2 Chainz’ ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time’: Album Review

Tauheed “2 Chainz” Epps’ emergence as one of hip-hop’s most ubiquitous and celebrated personalities, after banging around Southern rap hot spots in the shadow of Ludacris and Lil Wayne since the late ’90s, mirrors the relative successful trajectory of another veteran Dirty South alum who has seen a recent career renaissance: Killer Mike. But while Killer Mike has slowly worked his way toward becoming one of the most critically lauded MCs around — thanks to his unparalleled rhyming chops and a fruitful partnership with underground icon El-P — 2 Chainz’ dominance of the contemporary mainstream hip-hop landscape is due in large part to his charisma, energy and high profile friends. As a result, he has evolved into a sort of all-encompassing symbol of rap’s jokey excesses, popping up on tons of skyrocketing singles with forgettable verses but memorable one-liners, making his presence a Billboard-validated placeholder for “gangsta rap.”

But despite Epps’ lyrical limitations compared to his peers, his major label debut Based On A T.R.U. Story made good on the best parts of the 2 Chainz experience — banging pop-trap with high profile cameos and hilarious punchlines — while leaving little room to scratch the shallow depths of 2 Chainz’ Hot 100-ready visage.

For his second major label release, B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (out ), 2 Chainz doesn’t mess with the formula, putting together another overstuffed list of heavyweight guests (requisite appearances from Drake and Lil Wayne, plus PharrellFergie, Pusha T, Mike WiLL Made It) to lounge, bark and boast over an even glossier set of beats than those on his previous album. And considering how much 2 Chainz’s stature has grown in the past year alone, B.O.A.T.S. II becomes something like a victory lap run at full speed, underlining repeatedly all the things that he enjoys/does well without even considering a move outside of his comfort zone.

Take the lead single “Feds Watching,” produced/assisted by reigning king of the summer Pharrell. 2 Chainz (also the album’s executive producer) takes a candy-coated, day-glo version of the syrupy beats he became famous for, and boasts about his brand fetishes and stacks of money in front of FBI surveillance. It’s an over the top track, even by 2 Chainz’ standards, that takes on real world relevance thanks to the huge bust his tour bus had in Oklahoma City, but becomes an almost endearingly ridiculous caricature of hip-hop hedonism, even if that wasn’t the intended outcome.

That paves the way for the Diplo-produced (taking a stab at big tent trap music and killing it in the process) duet with Fergie, “Netflix.” The song hinges on the funniest/dumbest/smartest couplet on the album that could double as a catchall post-millennial proverb, one that, if we are lucky, will be featured in the 2113 edition of Bartlett’s Quotations: “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix (word) / Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix.”

From there, B.O.A.T.S. II rolls out one polished, pummeling, slowly-rapped jam (the drill-like “Where U Been?”) after another (the rap/trap/stripping thunderstorm “I Do It” with Weezy and Drake) after another (the comically slow motion “moving weight” lurch of “Extra”). Only the dark, bass-blaring weirdness of “Mainstream Ratchet” manages to make some interesting noise. Produced by relative unknown Lil Korey, “Mainstream Ratchet” sounds like Three 6 Mafia soundtracking a nightmare, thick with strange textures — the gothic organs/pianos, the industrial clank/distorted gospel chanting, the ominous pendulum swing of the insanely low registering synths — that bubble, burp and overlap as 2 Chainz, for the only time on the entire album, seems like he’s in on the joke: “Last night I bought the supermodel / Got head on the way home / She left her other friends at the club / Got home, and I fucked her with my chains on / And that’s ratchet huh?”

It’s rare moment in which 2 Chainz looks back at the listener, winks and basically admits everything he’s saying and doing is patently ridiculous. What’s troubling about this happening on a track like “Mainstream Ratchet” is that the production is so dark, and the lyrics so aggressive (even if they are self-aware) that the song becomes something like rap’s version of Michael Haneke’s Funny GamesAnd again, maybe I’m giving him a little too much credit, but it’s a fascinatingly artful moment on an album that’s pretty much destined to go platinum on the back of songs like “Feds Watching” and “Netflix.” Regardless, with the exception of “Mainstream Ratchet,” B.O.A.T.S. II is exactly what fans of 2 Chainz expect and want: a mindless, larger-than-life, quotable hip-hop album that will rattle car stereos in appropriate fashion.

Idolator Score: 2.5/5

Patrick Bowman

Tags: ,