By Jared Graf
2018 was a wildly successful year for Georgia rapper Tauheed Epps, better known to the public as 2 Chainz or Tity Boi. He collaborated with Eminem, launched a legal cannabis line – appropriately called ‘Gas,’ – proposed to his wife on the red carpet at the Met Gala – then married her in the Versace Mansion, and even spent $1 million to unveil the title of his fifth solo album on a blimp during the NBA All Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
So, what is the product of such a successful year?
“Rap or Go to the League,” of course.
On the 14-track project dedicated to black excellence, 2 Chainz explores the notion most less fortunate, inner-city kids have that the only way out of the ghetto is by rapping or playing basketball.
The album, which serves more as an autobiography, finds 2 Chainz rapping about selling drugs, income taxes, death, and even high-top Versace shoes with near perfect execution.
It’s no coincidence NBA legend LeBron James serves as A&R to the album, as he’s been out to prove he’s ‘more than an athlete’ for some time now. This album demonstrates both LeBron and Chainz’s ability to step out of their respective ‘box.’
Beginning the album with the soulful, meditative joint “Forgiven,” 2 Chainz reflects on his childhood as a drug dealer and the moment long-time friend Lil Fate first broke news of his son’s murder. The Marsha Ambrosius-assisted hook reads more like a reflection at a Sunday service than a rap chorus: “Pray for our sins / I pray for our souls / The tears that we crying / Let them all be forgiven.”
By the second song, 2 Chainz has already admitted to selling his mom drugs, watching his dad die, his friend getting killed, and not receiving the credit he deserves musically.
“Statue of Limitations,” a standout record on the album, is sure to violently rattle your car’s speakers, as Chainz raps about selling drugs to his celebrity peers and boasts, “I can run a check up, and you just run your lip,” before declaring himself “ex-drug dealer, ex-athlete,” on the song’s hook.
On “High Top Versace,” 2 Chainz brags about his new shoe releasing through Versace, while fellow Atlanta rapper Young Thug croons about East and West Coast love affairs on his verse. Thug delivers a boisterous hook, rapping: “High top Versaces, I got high top socks / I got popsicle diamonds, they no let up.”
Kendrick Lamar joins in on the fun and uses his voice as an instrument on the Pharrell Williams-produced “Momma I Hit a Lick.” Lamar changes his style, flow, and pitch multiple times, while Chainz walks a thin line between confidence and cockiness as he gracefully rides the unconventional beat.
The Ariana Grande-assisted R&B cut “Rule the World” proves 2 Chainz is at the pinnacle of his career – something that is rather uncommon for a 41-year-old rapper. Chainz recalls the ups and downs in his relationship to his now wife, while Ariana brings a 1990s Mariah Carey vibe to the Hitmaka production.
However, the album’s climax comes 12 songs deep with “I Said Me.”
The track focuses on Chainz’s three children and how he often grapples with honesty: “When my daughter asked me what a drug dealer was / I said me / When the lawyer asked me what a f*****g killer was / I said me.”
Although the album is packed with samples, the most impressive by far is the “Dead Presidents” flip on “I Said Me,” with additional production handled by 30 Roc. The commonly used sample from Jay-Z’s 1996 hit single is unlike any other rendition I have ever heard and the uniqueness took me by surprise.
Although 2 Chainz hasn’t completely divorced himself from the trap sound he’s known for, he has displayed an enormous amount of growth and progression on the ever-so-triumphant “Rap or Go to the League.”
The introspectiveness makes it feel more like a body of work than an album, as Chainz shows a passion he’s been hiding for years. The album goes from trap ballads to serious, thought-provoking tunes that will definitely make appearances on playlists well into the summer.
If this carefully-calculated follow up to 2017’s “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music” is any indication of his year to come, then things are looking more than stellar for Mr. Chainz.
2 Chainz effectively proves he’s a “Threat 2 Society” – and your favorite rapper.