2 Chainz is a phenomenon. The Georgia-based rapper has featured on every big budget hip-hop album and mixtape of 2012 so far, cultivated a portfolio of compliments from superstar artists, snagged a major label deal with Def Jam, and developed his own catch phrase (even if it’s based around little more than hollering his own name). But 2 Chainz’s rise so far has been based on his value as an accoutrement to other rappers – he’s the guest verse artist of the day. Now with his debut album he’s revealed himself as bare and buffoonish.
For his part, 2 Chainz certainly sounds enthusiastic when he raps on the 13 tracks that make up his debut. But his energy has never been in doubt – it’s his lyrics. Throughout the album, Chainz kicks a series of amazingly flimsy rhymes that most times have him coming off like the resurrection of a character from Chris Rock’s gangsta rap parody CB4 but without the knowing humor. “Dope Peddler” has him boasting “Most of my niggas got gold teeth/ Most of my bitches got tattoos,” before explaining, “I’m in the trap ’cause I work there.” Then on “Extremely Blessed,” featuring The-Dream, he gives a lesson in mixing his metaphors, opening the track by rapping, “Give us this day our daily bread/ If you a chicken-head go somewhere and lay some eggs.” Soon though he’s talking about being “known to kill pussy” before rabbiting on about waffle houses. By the end of the first verse, all you’re really sure about is that at some point a young Chainz possibly had a memorable real life intimate encounter with a feathered friend. What the album lacks in substance, it obviously makes up for in energy, as songs like “Yuck” grab that “Truuuuuuu” intensity – though arguably most people will be whipping their hair around to Weezy’s verse more than Teta Chico’s.
Predictably, it doesn’t take long for Chainz to damn himself on his own album. As the Nicki Minaj co-starring “I Luv Dem Strippers” sparks into life, he begins by boasting about how “you are looking at a shark in a fish tank.” It’s as if he’s managed to unwittingly sum-up his own restrictions. As a guest rapper, he’s something like a big fish in a small pond – someone who might look and sound impressive at first glance, but is encumbered by stark limitations. Naturally, he’s thoroughly out-rhymed by every guest on the album – Kanye West, Drake, Minaj, Scarface – and that might be the real reason behind the 2 Chainz phenomenon: He’s a rapper that other rappers will endorse because they know he’ll bring a certain amount of idiotic energy to their own track while never threatening their dominant status. He should stick to that pool.