The slow but sure rise of Tauheed Epps has been nothing short of phenomenal considering his history. This is the same guy who served as one-half of Playaz Circle on Ludacris’ fledging Disturbing Tha Peace label through the humorous stage name Titty Boi. His ability to showcase that special hit making ability on breakout single, the Lil Wayne assisted “Duffle Bag Boy,” was apparent from the jump. Attempting to make headway as a solo artist, he dropped the Titty Boi moniker for something that would define his legacy in Hip Hop. That’s right, 2 Chainz.
Dropping Titty Boi for 2 Chainz was one in many successful steps on the road of his reinvention. The second was a slew of mixtapes filled with that signature hilarious shit talking that’s been his calling card. There wasn’t a better example than his breakout mixtape with DJ Drama, T.R.U. REALigion. Who doesn’t remember those comical bars on tracks ranging from “Stunt” featuring Meek Mills or “Riot.” From then on, Mr. Titty 2 Necklaces has more than proved his worth.
When he wasn’t lending stand out guest verses to everyone ranging from Nicki Minaj and A$AP Rocky to Juicy J, he was maneuvering his major label debut through Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. The first was the Grammy nominated Based on a T.R.U. Story featuring two platinum singles including “No Lie” featuring Drake along with the DJ Mustard and Mike Free produced “I’m Different.” By the time his 2013 follow-up,B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time hit shelves, he was transitioning into a Pop culture fixture. Those appearances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and 2 Broke Girls couldn’t have served as a better example.
Evolving past those accomplishments, 2 Chainz has a new goal and agenda; The REAL University. Being the man of intelligence he is, The Real U’s chancellor used an unusual platform to promote the label’s first release TRU Jack City. Yup, the world was shocked when he decided to debate HLN pundit Nancy Grace on her show about the legalization of marijuana.
Everyone was even more shocked when he smartly countered every argument the former district prosecutor threw at him. Then again, why wouldn’t he have that ability? Because he “luvs dem strippers” or was it his respect for “mainstream ratchet?” Grace obviously failed to do her due diligence, because if she had she would have run headlong into his time at Alabama State University where he earned a 4.0 GPA.. What that has to do with anything isn’t up for discussion. However, clearly 2 Chainz has accumulated knowledge of almost everything life has to offer. That comprehension of everything from the music industry to policy and Pop culture is why the masses flock to Mr. Head of TRU. This time through TRU, he hopes to help the ignite the careers of his roster including Cap 1, Fresh (formerly Short Dawg) and Skooly.
The Chancellor Of TRU Explains His Transcendence
HipHopDX: You already had experience being in a rapper ran camp like Disturbing Tha Peace before making your way eventually to G.O.O.D. Music. Why start The Real University now?
2 Chainz: Last year in 2014, I decided to plant some seeds. That was the year for that and I started to put together our songs. I’ve been in the game for some years, dropped some albums and built my own entity, my own imprint. I got some guys around me that I’m confident in. They have their own individuality, their own fanbase and we put it together like that. We’re rocking. We’re more like partners than anything.
DX: Is there anything that you’ve learned from your experience at both labels in building TRU?
2 Chainz: I’ve taken something from every situation I’ve been in. It wasn’t just DTP or G.O.O.D. Music. [Lil] Wayne’s been a long time friend, just everybody. Rozay[Rick Ross] has been a friend and I watched what he was doing. Even the Atlanta scene. We just try to do it the right way. When you’re an artist you understand where an artist is coming from. We can make something beautiful together.
DX: Was there anything specific during your time you learned in how to run your imprint?
2 Chainz: The most important thing about the past is that it’s the past. As far as what I’m doing and artist that I’m with or the campaigns that I’m doing. It’s a new day in Hip Hop period. It’s new talent, it’s new imagery, it’s new swag and a new way of life. I’m happy to be apart of it. For that, I just want to tell you what ever we’re doing is organic, it’s real and we’re trying to see people eat. In order to compete, you have to number one believe in God, number two, gotta have a high work ethic and everything else is going to fall in place. All that other stuff, we aint talking about nothing.
DX: How did you go about choosing the first five artists in your roster?
2 Chainz: So far, it’s been organic. There wasn’t a recruitment process or anything.
Me and Cap 1 been rocking since day one and he’s always been there for me whether I was Titty Boi or 2 Chainz doing shows and whatnot. That was inevitable.
Short Dawg been knowing me for years. It’s been times we’ve been around each other and we didn’t talk about music at all. That’s been organic and he has a high skill set.
Skooly as well, we just been rocking out; he’s the little brother I’ve never had. I’m super duper confident in him. He’s a walking star.
All of that was really a no brainer.
DX: What does T.R.U Jack City represent for T.R.U?
2 Chainz: It’s like a mixtape but a compellation as well. It’s a group project. Sometimes I do a verse, sometimes hooks as well as anyone on the label. We all dib and dab and some of us are on some songs and some of us aren’t. It’s a good depiction and good trajectory of where we’re trying to go with the movement. In the summertime we plan on dropping some music. This project is really to introduce us to the masses.
DX: Obviously the project is inspired by New Jack City. Talk about your thoughts on the film two decades later. Is there a favorite scene from the film?
2 Chainz: It’s just a concept of them taking a apartment complex and turning it into a trap. Everybody on the phone can relate to. We just piggy back off the concept of turning the city into our personal trap house. We’re serving these Yams. I liked the whole movie man. I’m not one who just liked one particular scene, I loved the art. Even though it was an important movie, they had a timeline in reality.
DX: The first lead-up to the mixtape came in the surprise debate with Nancy Grace about marijuana legalization. How did you feel about the overwhelming response that was in your favor?
2 Chainz: It was so much love. I was so excited I can’t front. It wasn’t overwhelming but it was outstanding, I can’t lie. That’s never happened to me before and it just felt like I’ve had days where I felt like everybody was against me. It felt good to get a W.
DX: It was a big win! How exactly did that opportunity come about?
2 Chainz: It wasn’t no motivation man. It was just a phone call. They’re based out of Atlanta, I live in Atlanta. It was just something that wasn’t planned. It just blew up the way it did. I could never plan something like that. I’m just happy about it. I get calls to management all the time sometimes you decline, sometimes you do it. With this one, I felt like it wouldn’t hurt to do it, especially when you have a project coming out. I guess it backfired on her but it was good for the whole campaign and me. We’re just moving on, moving on. Just showing you that some of us may have some consciousness. We may talk about the club and smoking weed inside of them but at the same time we kind-of know what’s right and what’s wrong.
DX: Did Kanye give you any particular advice in running your own label?
2 Chainz: Naw, you really don’t have to ask for advice from anyone. You can just look at the blueprint and see how this artist did it. In my opinion, you don’t have to ask about something that’s right in front of you. Nobody is hiding their artist or their success. You go on and do it like that.
DX: Will there be a follow-up to B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time?
2 Chainz: I should have an album coming out this year. I’ll be switching into Titty Boi mode and really going hard on my project. When it comes to my work you’re going to expect a concept, you’re going to expect a storyline, expect bars and beats and everything else that comes with 2 Chainz. Right now and as far as 2014, I was really focusing on surrounding myself with a comfortable team for the youth and experience that could keep me alive and popping while giving me some longevity. I’m starting to feel like the beginning of that. Now, I can revert back to Titty Boi and being me again, 2 Chainz, Titty Boi the only child. Really going in and giving fans something to be proud of.
DX: What’s expected from people’s reaction when they hear someone from TRU?
2 Chainz: I think people understand that I don’t co-sign a lot of people. I don’t go around pounding whatever your song is or call around asking people to let me in on their remix. I really don’t care what you got going on. When I do care about what you got going on, I think it draws interest and people that watch my moves and observe me are like if Chainz is interested in this certain campaign then I think I need to be interested. I’m not one to co-sign just anything. For me, this is some real live catch.
Introducing The TRU Administration
Considering Skateboard Skooly’s (Kazarion Fowler) background as one-half of Grand Hustle duo Rich Kidz, he has much in common with 2 Chainz. Along with RKaelub, the duo dropped the Columbia Records debut EP Y.A.R.S. last summer. Stepping out on his own, Skooly is steadily working on his solo mixtape Blacc Jon Gotti.
DX: Explain the transition from half of the Rich Kidz to joining TRU.
Skooly:Yeah. Like brother said, it was inevitable. We’ve been knowing each other for a minute. I won’t say that I’m not Rich Kidz right now. It’s Rich Kidz for life, me and Kaelub still talk, there isn’t hard feelings on nothing, we’re still together but as for TRU, this is what I’m on right now. This is what I’m doing and this is what’s going on. I really didn’t feel like it was a transition but more of a new start. It was something I always needed and never had.
DX: Was the removal of the Skateboard part of Skooly a decision inspired by 2 Chainz’s name change?
2 Chainz: That’s been him.
Skooly: I was always Skateboard Skooly. I got many names but ain’t no changing. I respect the craft so I didn’t change my genre or anything.
DX: What position do you play within TRU?
Skooly: My roll in TRU? I’m the shooter. I’mma rip every beat that comes across. I’m gon’ shoot. I’m going to kill. I’m the TRU shooter.
2 Chainz: Duckhunt!!
DX: Working on your own project?
Skooly: Yeah I got Blacc Jon Gotti mixtape coming that I’ve been promoting for a minute. I feel like it’s anticipated but not anticipated enough.
2 Chainz: It will be.
Skooly: The whole crew has been helping me from 2 Chainz to Cap. Everyone has been helping me. It’s going to come around and be what everyone expects it to be. I know that much. Its coming but TRU Jack City is what we’re worrying about right now.
Chicago native Cap 1 has a relationship with 2 Chainz that began as a mutual friendship. Since then, he’s essentially been featured on every album ranging from TRU REALigon to B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time. Makes sense that this would evolve into a deal with The Real U.
DX: Talk about your relationship with 2 Chainz, it goes back pretty far correct?
Cap 1: Yeah you can say that. Shout out to Shawnna, she was like a sister. All of this goes back to the DTP movement with Luda and Shawnna. A lot of times, when they would have different shows, I would pop up in support of her. At the time, me and 2 Chainz kind-of clicked. We came from the same walks of life but we were from two different cities. I experienced a lot of my first times in Atlanta with 2 Chainz whether it be Magic City or a lot of different things the city had to offer. He was a brother who always pulled me in to show some love. We’ve been rocking ever since whether it was music or whatever.
DX: You dropped Caviar Dreams 2 fall of last year and Bird Bath in early January which was two of several projects released over the years. How hard has your grind been?
Cap 1: I think it’s more so being consistent. We’ve all developed work ethics we apply daily. We’re doing something every day to get better at it. I feel like I’ve been perfecting my craft and the music I’ve been putting out has been sticking. I’ll do what I can do to remain relevant and get a bigger audience as well as my fan-base. We got them listening right now. We’re going to drop this TRU Jack City and going to show that we are definitely a problem as individuals and as a whole movement.
DX: Being from Chicago and the span of your career, do you consider yourself a veteran? What position do you play within TRU?
Cap 1: I’m a soldier who does what needs to be done. Whatever role I need to play that day, that’s what happens. We move as a family so there isn’t any big I’s or little U’s. It’s whatever.
I bring the Mid-West, we’re all from different places and different towns. I just bring that Mid-West flavor whether it be that rapping flow, that slow flow or that swag flow. That’s the element that I bring to the table.
Fresh (a.k.a. Short Dawg)
Formerly known as Short Dawg, Fresh’s history in his native city of Houston isn’t something to disregard. However, most should remember him during his time with Lil Wayne during a pre- Drake and Nicki Minaj YMCMB. That includes popular mixtape Weezy standard “Me and My Drank.”
DX: What’s your relationship with 2 Chainz?
Fresh: We mutually knew each other years back as both of us were on Def Jam. The relationship got straightened being around Wayne and developed our own chemistry. Then we started rocking out from there cause I lived in Atlanta for like six years. That’s how that grew.
DX: You spent a lot of time getting your start in H-Town right before making moves?
Fresh: That basically came from just stepping out on faith as an artist. I always believed in myself. Once I learned how to rap, I knew I was better than average. I left my city and went to where music was poppin which was the A. Then I signed my first deal and met everyone I was on the phone with right now. That was that.
Fresh: We’ve been cool for a while like they stated before. When 2 Chainz was trying to move forward with his imprint, he extended the invitation it was a no brainer; real automatic. We just mashed out.
DX: Your time over at Young Money had to change your approach to time at TRU right?
Fresh: Of course, every situation should be a learning experience and that means everything I’ve learned throughout the year. Not just about being around Lil Wayne and Young Money, everything is implied as we move toward this new situation we’re doing now. I learned a lot over the years being in the industry.
DX: What position do you play within TRU?
Fresh: I guess that Southern side, I’d like to say metaphors are some of my strong points. I can sing too. Me and Skooly may do an R&B album together some time later. I’m playing whatever role that calls on though. If they need me to do whatever, I’m here.