2 Chainz
Thanks to a name change and a relentless work ethic, 2 Chainz is now a bonafide star. Charge it to the game.
Words Ralph Bristout
Images Jonathan Mannion

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of XXL Magazine. This is part two of the three-part story with Lil Wayne, T.I. and 2 Chainz.

Six-foot-five Atlanta MC 2 Chainz, better known as Tauheed Epps to the check signers, is holed up inside the cavernous backseat of a black 2013 Lincoln Navigator, parked in front of Def Jam Recording’s Midtown Manhattan office. It’s a late May afternoon, and Chainz has just played material from his forthcoming sophomore album for Barry Weiss, chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam.

Just 24 hours ago, Chainz, 35, was on-hand for the Hollywood premiere of Universal Pictures’ Fast & Furious 6, for which he scored the film’s first single, Wiz Khalifa’s “We Own It.” Just two days before, Chainz was in France at the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival, delivering an after-party performance.

It’s been nonstop for the freshly minted rap star, who first got into the game 16 years ago as Tity Boi, one half of the fledgling rap duo Playaz Circle. The group, which was signed to Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace Records, got their biggest look in 2007 with the Lil Wayne-assisted monster hit single “Duffle Bag Boy” off their second LP, Supply & Demand.

Four years later, Tit, who has also been focused on a solo career, made a major name change becoming 2 Chainz. The moniker switch plus a hit new mixtape, T.R.U. REALigion, and stellar guest appearances on songs like Kanye West’s “Mercy,” Nicki Minaj’s “Beez In The Trap” and Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend (Remix)” had hip-hop buzzing.

Last year 2 Chainz finally released his solo effort, Based On A T.R.U. Story, via Def Jam. The disc spawned three huge singles, “I’m Different,” “No Lie” featuring Drake and “Birthday Song” featuring Kanye West.

Eager to do it all over again, 2 Chainz has been diligently recording material for his next LP, which is scheduled to drop this fall.

But today while basking in his own vaingloriousness, 2 Chainz chills in the truck, puffs on an L and discusses hard work and instant success, important business meetings and going on the road with his compadre Lil Wayne.

: If you had one word to describe this year-and-a-half run of yours, what would it be?
2 Chainz: Legendary. Historic. Ain’t nobody did that shit. It’s like really a second chance. “2 Chainz” means second chance.

How do you feel about your position in hip-hop right now versus then?
Hard work brings results. You can’t not have work ethic and expect to have certain shit happen. It’s not going to happen unless you’re just a lucky person. I worked hard so now my career is on steroids. I’m juiced up.

You recently received Grammy nominations for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song. What’s been your most cherished career moment besides the Grammy nod?
I just found out that I’m ASCAP writer of the year, so that’s dope.

That’s great. With more than a decade in the game, you’re finally getting your just due. Since it happened so quickly, are you afraid of it one day going away?
Well, continuing to be consistent and learning from the first time. Implementing new things, learn from everybody else’s mistakes and everything they’ve done right. Just implementing that shit and not being scared to know that you only have one life to live and that this ain’t no movie. Niggas can’t rewind and do this shit. Yesterday is gone.

2 Chainz

You’ve been through industry ups and downs already, seen a lot happen behind the scene while you were on your way up.
Right. And I don’t want to sound cocky but, bruh, I kind of know what’s going on. I can tell you this is going to work, that this isn’t going to work, whatever. I just know. I’ve been through this shit already.

But now you’re in a position where you can tell people things and you have the success to back it up. What happens now when you go into business meetings at the label?
That’s why we’re here now, man. We’re doing this interview outside of Def Jam because I had to renegotiate. I told niggas I got this, and they were so into, “Let me hear your music.” I was so into, “Let me hear this money. Don’t worry about the music.” So now when they hear this music, they all like, “Ahhh.” We done had this conversation. I got this far. You make sure I don’t ever have to trap again for the rest of my life and try to help the people around me from trapping. If you make that dream come true, we gone have a great relationship.

How’s working coming along for your next album? What are you trying to prove this time?
I’m trying to show that growth to the fans. I felt like rap and rap artists know what I can bring to the table.

So is the project going to be a big departure from your debut?
Definitely. The trajectory on this shit is shooting toward the moon.

You’re about to go on the 2013 America’s Most Wanted Music Festival with Lil Wayne and T.I. Nice look.
My nigga, Tunechi. That’s my nigga. If it wasn’t for Tunechi, I wouldn’t be here. If it wasn’t for Lil Dwayne Carter, Tauheed Epps wouldn’t be here right now. I’ve been around a lot of things and so many situations, and if it wasn’t for bruh, I wouldn’t be right here right now doing this cover. So it feels good to come back around and do this tour with him. [Looks out car window, spots Barry Weiss walking out of building]

Isn’t that...?
Yup, that’s him. I’m just trying to imagine how they was in school and shit. I look at people and I can kind of tell you how they were in school, and it’s like, I can see him walking down the hallways, and now he’s like, “Look at me now, bitch, I run Def Jam!” [Laughs]