The first track on 2 Chainz’s third studio album, ColleGrove, opens with a candid exchange between Lil Wayne and the former Playaz Circle member when he was known as Tity Boi, in which Wayne is trying to get him to leave Ludacris’ College Park label, Disturbing Tha Peace, and join what would become the pride of Hollygrove, Young Money. Wayne’s recruiting tactics weren’t enough to get Tity Boi to jump ship in 2004 but the ensuing three-verse “Dedication” to Weezy F. Baby depicts a fraternal bond stronger than any (Young Money, Cash Money, Republic Records or Universal Music Group) contract. 2 Chainz’s ode to Tunechi might come off as strange since Weezy is five years his junior but a quick look at the trajectory of the Hair Weave Killer’s career has gratitude written all over it. Lil Wayne’s show-stopping performance on the Playaz Circle duo’s only hit, “Duffle Bag Boy,” came at a time when a hook from Weezy was more coveted than a pair of Yeezys is today.
You could easily credit Wayne with laying the foundation for the rebranding stage of Tity Boi’s career (on “Dedication”: “If it wasn’t for Wayne it wouldn’t be, a lot of dudes in the game including me”). Now, almost a decade after their first collaboration, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne put together some of their best work in years on ColleGrove.
The stereotypical chemistry discussion that surrounded Drake and Future’s one-sided What a Time To Be Alive affair doesn’t hold much weight on ColleGrove. If there’s any quote-unquote chemistry here; it’s just the product of pure competition on the mic. Tune into the album’s third track, “Bounce” if you ever wondered what a Floyd Mayweather sparring match sounds like. The two go bar-for-bar over a spiraling beat with a minimal hook on the back end that simply referees the entertaining four-minute bout. 2 Chainz’s outrageous “I’ll kiss your lady, eat her pussy then leave the baby,” line is the byproduct of going toe-to-toe with one of the most clever wordsmiths of this generation. There are times when 2 Chainz dominates the project (“Bentley Truck”) and other times when vintage Weezy straight up dismembers songs as heard on “Rolls Royce Weather Every Day.” The friendly competition on eight of Collegrove’s 12 tracks are refreshing reminders that collaborative work out of pure love of the craft still exists in an industry controlled by the search for the next big hit.
ColleGrove peaks when it stumbles onto potential hits off sheer energy but it never sparks the same fervor that songs about their old stomping grounds could. The record never actually takes listeners back to 2 Chainz’s and Wayne’s respective College Park and Hollygrove days as its title suggests. It would’ve been nice to hear 2 Chainz and Wayne follow up the moving first track with a song that channels their respective hoods (see Wayne’s Sorry 4 the Wait 2 single, “Hollyweezy”) instead of a five-minute track about smelling like money or smoking 100 joints a day. Metro Boomin’s hypnotizing production on the aforementioned “Bentley Truck,” fall in line with “Dresser,” the strongest street anthem in 2 Chainz’s catalogue. Even the project’s moneymaker, “Watch Out,” sits comfortably at the end, hitting just as hard as it did on 2015’s Trap-A-Velli-Tre mixtape. Acoustic guitar riffs and an EDM-inspired beat drop on “What Happened” stray from the natural flow of the album as it drifts into the same crossover waters that Chainz’s Diplo-produced track, “Netflix” once sunk in. Rebirth Weezy (minus the Auto-Tune) tries to keep the song from completely capsizing but just like the follow up to Tha Carter III—it’s pretty painful. The duo are more in sync when they challenge one another with clever one-liners (see Wayne on “Blue C-Note”: “I keep on switching wifeys, you gotta Uncle Phil me”).
The previously released solo cuts from 2 Chainz’s impressive mixtape run dating back to last year are sprinkled throughout the concise effort. “MFN RIght” is backed by Mike Will’s hit-ready drums, leaving room for a dope flute arrangement and some heavenly Zaytoven keys while the electric guitar riffs on TM88’s “Not Invited” capture Trapavelli Hendrix in rare form. Some might question Weezy’s absence on those tracks but the lack of College Park and Hollygrove flavor is what’s really missing on an album that reads like a hood reunion on paper.