As Tity Boi, the College Park, Ga., rapper reestablished himself as a solo artist with a no-nonsense, “family-gotta-eat flow.” (“Don’t worry about my other profession,” he raps, as a baby cries, “’cause it sends shock in the other direction.”) In his Def Jam debut Based On A T.R.U. Story, (out today, ) the more playful 2 Chainz, now age 35, reintroduces himself as an executive of sorts who’s ironed out his operations — in this case, that he has the women and income he wants, but that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The first few seconds of the album are even a punchline in and of themselves: ominous woodwinds, alarming strings, and then his four-year-old daughter’s cry of playful disgust. “Yuck, Daddy!”
2 Chainz still raps of the trap life as he did in songs leading up to Based On A T.R.U. Story, though his lyrical tales still dart back and forth between his luxury convertibles, choice strip clubs and assigned corners. (His idea of a change of pace: “In Town,” about a semi-regular rendezvous that begins when a woman picks him up from the airport, then pulls up to the neighborhood cul-de-sac.) But while he could easily just rattle off rhymed lists of his possessions and name-drop kingpins, 2 Chainz makes light of his hustle with sillier references. In “Stop Me Now” he says, “Graduated from high school, then bought a choppa / Orville Redenbacher, bitch we got it poppin’ / on the block with that white girl, Cyndi Lauper.” Later, he says his car should wear Pampers — as in, it’s shitting all over his competition.
For parts of Based On A T.R.U. Story, 2 Chainz re-hired producers from his mixtape grind, such as Mike Will Made It and Drumma Boy. Their beats help 2 Chainz sound grounded in a good way, as if he’s still entrenched in the trap’s mass production. However, the current guest-verse king also ends up humbled by the album’s spate of guest verses. In “I Luv Dem Strippers,” Nicki Minaj gets the last laugh as she revels in her ability to diss via childhood favorite The Little Engine That Could, then spits out 2 Chainz’s name as if she just remembered whose track this was. In “Ghetto Dreams,” 2 Chainz rattles out details of sleeping on a couch, then waking up on a bigger couch, only to rely on Scarface to explain why. Maybe 2 Chainz doesn’t really trust himself to rap about his fears for an entire song, but by now and especially in his debut, he should have seized every chance to have the last word.
Still, like many rappers who ascend from the no-rules mixtape to the corporate mainstream, 2 Chainz had to please two distinctly different crowds with his major-label debut. Fortunately, instead of skirting either set of expectations, Based On A T.R.U. Story tries its damnedest to meet both with a catchier name, choruses tailor-made for a tipsy stupor and punchlines that promise to tickle lyrics-oriented listeners. Best of all, even coming from a rapper with veteran mixtape status and growing industry clout, Based On A T.R.U. Story delivers perhaps the best feeling to get out of a debut — that he’s only just getting started.
The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: Try the straightforward trap-rap track “Crack” — pronounced cri-nack in the chorus and produced by 1017 Brick Squad resident producer Southside.
Best Listened To: As Clipse once said, “Top down, chrome spinning.” Pretending is fine too.
Full Disclosure: I live in Atlanta, and while out, I am the type of resident rap listener who really doesn’t mind hearing “Riot” three times in one club, as the night wears on.
Idolator Rating: 3.5/5
— Christina Lee