Drake Says 2 Chainz Is Already On His G.O.A.T List
Will he ever make yours?
The moment I decided to stop adding “lol” after typing out texts or tweets like, “Man, 2 Chainz killed that shit,” came on February 25, 2014. That was the night ScHoolboy Q dropped Oxymoron. Don’t get me wrong, I knew there was much more to the storied Atlanta rapper than, say, “Duffle Bag Boy” or “Spend It,” but I found his inclusion on SBQ’s album… interesting, to say the least. Chainz was one of only two non-TDE MCs on the album with a guest verse; Kurupt was the other. Prior to Oxymoron, ScHoolboy’s radio gene wasn’t very dominant. He’d never touched the Top 40 as a solo artist, and was thought to be someone who could experience mainstream success in spite of radio—not because of it. So when I got to track four on the album, “What They Want” featuring 2 Chainz, with production by Mike Will Made It, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. What I heard nearly made me lose my mind.
And I’d be dodging the police
When I was poor with no lights
When I was poor with potential
Watch my flow in four inches
Oh Lord, she’s in Christians
All gold for my Adventist
Pulled it down, and she kissed it
All gold where my wrists is
God will judge, no conviction
Just because I got dreads don’t get it twisted
Written down, the lyrics do nothing to convey the nonconformist techniques Chainz used to enhance his rhyme scheme, pronouncing “police” like “po-lies” to make “no lights” work, and truncating “poor” into “po’” the second time to get alliterative with “potential.” Or, the ridiculous inclusion of a double-time “Amigo say, ‘Que paso with the peso?” without over-rapping or skipping over a pocket later on in the verse. He was like Osmosis Jones with a blunt. It was more than just good rapping or a polished cadence: 2 Chainz was competing. His club banger reputation was cemented. Along with Drake and Juicy J he was already rap’s most important contribution to the Magic City stage. Yet, there was a tinge of hunger on “What They Want” that suggested he had much loftier goals on his mind. Years later, the secret is out: 2 Chainz wants to be regarded as one of the greats, and to be honest he may have already achieved that status.
In the new trailer for Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, Drake flat out says that 2 Chainz is an all-time great to him. It begs the question, with PGLTM, can 2 Chainz make a case for his placement on a list of G.O.A.T.s?
The answer to this question, ironically, lies in Chainz’s absence from the shelves, as opposed to the music he’s released in anticipation of the LP. “Good Drank” is an unbelievably well-executed single, from the guest appearances to the music video, and “It’s a Vibe” was equally well done. But these records are automatic for Chainz. At one point, he was pumping them out so rapidly and flawlessly, people wondered if there was anything to his act beside strip club anthems and flagrant celebrations of cash. Even after Kanye let him close out “Mercy,” made him an honorary member of G.O.O.D. Music, and a central co-star on their star-studded Cruel Summer album—which saw Chainz holding his own alongside Raekwon, Pusha T, Common and more—he wasn’t being taken as seriously as he should’ve been. Freebase took care of that.
For some, Freebase was a forgettable project from Chainz. It didn’t launch any commercial hits, unlike much of his earlier mixtape work—Felt Like Cappin (“M’fn Right”), Trapavelli Tre (“Watch Out”), Daniel Son; Necklace Don (“Big Amount”) and Hibachi For Lunch (“Good Drank”)—nor did it have the high-powered guest features that made some of the aforementioned projects more appealing to his fanbase. It was also Chainz’s first project not named Based On a T.R.U. Story in over two years. Some thought Chainz’s appeal had dwindled due to lackluster sales numbers on B.O.A.T.S. II. But I’m here to tell you that Freebase is some of that man’s best work.
The title track opens with a Richard Pryor sample—an anecdote about actually freebasing cocaine—before the Honorable C.N.O.T.E.’s devastatingly spooky instrumental chimes in. But sandwiched in between those two events was a ridiculous a cappella rant that, had I been in the studio when “Freebase” was recorded, I would’ve vehemently advised against including. That rant, though I didn’t know it then, served an essential purpose for 2 Chainz. One that, when seen from a broader view, gives him an absolute advantage over the competition.
“I came from nothing. Me and my n****s we came from nothing so they came like it’s nothing told you from the introduction I came from the pain and suffering.”
The quote is transcribed using minimal punctuation for a reason: there wasn’t much of a structure to the rant. It was spit out like Chainz was trying to interject in an argument, then without warning, the bass line swooped in and wiped out that entire segment of the record. For a while, I wondered why Chainz unleashed that confusing a cappella bit, especially considering his flow for the duration of the record didn’t mirror his mini-rant in the slightest. It wasn’t a very smooth launching pad. If anything, one might say that he needed to recover from that awkward opening. Years later, I’ve wised up. The intro works because it represents Chainz’s unrelenting will to dictate. A random episode of verbal vomit? Who’s gonna tell him no? A Snakes on a Plane-esque album title? He used to get money with the moniker “Tity Boi,” does he even have to care about titles?
As Chainz traverses his career, from the mixtapes to a third full-length LP with Def Jam, that will has allowed him to burst through ceilings some didn’t think he’d ever be in a position to break. The next one could be career-defining.
Since “What They Want” and Freebase, Chainz hasn’t released a studio album, but during those three years he’s gained the most ground. The content of his “Freebase” rant has proven to be just as important as its context. Rather than celebrate his ascent to glory, Chainz has followed an inverted rags-to-riches narrative. Having experienced the 100,000 first-week sales mark and the glitzy posse cut music videos, Chainz shifted his focus on pointedly communicating his own story, and not just haphazardly telling it—and this has made him a markedly better artist.
Even on “Good Drank,” which would be an exception to this rule a few years ago, Chainz raps, “Rest in Peace to my n***a Doe/ All we ever wanted to do was ball/ That was the easy part, we playing that Weezy hard/ We sit in the kitchen late, trying to make an escape.” It’s the type of somber rumination he used to reserve for deep cuts on B.O.A.T.S projects or Cocaine Cowboy. It’s any port in a storm, in the best way possible.
No more sacrifice bunts. With every record, Chainz wants to swing for the fences and bring you the full package: The struggle that he slammed into the ground, like planting the American flag on the moon before launching into “Freebase.” The bop of “Good Drank.” The sleazy greatness of “It’s a Vibe.”
Pretty Girls Like Trap Music will be Chainz best chance to prove that, for an entire project, he can be the all-encompassing, wise 2 Chainz that he’s become over the years. The type of guy who can be more than just a great generational artist from Atlanta. The type of guy who can be looked upon as someone that changed the way people think about trap music, the foremost sub-genre in rap dating back to “Spend It.” The type of guy who’s more than just “the perfect artist for a niche audience.” He’s the perfect artist for the rap audience.
On this album, Chainz has to refine the technique he used to make B.O.A.T.S. and B.O.A.T.S. II master classes in braggadocio, and couple that with the tempered recollections that have made his recent verses the most interesting monologues in his discography. He has to do more than bring people to the jungle. He has to provide them with the road map he followed to liberation. Can PGLTM meet these marks?
We’ll find out on June 16.