From previewing new Kendrick Lamar songs on his Instagram stories days before their release to reminding his 47 million followers of Brotha Lynch Hung’s often overlooked 1995 release Season Of Da Siccness, LeBron James’ Instagram page has become a microphone for the culture. Given his affinity for great hip-hop, it’s not surprising that the living NBA legend’s first effort as an A&R is also a slam dunk. Working with 2 Chainz on his fifth solo studio album, Rap or Go to the League, LeBron helped the Atlanta rapper cook up his most lyrical and personal album yet.
The album's opening track "Forgiven" shows unprecedented emotional tenor. “If you're doin' somethin' to make your parents have to bury you/You may want to slow down,” 2 Chainz says, before addressing his partners’ teenage sons, who died due to street violence. Elsewhere, on "Threat 2 Society," Chainz lays all of his cards on the table, readdressing an infamous 2016 Collegrove verse: “I done some things I ain’t proud of/Like sold my mom drugs,” he raps over an uplifting gospel sample of The Truthettes’ "So Good to Be Alive."
It becomes clear very quickly that Rap or Go to the League is 2 Chainz's most thoughtful, revealing album. While 2017’s Pretty Girls Like Trap Music houses some of Chainz most iconic club anthems—including "Good Drank" and "It’s a Vibe"—when it comes to bars to sink your teeth into, Rap Or Go To The League has the edge. It's got star power, too: Young Thug, Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Ariana Grande, Lil Wayne and E-40 drop in for guest features, while Pharrell Williams, Wondagurl, Mike Dean and more put in production work.
Check out what else we’ve learned about 2 Chainz from the newly released album. —Claudia McNeilly
2 Chainz Used to Sell Drugs to His Celebrity Peers
Song: "Statue Of Limitations"
Lyric: “McDaniel Street I had a bag full of bombs/South Side nigga, I used to serve Lil Jon/On Godby Road, I shot dice with Troup/Hit the D mall and then I served Big Unk/Anytime 50 came to town, I served Buck/ Anytime the Sixers played the Hawks, I seen Chuck/Had a, had a ticket 'fore I met with Def Jam/Ask Chris and 20 who was the X-man”
Revisiting his past trapping in Atlanta, Chainz's former clientele list reads like a role call of who’s who in hip-hop. He mentions smoking crack with the late Keith Troup, a Southside Atlanta legend with close ties to T.I and Young Thug. And he asserts his dominance as a drug dealer at Def Jam who sold dope to Ludacris and I-20 before signing a solo deal with the label in 2012.
Jay-Z Passed on Recording a Feature Verse for the Album
Song: "Threat 2 Society"
Lyric: "This beat hard enough to put Jay on"
2 Chainz has expressed wanting to collaborate with Jay-Z several times throughout his career, including in 2013, when he asked Kanye if he should feature Jay on B.O.A.T.S. II #MeTime. Last year, he even posted an Instagram photo of him and Hov with the caption, “I wanna do a song with bru[h].”
When asked why the pair didn’t work together on this project, 2 Chainz explained the situation on The Breakfast Club, saying: “He my favourite. I’d love to work with him. I tried to get him on this album and he told me maybe the next album.”
The line follows clever wordplay from the rapper that sees him reference Jay’s classic bar from “So Appalled” off Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Chainz puts his own spin on Jay’s famous question, “But would you rather be underpaid or overrated?” asking, “You rather be underrated or unemployed?”
It’s clear that a Jay-Z verse has been on 2 Chainz's mind for some time. Hopefully, the pair can link up on a different project soon.
2 Chainz Owns a Pinky Ring Worth More Than Many People's Annual Salaries
Song: Money in the Way
Lyric: “Got a pinky ring that cost 'bout 80 K”
Chainz sneaks in this major flex on the album's most paired-down song, which features no guests and unflashy production from Buddah Bless and Jabz. It’s buried between absurdist bars about “rockin’ reptile, talkin’ alligate.’” Plus, an amusing rhyme scheme that pairs “double up” with “tummy tuck” and “pourin’ up,” gives a taste of the hilarious and clever wordsmith fans have come to know and love.
He Keeps It Real With His Kids
Song: "I Said Me"
Lyric: “My daughter asked me what a drug dealer was, I said me"
2 Chainz opens up about raising his three children on “I Said Me,” his testament to keeping it real with everyone around him, including his kids. Chainz opens the song by rhyming, “My kids be listenin' to my shit, now/I be havin' to dumb that shit down.” But by the time the chorus hits, he decides to be honest with his daughter about his past life in the trap. The lyric neatly sums up the entire album’s direction, which sees Chainz wrestling with his own growth and maturity to emerge victorious on the other side.
2 Chainz Believes College Sports Programs Exploit Student Athletes
Lyric: “Let me get this straight, if I drop 40 today/ You don't care if I eat, you don't care if I ate/They say, 'You better have a good grade like a mixed baby hair'/They say, 'We goin' to the tournament, we gonna need you there'"
The 6'6" rapper revisits his successful college basketball career to air out his grievances with college athletic programs. “Wait a minute, let me follow this/You think because I got a scholarship/That I don't need dollars just to parlay with? What?” he spits over a hard-hitting trap beat, produced by Honorable C.N.O.T.E.
Diddy Shared Some Valuable Advice When He First Started Making Money
Lyric: "You know, that's when I first started gettin' some money, I'm like/'They want me to pay like $2 million in taxes', that boy Diddy said, 'I had to pay a hundred'/He said, 'But I gave 'em a hundred and five/You know what I'm sayin', just in case', right then I knew I needed to dust my shoulders off/And keep movin'”
2 Chainz talks taxes on album finale “Sam,” as he expresses remorse for shelling out 37 percent of his income back to the government. “Taxes pay 12 but don’t pay ‘em to the kill the kids/What it is? That was just a cellphone in his hand,” he says over a gut-wrenching sample of the classic UGK hit, "Hi Life." Chainz is only able to come to terms with Uncle Sam “takin’ grams out the bag” after a conversation with fellow multi-millionaire Diddy, who encourages Chainz to keep movin’ and dust his shoulders off on the album’s final lines—yet another reference to his favorite rapper, Jay-Z.