At first, 2 Chainz wanted to skip “No Lie.” But, a blogger protested: “Play it!” He turned to his right, then nodded. “They won’t be able to survive,” he said of the audience. “The album’s not out for seven days.”
“No Lie” is the lead single off 2 Chainz’s major-label debut Based on a T.R.U. Story, out August 14. On Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart, “No Lie” only falls second to “Mercy,” which features 2 Chainz among fellow G.O.O.D. Music affiliates Kanye West, Pusha T and Big Sean. But at Norcross, Ga.’s Tree Sounds Studios, when Island Def Jam’s senior vice president said he had a surprise, 2 Chainz still hadn’t expected to see his first-ever gold record plaque. As he once asserted via verses, “End of conversation, I’m running out of patience/ You can’t play me, they don’t play me on the stations.” Obviously, the conversation’s changed.
Monday night’s listening party (sponsored by Grey Goose Cherry Noir) seemed to solidify a transformation for 2 Chainz, age 35. The College Park, Ga. native once rapped as one-half of Playaz Circle, under the moniker Tity Boi — as he told Hive, a family nickname he earned as a “dirt road, kind of breast-fed, spoiled brat.” But soon after Playaz Circle earned one minor hit (“Duffel Bag Boy” featuring Lil Wayne) and he released one solo mixtape (Me Against the World), 2 Chainz broke free from Ludacris’ label Disturbing Tha Peace to record six self-released mixtapes in just two years. One of them was titled All Ice on Me, a turn on Tupac phrase that 2 Chainz coined to describe the newfound movement.
Two mixtapes later however, 2 Chainz took off with his first national hit “Spend It,” featuring the earworm of a chorus: “I ride around, I get it/ I ride around, I get it/ I ride around, I get it/ It’s mine, I spend it.” In Based on a T.R.U. Story, his verses are just as colorful: “Stop Me Now,” featuring Playaz Circle’s Dolla Boy, has him rhyming Orville Redenbacher (so, bullets bouncing like popcorn) with Cyndi Lauper (yes, as in white girls). Introduction “Yuck” even samples his daughter, age 4, sounding as if she’s giving her best Pusha T impression — as in, eghck. Whether she knew that her dad would echo her in rejecting sex during a woman’s period, 2 Chainz didn’t say.
In Based on a T.R.U. Story, 2 Chainz has tucked such wordplay and admittedly gross mental images in between details of the life he’d described since day one: Days at the trap, nights in the studio and backseat hookups at any hour — tales that seem to bleed into each other, especially when sound-tracked to beats by local producers-in-crime (Drumma Boy, Mike Will Make Heat, etc.). 2 Chainz even appears to delve deeper than usual into details of his own life, if not his more sentimental side in general. But the Tree Sounds audience wouldn’t find out — not yet, anyway.
“You’re gonna have to buy the second verse,” he said after cutting off “Ghetto Dreams,” prefaced as the album’s most personal track, just seconds before Scarface’s lines. Prior to that, during The-Dream-assisted “Extremely Blessed,” 2 Chainz furrowed his brow as he stared out into the crowd-turned-amateur paparazzi — cameras and cell phones out — who were steadying their hands and recording for the online buzz, rather than listening to the songs and taking them in as fans. “I like that track, too,” he said before cutting it off early. “I thought we were gonna kick it. I didn’t know y’all wanted to film a DVD.” Then, he chuckled to himself. “Y’all just getting money.”
2 Chainz still answers and smiles to Tity Boi — it’s a family nickname, after all — but he knows now that the moniker change ushered in his second chance to stay in the rap game. “If it’s not being an MC or nothing like that, than it’s just trying to help an artist — using the knowledge that I have to trickle down and help feed other people’s families and stuff like that,” he told Hive about what he envisions for his future. “I just want to be a story that somebody could use — persistently going hard and just, you know, making your own second chances happen for you.”
It does seem to be happening. At the very least, the crowd broke a sweat and even fanned themselves as they danced to 2 Chainz’s full-length performances of songs they’d heard before: “No Lie,” “Birthday Song” featuring Kanye West, “Like Me” featuring the Weeknd. They seemingly wanted reasons to yell out his major-label moniker on cue, dragged out as Lil Jon used to scream his own ad-libs: “2 CHAINZZZZZZZZ!” He understands its appeal. “It seems like it must be fun for people to say,” he said. “Because people yell it at me all fucking day.”
2 Chainz’ Based on a T.R.U. Story is out 8/14 via Def Jam.