It’s been well-documented, but it’s worth another mention: 2 Chainz’s ascent over the last year-plus has been unlike anything hip-hop has seen for someone at his age (35), with his years in the game (more than a decade). The formula, it seems, was simple in conception, if difficult in execution: mix timing (for the majority of 2011, T.I. was locked up and Young Jeezy was searching tirelessly for a hit and release date), hard work (a couple memorable mixtapes and more features than anyone can count), and hot records (“Spend It,” “Riot,” “Mercy” and “No Lie” to name a few), and you can grab people’s attention. Those ingredents allowed the artist formerly known as Tity Boi to secure a solo deal with Def Jam and major label release, Based on a T.R.U. Story.
Few would propose that 2 Chainz is among the upper echelon of technical wordsmiths, but his lyrics have no less been crucial to his seizing of listeners’ ears, and they remain so here. There are no lyrical acrobatics—just his patented simple-sounding yet soon-to-be-sewn-in-your-brain one liners. On paper, lines like, “Let me slow it down ‘fore I get a ticket/Nigga want a verse from me, it’s gon’ cost a chicken” (“Crack”) or “Eee-err Eee-err, sound of the bed/Beat it up, beat it up, then I get some head” (“I’m Different”), seem lifeless; with Chainz’s passionate and humorous delivery, though, they become animated and amusing. The long-haired rapper has made it so you have to hang on every word and listen to every line—not in the way you would with someone like Lupe Fiasco, where if you miss something, you might be lost. But in the way that if you miss something, it might be a loss. You never know when that line that’s worth tweeting, texting, and shouting down the hall will surface.
Even so, it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly distinguishes a line from being grossly underwhelming rather than inexplicably fantastic. Most often, though, the Ls come with marks of unoriginality. On “Crack,” he claims he’s “Goin’ so hard Viagra tryna sign me.” On the very next song, “Dope Peddler,” he reminds that he’s “Goin’ so hard you’d think I mixed the Viagra with the soda.” (Neither song should be mistaken for the chorus from his T.R.U. Realigion mixtape cut, “Viagra”: “I be goin’ hard, Viagra.”) This sort of repetition seems lazy, though 2 Chainz has proven that he’s not. Maybe it—like the money, clothes and hoes themes that permeate the album’s 13-track standard edition—must be attributed to hip-hop’s fans, critics, and artists, each of whom fawned over this style in anointing Tit the Man of the Moment.
Based on a T.R.U. Story is not 2 Chainz’s first solo project. Far from it. But its no strech to hope someone in his position has more to say on their introduction to a broader audience.
Even if he wasn’t inclined to, say, recount his teenage years—like a rapper in their early 20s may on their major label debut—there’s a tale surrounding his whirlwind of a year that’s begging to be told, and not necessarily at the expense of his bread and butter records. Instead, he chose to show that wider audience exactly what it was that got him here. With that pursuit, the project remains upbeat and energetic throughout. The magnetic production—with DJ Mustard’s tip-toeing keys, Southside’s heavy bass, Drumma Boy’s dazed synths, Mike Will’s sparkling and full soundscapes, and The-Dream and Mike Posner’s smoothed out R&B touch—again make for an unavoidably neck-snapping output. That, coupled with 2 Chainz’s charisma, scripts a scene that, while maybe not telling the full story, certainly offers a fun one. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)