Before "Rap Or Go To The League" drops, we take a quick look back at how 2 Chainz became one of the most enduring rappers of the past decade.
Nothing can stop 2 Chainz. The man formerly known as Tity Boi is a shapeshifter, knowing when to take up space in rap and when to pull back and regroup. He spent the 2000s as part of Playaz Circle, a Southern duo largely ignored by everyone except Ludacris and Lil Wayne. None of their music is readily available to find, so you probably haven’t heard anything about them, save for the Weezy-assisted “Duffle Bag Boy.” Thanks to a slew of legal troubles, Playaz Circle fizzled out, trapping Tity Boi in limbo. Wisely, his next strategy was to rebuild from scratch, arguably the best choice he made.
2 Chainz at the Def Jam pre-Grammy party 2019 - Presley Ann/Getty Images
With a name change, Epps was freed, finally able to launch the first comeback of his career. He became 2 Chainz, the rapper who treated guest verses as momentous events, the man who dared to say things as ridiculous as “when I die, bury me inside that Louis store” and "drinkin' breast milk out a lean cup." He’s opulence personified, the greatest high you could feel encapsulated in a single verse. We’re six years removed from his “Mercy” verse, the spark to his rise to prominence, and it remains an impossible feat for a 2 Chainz guest verse to be tiresome. Rappers like Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes may have a larger track record but they don’t bring the high energy, ALL-CAPS fun into a record the way 2 Chainz does.
The general public knows about 2 Chainz – they know his story and comeback, the guy who persevered and refused to give up and for his efforts, was rewarded with “Mercy.” But in reality, he’s had two comebacks. The 2 Chainz we know now is an entirely different rapper from the one who stormed the charts in 2012, one who could make the case for the best rapper of the 2010s.
2 Chainz and Kanye West at 106 & Park in 2012 - Craig Barritt/Getty Images
Starting with 2014’s FREEBASE, 2 Chainz began releasing a flurry of music that started to fill in the gaps in his story. His major label debut Based on a T.R.U. Story and its sequel B.O.A.T.S II Me Time were largely solid mainstream rap albums with big hits and nothing more. FREEBASE started to reveal a 2 Chainz that was multi-dimensional. He was still peeling ridiculously absurd lines from the top of his head with casual ease but now he'd reminisce on selling drugs to his loved ones and when his TEC-9 jammed on him. He'd remind you about when he had the Box Chevy and drink codeine for morning sickness.
From that point on, 2 Chainz spent the next two years on a spree, releasing a series of EPs and mixtapes that felt decidedly low-key in tone but rich in detail. This groundwork paid off in Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, an album that felt more of a proper coming out party for 2 Chainz. It encapsulated everything great about his EPs and grafted it to a major label environment. The 2 Chainz you remember from guest features showed up sparingly, the 2 Chainz on Pretty Girls was more concerned about refusing to drive a Porsche and visiting the Waffle House. One of the best things about 2 Chainz is how he’s capable of making any line seem engaging by sheer force of will. Remember when he said he was so high, "me and God dappin" on “No Problem?
2 Chainz in his pink wheelchair on tour - Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
His show, Most Expensivest Shit, revealed a new 2 Chainz: the charismatic host with a taste for the finer things in life. 2 Chainz and his beloved dog Trappy were the perfect duo to introduce viewers to things like lavish $30,000 headphones, $5,000 chicken wings, a $600 pound of coffee made from cat poop, bottled water so expensive it comes with diamonds in the bottle cap and lastly, rolling papers lined with 24 karat gold. 2 Chainz went from strength to strength, unable to lose. There was the pink trap house immortalized on the Pretty Girls album cover, now an Atlanta destination and capable of being an HIV Testing clinic or a Haunted House. There was the Pretty Girls Like Trap Music tour where he took a potentially debilitating injury and went on tour anyway, rapping from a pink wheelchair. Did we forget to mention the weed line?
2 Chainz performing music off "Pretty Girls Like Trap Music" - Paras Griffin/Getty Images
If this decade has shown anything, it’s to never discount 2 Chainz. With a new album, Rap Or Go To The League, to be released momentarily, it’s important to remember he’s established himself by constantly rewriting expectations about his rapping ability. His penchant for absurd punchlines and vivid narratives has been his saving grace, but he has a supernatural ability to zig when expected to zag. Expect Rap Or Go To The League – an album A&R'd by Lebron James and 2 Chainz’s personal pick for the year’s best rap album – to quietly rewrite expectations about him yet again.