By Rob Markman
In 2011, the man that everyone now calls 2 Chainz was busy laying a foundation in rap's underground, releasing a pair of powerful mixtapes that would properly set him up as hip-hop's next big thing. Now the towering rap giant can boast a #1 album, a #1 rap single and his first solo awards-show performance.
Sometimes the MC still has to pinch himself. "On the small stage? I'm on the small stage," Chainz playfully asked MTV News correspondent and VMA pre-show host Sway Calloway after his rehearsal on Monday.
Looks like Deuce's small-stage days are over. The truly dedicated remember Chainz from his days as Tity Boi in the Atlanta-based rap duo Playaz Circle. In 2007, the group, which was signed to Ludacris' DTP label, notched a certified rap hit when they linked up with Lil Wayne for "Duffle Bag Boy." Two years later, Tit and his partner, Dolla Boy, dropped their second LP, Supply & Demand, but never matched their previous success.
Still, Tit never stopped believing, and he soon dropped his rap moniker, rebranded himself 2 Chainz and began tearing through Atlanta's underground rap circuit. Soon his mixtapes (Codeine Cowboy and T.R.U. REALigion) became must-haves for the collection of every rap fanatic and his singles "Spend It" and "Riot" quickly became club favorites.
Once he had a firm hold on the streets, rap's elite came calling. There were collaborations with Nicki Minaj ("Beez in the Trap"), Young Jeezy ("SupaFreak") and of course Kanye West (G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy"). Everyone fell in love with Chainz's creatively humorous rap style, and when it was time for him to finally drop his solo debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story, in August, fans flocked and bought around 147,000 copies the first week of release, giving their rap hero a #1 album.
"When you're struggling, you don't wanna hear nothin' about, 'Wait your turn, it's not your time,' " Chainz explained when he appeared on "RapFix Live" back in August. "Then when it becomes your time, you can feel it, it's unexplainable. ... God actually puts his hand on you and he moves you around like a pawn or something."
The pawn has certainly become a king, and now that Deuce is getting his chance to grace the biggest stage in music, he is just soaking up all of the good vibrations that the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards have to offer. "I'm just having fun, bruh," he told Sway on Monday. "Sometimes I don't even realize the moment that I'm in because I'm just too damn enjoying myself."
The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards are set to go live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET/PT. But before it all goes down, don't miss our "Jersey Shore" special "Gym, Tan, Look Back" at 6 p.m. and our pre-show with Demi Lovato at 7 p.m.! And head over to VMA.MTV.com to vote on Best New Artist and Most Share-Worthy Video!