2 Chainz was once known as Tity Boi, his stage name as one half of Atlanta-based hip-hop duo Playaz Circle. They were active until 2010 and will be known for their sole number-one single — “Duffle Bag Boys,” featuring Lil Wayne — and not much else.
What’s interesting is how much struggle it took to get there. Tity Boi graduated from Alabama State University with a business degree, playing basketball for the school; soon afterwards he was shot and the other half of Playaz Circle, Dolla Boy, was incarcerated. Ludacris, another Atlanta native, reached out and saved the duo from collapse. For more than 10 years since, Playaz Circle endured in an industry known for eating its young, releasing mixtapes and guest verses and generally surviving with just one recognizable hit.
Then Tity Boi became 2 Chainz, and from seemingly nowhere, a star was born. Chainz was the same man but a different rapper, releasing guest features that blow the artists who host him out of the water. You’ve probably heard a few, like this year’s “Beez in the Trap” by Nicki Minaj or “Mercy” under Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music collective; they’re radio hits that have helped launch him to near-superstardom. Kanye West tweeted earlier this year: “2 Chainz is charging 100k for a verse now cause he’s G.O.O.D!!!!!”
The man came a long way from a gunshot wound and an uncertain future in a flailing rap duo. His debut studio album out this week, Based on a T.R.U. Story, was understandably easy to get excited for. And it delivers, but that delivery is a few solid singles and not much else.
First, the good: those singles are definite bangers. “No Lie,” “Birthday Song,” “Wut We Doin?” and “Riot” dropped weeks ago and represent Chainz at his finest, delivering radio-ready hooks over bumping beats. What remains is uneven at best. The album lacks cohesion, tracking from further attempts at singles (“Money Machine” finds him repeating, ad nauseam, the fact that he needs an ATM to hold his cash) to slower songs (even world-renowned producer The-Dream can’t save “Extremely Blessed,” with its lyrics about first dates at Waffle House; Mike Posner of Cooler Than Me fame does deliver beautiful verses that complement lackluster rhymes for “In Town,” making it a passable attempt at a slowed-down song.)
It comes down to this: Chainz is in his element when he’s making those chains shake on bass-heavy beats. This album features a dubstep-based song in the bonus tracks, and it’s terrible. If you want Chainz at his best, turn on your favorite pop-rap station or buy the aforementioned singles individually. Otherwise, be prepared to wade through a lot of failed slow dances to get to the booty-poppers Chainz delivers with aplomb.