The first thing to know about the new 2 Chainz album is that the opening song is called “Fork.” The second thing to know is that you probably already know what it sounds like. The beats are typically menacing and orchestral, the hooks are unbelievably catchy, and the verses swing back and forth between laugh-out-loud ridiculous and shake-your-head ridiculous. Basically, it’s 2 Chainz’s first album, part two—exactly what he said it’d be. But while the album is billed as the continuation of his first record, last year’s No. 1-debuting Based On A Tru Story, Chainz also branches out a bit in a way that makes the album feel like he’s bringing at least some new records to the table while remaining stylistically consistent.
B.O.A.T.S. was such a breakout success for a couple reasons: the ubiquity of Chainz verses throughout the first nine months of last year, his distinctive, immediately recognizable cadence and subject matter, and the sheer number of hits it carried, from the Drake-assisted “No Lie” to the Kanye-helmed “Birthday Song,” the personal manifesto “I’m Different” to “I Luv Dem Strippers” with Nicki Minaj. B.O.A.T.S. II didn’t have that same help from radio—outside of the Song of the Summer contender “Feds Watching” featuring Pharrell—but there are plenty of tracks here that fit the 2 Chainz formula.
“Fork,” “36,” “Where U Been” and “Used 2″ could have easily popped up a year ago, while “Extra” features a verse from Rich Homie Quan, who could conceivably carve out a career for himself as the second coming of Chainz based on his own radio-friendly hooks. “I Do It” features some of the usual suspects Drake and Lil Wayne, with the two actually combining in the midst of Drake’s verse, creating a bit of a back-and-forth hand-off, which is brilliant in its subtlety. Drake wonders what Tunechi would do, Weezy pops up in the middle of the verse and takes over effortlessly, then drops back out as Drizzy picks up the thread without every stopping to miss a beat. It’s the type of verse that can actually be created when two artists are in the studio together rather than e-mailing verses back and forth, and Chainz doesn’t sleep on it either.
Lyrically, too, Chainz mostly stays in his hand-crafted lane even on back-to-back tracks, tossing out his desire to film a sex tape and put it either on YouTube (“Used 2″) or Netflix (the Fergie track “Netflix”). Take your pick for most ridiculous line of the album: “My wrist deserve a shout-out, I’m like ‘What up, wrist?’/My stove deserve a shout-out, I’m like ‘What up, stove?’” (from “Fork”); “Sippin’ and my soda pink/You niggas is toilet seat” (from “So We Can Live” featuring T-Pain); or “I’m on top like a toupee/You on the side like a toothache” (from “Mainstream Ratchet”) are all strong contenders. The best verse on the album probably goes to Ma$e, who pops up on “Beautiful Pain” and drops some self-effacing real talk (“But who I’m I kidding I had bridges but I just burned them”).
Maybe it’s Ma$e’s influence, maybe it’s his own experiences over the past two years, but Chainz gets more personal than he’s ever been on the second half of the album—both “So We Can Live” and “Outroduction” feel highly autobiographical, though both have verses that dip back into the absurd. They are different types of songs for him, and they stick out because of it, though not in a bad way. 2 Chainz has, at this point, identified the type of hip-hop that he’s going to continue making, and it’s the kind of rap you’ll most likely continue hearing on the radio. He’s perfected his lane, but he hasn’t pushed anything forward or changed anything significantly. He is what he is, and it’s okay to love that. - Dan Rys (@danrys)