This guy’s a big story in beating rap’s merciless turnover rate. I loved a song by him—Playaz Circle’s “Duffle Bag Boy”—before I or much of his current audience knew who he was. 2 Chainz used to be Tity Boi, an affront to the mainstream if a moniker ever was one. But that didn’t stop me from asking who 2 Chainz was when he started appearing out of “nowhere” on high-profile singles this year. Apparently a dude mostly associated with drug money and boobs changed his name for something more “family-friendly.” He just shed skins and kept moving upward, longer than rappers are allowed; Playaz Circle might as well have been Philly’s Most Wanted. This isn’t selling out anymore. This is the game itself, being traded from labels like teams—Ludacris wasn’t working out, so here’s Kanye.
Chainz is rap’s current man of the hour, his Cheech Marin-like flow on 2012 hits like Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” and his own Drake team-up “No Lie,” only makes those desolate, airport lounge space-beats even weirder to hear the opposite of space on them—pure terra firma, dirty and regional. His macabre humor is weird as shit and highly un-2012, in the hilarious highlight “Birthday Song”: “When I die/ bury me with 2 bitches,” or a line about his friends asking him how he comes up with his shit, followed by the most generic rap demand possible: “All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho.” When he tags in Kanye, the villainy is hilarious, chanting “Bad bitch contest/ You win first place” and being an asshole about previous gifts (“Last birthday/ She got you a new sweater/ Put it on, give her a kiss / And tell her ‘Do better’”). Then he cribs from Das Racist: “I’m just joking/ I’m just serious.” It’s the perfect foil for a guy who brags about black diamonds then tashtags “apartheid.” His ridiculous caricature of T&A-obsessed manliness even gives Drake a vehicle to flirt with chilling Chris Brown-ism: “If she had a Grammy/ I’d still treat her ass like a nominee,” a big favor to those of us who want everyone to know what an asshole Drake is beneath that transparently (in)sensitive veneer.
With the no-bullshit, spare-n-catchy Based on a T.R.U. Story, Chainz confirms himself as the quintessential 2012 rapper. From his accent (pronounces his own name like “Cho Chang” from Harry Potter on callouts) to his better-than-Gucci wordplay (“Some do it for the fame/ Some do it for the fortune/ Fortun’lly I’m famous”), a vet’s produced an entertainingly ignorant album without all of Drake’s emotional bloat or Rick Ross’ overarranged bank statements. It pushes rap forward and backward at the same time, and if that doesn’t work, he’ll change his name again.