaka Demus & Pliers song, and now 2 Chainz has some yawdie (a person from homeland Jamaica or what people call FOBs) at the end of the track doing a monologue from what sounds like a scene from Shottas. I love me some Jamaicans (being as that’s my background), but c’mon, man. Do these thoroughbred Black Americans know a lot of patois outside of ‘wa gwan’ or ‘what the bloodclot?’ I don’t think so. It’s just odd to me
Everyone who has a good paying job and has known what it’s like to endure struggle (hello) needs to have a song, or few songs, to allow themselves to show off a bit. Some arrogance is healthy for character building because you have to be able to feel good about yourself. Where You Been is more so about (again) the hook than anything else.
I’ve been getting money, where the fuck you been?
If you see someone that hasn’t seen you for a while and they’re surprised on how you look, you have to pull out this line; it’s so necessary because it’s just full of bragging and boasting about your riches. I mean, I doubt you have as much money as 2 Chainz, but let’s keep it hypothetical for a second. When Cap-1 started rapping, I was like ‘is this Migos?’ (he’s the guy who made the Versace track) because he was rapping with the same flow, but I mean ‘monkey hear, monkey do’ right? Especially since Versace was the song of the minute for the summer (you can thank Drake for that), you had to know that it was coming. I feel like this album should have dropped in the middle of July because of the trap inspired feel to it. The weather is getting cooler, but I guess that’s a good enough reason to want to turn up the heat with the music.
I Do It was a much talked about track when the album leaked before its release because of the Young Money representatives on the track (Drake & Wayne). This brought the hype out a bit, and it’s one of the best songs of 2 Chainz’ overall catalogue. What I liked about this track was that Drake & Wayne had good verses to contribute and build onto the hype. A lot of people throughout the internet grapevine believed that this should have been the initial single because of the high profile features, and I don’t blame them for saying that. I think that the real gem on the song came at the end of the track on a sort of ‘College Dropout’ inspired interlude like how Kanye had as he transitioned to different songs. That was classy on his (2 Chainz) end.
Used To had a vibe that was very notable to sounding like some old Cash Money Millionaires tracks (Juvenile specifically stood out in particular on this track), and it makes sense that it would sound that way because Mannie Fresh produced the beat – glad to hear some of his production again (pay your producers). Netflix was performed at Made In America, and I didn’t even notice what it was until I heard the studio version. I think the funniest thing and most random part of this song was the trap-flowing Fergie feature. I’m not even going to lie, because we’ve heard her rapping as a member of Black Eyed Peas, I’d definitely rather listen to Fergie rap than Miley Cyrus (listen to 23 to gain more understanding). Although 2 Chainz isn’t lyrical to a high degree, some of his bars are entertaining to say the least, even if they make no sense.
Cause I’m high-class, fucked a bitch in her eyelashes
We in a jet, who gon’ fly past us?
At this point, there was nothing but turn-up tracks to this point, but I was ready for some substance, and it was the only way to show that there was significant growth with 2Chainz’ artistry (as lavish as I could possibly paint the perspective). Beautiful Pain was a step on the right foot because here you have 2 Chainz, and a surprising verse from Ma$e to essentially vent out some frustrations that one deals with. Raising a daughter (which it seems like all of these rappers are having lately) is motivation enough to press on a budding career, but when you tie that into run-ins with the law, and not having the ability to expand your fan base (Highly flammable, barely keep getting in Canada), then there is a price to pay for the lifestyle that you live. Ma$e came correct on his verse by also addressing his past and the fact that he went from a rapper to a preacher and back to a rapper, which many people (including myself) raised ‘The Rock’ eyebrows in skepticism.
I’m too young to have burdens, but still feel I should be further
But who I’m I kidding I had bridges but I just burned them
My mama need earnings, ain’t had no time I had learning
Call me a hypocrite, backslider, you name it I done heard it
The way they speak of me you think I’m already murdered
The best way to maintain credibility is honesty, and that’s what really separates people from each other, not just entertainers; although most would question as to why it matters if people put on a front – read the first words of this paragraph. You live and let live, which is a great segue to the next track that also delivered in a big way – So We Can Live.
I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed hearing T-Pain on a hook since Kanye West’s Good Life, but he definitely had his run of great hooks and paved the way for a lot of modern-day hook specialists *cough* Future *cough*. Right into the meat and potatoes of the track, 2 Chainz gets humble for a moment and walks us through a day in the life of his own two feet. He used to be in the trap game, and in an incident involving police could have ruined him, he got out of it without any hassle and proceeded to do what he could do to pay his load around the house, since his mother wasn’t working. It’s the things that we do when either we struggle or people around us struggle that determine what type of person we are. The type of person 2 Chainz is a worker; a hustler; a natural go-getter.
Pullin’ out the parking lot, headed to the other spot
Out all night, addict with addicts, causin’ Havoc, I’m a Prodigy
Niggas know we Mobbin’ Deep, gotta stay up when everyone fall asleep
The good die young, and promises are hard to keep
There comes a time when it’s time for us to grow up and make something out of ourselves. Few often make it out of the trap lifestyle, but you have to in order to ensure that your new responsibilities are taken care of if you see yourself further than others do. That desire to be great is one to admire. The true gem of this album is Part 2 of this track, which was produced by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had to pull this up because for 2 Chainz, let’s be real, this was a beat that was very surprising to hear him rap over. I was almost expecting a feature of some sort, but I’m glad one didn’t show up.
Simon says, monkey see monkey do
I wore the shirt, you wore the same shirt too
See me with my bitch, you buy your bitch the same purse
Shoot you and your nigga, y’all can share the same hearse
This that murder 1, mixed with the bubblegum
Kept working my dun dun duns, come get your mama some
Nigga, this that slum talk, some say we talks slums
What was surprising to me was that he acknowledged the fact that he has bubble gum raps (I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to tell). No rapper wants to characterized as ‘Bubble Gum’ because that’s the equivalent of saying that it’s plastic, fake, and at first tastes good, but eventually wears out. This is by far the best song on the album, and it was what I was hoping for – that sign of growth.
Aside for Mainstream Ratchet filling a void that didn’t necessarily need filling, the rest of the album for the most part was enjoyable because 2 Chainz wasn’t about trying to turn up and get wild – he was about being real for a change. Black Unicorn started out with someone rapping that reminded me of Andre 3000 a lot, but it was more nasally and feminine. That somebody was Sunni Patterson, and the spoken word-type flow that was brought out provided a great build up the crashing beat that followed. Unicorns are mythical (and are also white), so a Black Unicorn is truly a conjuring of the wildest of imaginations.
And here you are, a black unicorn
Mythical, mystical, since the day that you were born
Mastered all the madness, let the magic have his way
Let the power paint the day, let the god have his say
I didn’t even know a lot about how or what the circumstances were with 2 Chainz leaving Ludacris’ label, Disturbing Tha Peace, because that’s how I remembered him. Between his new found path as a rapper and reminiscing on the past to what made him who he is today, and even saying that his style is the same as rappers who are a generation behind him, you can sense a bit of reinvention with 2 Chainz. Humble beginnings continue to follow him, but he’s still mindful that he could end up on the other side of the spectrum from where he started.
Dirty ass niggas, we’ll sell your ass a ki of soap
I done seen them rich, I done seen them broke
I done seen it all, watched a pregnant lady smoke
When the baby come out, he gon’ be geeked
You never know, he might come out to feed me
The Outroduction was smooth and just continued the trend of great tracks that 2 Chainz laid out for the latter half of this album – it provided a necessary balance of ratchet and concrete substance. The art of storytelling isn’t one that many have the gift of, but everyone has a story. It’s a reintroduction to 2 Chainz but leading out of the album (not that difficult to comprehend), and between: the challenges of a rap career
It’s a thin one between
Getting high and committing crimes
Let a nigga live
I’ve been locked up more rapping than I did tryna get a brick
People in the industry (finally) taking him serious
I remember when I believed in me
What am I supposed to do?
Uh, now when the ones that didn’t see me
They want a verse or two
Shit, what am I supposed to do?
Put ’em in a fucking hearse or two
I’m the illest, I wrote that shit in cursive too
And family affairs, it all tied in together quite nicely.
I heard my little big cousin mad at me
I call him little big cause he younger than me
But he big, he was the high school team captain
Didn’t graduate but sometimes things happen
And whatever happen that was the worst day
And who know what was going on in the first place
It was a fitting ending to the standard version of the album, and for the most part, I hadn’t regretted listening to it because between the production and the balance between club/hype songs and sit down & listen songs, many people may ridicule 2 Chainz, but he’s serious about his craft, whether or not he’s not comparable to rappers better than he is right now – he’s in his own lane.
Live & Learn (the standout bonus track) is great because we get a reunion of Playaz Circle, and a-not-so-cocaine-inspired verse from Pusha T. The lesson is that the more life you live, the more experiences you have, and the harder you push, things will happen to you. You just have to keep on with your personal hustle. I appreciate music with a message. It’s not always about shooting whoever, fucking whoever, and spending money on whatever. Hip Hop was created to be used as a tool to teach, and we have our scholars (ironic that 2 Chainz graduated with a 4.0GPA from Alabama A&M), so it’s imperative that they have their abilities to give words of encouragement to the people listening in. Another intimate detail that 2 Chainz revealed throughout the album was that his father died, so growing up without that key father figure (which many can relate to) also impacts that desire to want to be better – for the ones who mattered the most to us.
To say that I liked this album is too vague, so let me break this down as to why I liked it and spent money on the album. 2 Chainz isn’t lyrical, alright, we got that clear a long time ago. Hip Hop is also a form of entertainment, and obviously I heard enough to be entertained and at the same time I’m proud that a rapper at his age has been able to bounce back and essentially have the career that he wanted to begin with, but had a lot of issues to deal with. A lot of people talk about “you’re a part of the problem when you support artists like this” but at the same time, not everyone is the same, and not everyone has the same acquired tastes. 2 Chainz can entertain, and he has for a while now. Because he’s in the mainstream and is all over the place in features, I get 100% that you can get tired of him and for a while I was, but I was still curious enough to know just what he could do as a solo artist for a 2nd album. His popularity has surged, and what may appear as dumbed down to many, may be just simple entertainment for others. Making excuses and saying that “you’re ruining Hip Hop when you do this” isn’t a valid argument anymore, and quite frankly it never was to begin with; No Limit Records & Cash Money Millionaires (Hot Boyz to be specific) weren’t exactly the greatest rap groups of all time, but they found their ways to sell millions of records, right? It’s a different process for each era, and hell, Uncle Luke sold millions of records talking about ass shaking and every vulgar & misogynistic attribute you could attach to his music. It worked then, it’s difficult to do now, but it still works if rappers are selling records. This album won’t necessarily be a go-to for every day listens, but it’ll be one that’ll get the occasional spin. Be entertained, and appreciate some education from The Real University. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX