By Christina Lee
Pictures by Brian Ziff
Photographer Assistant: Victor Rodriguez
Styled by Dominic Ciambrone, Blu Brewster
Key Make-up by Dominque Lerma
Set/Prop: Rian Calhoun
Inside a images studio in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District, 2 Chainz shakes his head with disapproval over my query: “On the subject of advertising your music, the place do you get your inspiration? Is there a guru of types, like former dot-com enterprise government Seth Godin?”
The query requires some clarification. For years in his native Atlanta, 2 Chainz has created one interactive expertise after one other to advertise his work as one of the vital indispensable rappers of the lure period. He had a Craftsman bungalow painted Sherman-Williams Jaipur Pink, bringing the duvet artwork of 2017’s “Fairly Women Like Entice Home” to life. (A haunted home model featured “zombie crackheads” and a stripper pole.) He owns a number of eating places, together with the unique Escobar Lounge, named after the notorious drug lord and positioned inside strolling distance of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And a pop-up nail salon led to Pamper Nail Studio, the place he carried out his NPR Tiny Desk live performance, rapping and getting a champagne-soaked pedicure at the same time.
Atlanta didn’t want the Museum of Ice Cream, it had the Pink Entice Home. 2 Chainz understands how his lived realities may grow to be vicarious thrills for the lots. Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” music video and circulation have been clearly impressed by him, as was the fast-food chain Krystal after they named him its new “head of creative marketing” to assist design certainly one of their places. I can’t clarify why Godin’s identify was the primary to come back to thoughts, however mentioning it to 2 Chainz was a grave mistake.
“I don’t get nothing from Seth Godin,” he says. “I get all of the stuff from me—me being influenced from the streets, me being at floor zero, me being a really competent Black male, which I’m instilling into my son [Halo, age 6]. You may’t even discover no person to try to take credit score for the Escobar Lounge and different concepts I convey to the desk. Advertising concepts and ideas is what I do, it’s one of many issues I’m excellent and blessed at. So there’s not a ebook I learn or a podcast I observe that influences me.”
The artist who as soon as boasted “I’m Totally different” has been that manner since earlier than he was even often called 2 Chainz. The “SOUTH SIDE” tattoo working down his left calf, by Todo B., signaled his hometown satisfaction lengthy earlier than he’d grow to be half proprietor of NBA G League crew the School Park Skyhawks. “I graduated highschool within the Southside,” he says. “I ran the streets on the Southside. I had an concept to do a leg sleeve as a result of everyone was doing arm sleeves and I wished to be distinctive. Plus, I had very skinny legs.”
That tattoo got here earlier than one of the vital memorable rebrands hip-hop has ever seen. Within the ’90s and early 2000s, the person born Tauheed Epps rapped as Tity Boi and one half of the duo Playaz Circle. Playaz Circle had signed to Ludacris’ label Disturbing tha Peace, although the group scored precisely one hit, “Duffle Bag Boy.” That small style of success, promoting 2 million ringtones, wasn’t even because of Luda, however to Lil Wayne, who’d encourage him to depart the label. 2 Chainz would have been silly to not pay attention. In August 2012, he acquired his first gold plaque for the Drake collaboration “No Lie” (which has since gone triple platinum) and launched his Def Jam debut, the No. 1-selling “Based mostly on a T.R.U. Story.” The identify change, from his childhood nickname to one thing extra aspirational, would without end alter his profession trajectory. 2 Chainz may virtually sense it the week earlier than “Based mostly on a T.R.U. Story” arrived when he previewed the album for journalists and tastemakers on the Atlanta-area Tree Sound Studios.
“Quite a lot of situations again then, I wasn’t residing within the second as a result of there have been so many issues occurring for me,” he says. “However I acquired on a little bit later in my profession, so to be receiving accolades so late in my profession and have individuals settle for my identify change and solo compositions … I used to be a go-to function for artists, however to have the ability to put out my very own solo mission, I felt like there was a whole lot of love within the constructing.”
Ten years and practically 9 million albums bought later, 2 Chainz is as soon as once more working together with his longtime mentor and favourite artist on the sequel to 2016’s “ColleGrove.” A Lil Wayne function is now not a lifeline, because it was again when he was Tity Boi. As an alternative, the “ColleGrove” sequel can be one more signal of mutual respect. “It wasn’t a plan or something,” 2 Chainz says. “It was solely two of us voting for it, and it was unanimous.”
Certainly, from the second the unique dropped, a sequel appeared inevitable. 2 Chainz was behind nearly all of the tracklist, since Lil Wayne was suing Cash Money for violating contract phrases, withholding funds and delaying the discharge of his personal solo work. But the chosen household resemblance—particularly, the dazzlingly fast wit and proudly lowbrow humorousness—nonetheless got here throughout, in album highlights like “Bounce” and “Gotta Lotta.”
Since he and Wayne had hit the studio simply the night time earlier than this interview, 2 Chainz was a bit cagey about “ColleGrove 2” particulars. However he does acknowledge one unfulfilled promise from the primary “ColleGrove” classes—the possibility for followers to listen to “Bars,” which was produced by Havoc of Mobb Deep and first revealed to Genius when “ColleGrove” arrived 5 years in the past.
“I’d say the one track that might be on [“ColleGrove 2”] from the earlier mission would in all probability be ‘Bars,’” he says, “and that’s as a result of it ought to have been on the primary one. I dunno what I used to be pondering.”
What comes after that for two Chainz is shrouded in much more thriller. He referred to as final summer time’s “Dope Don’t Promote Itself” his “final lure album,” and he instructed the New York Times that future music can be “sample-based, digging within the crates, the extra lyrical aspect of two Chainz.” As at all times, he’s a shrewd marketer.
However he’s additionally underselling the delightfully shocking decisions he’s made up to now. Last year his name trended on Twitter for no purpose apart from to determine that he’s the “Eddie Murphy of rap,” with traces like “Dick so arduous it make the steel detector go off.” He already interpolates and samples to great impact, like when he croons elements of New Version’s “Mr. Phone Man” (“I Luv Dem Strippers”), deploys near-vintage Jeezy and T.I. to time-travel again to Atlanta’s rap previous (“Entice Verify”), and options Southern College’s Human Jukebox to pay loving tribute to HBCU marching bands (“Cash Maker”). Furthermore, he’s transitioned from condiment couplets (“OK, now catch as much as my marketing campaign / coupe the colour of mayonnaise”) to album-long explorations of why the one two choices for achievement bought to Black males are rap and basketball as he did on 2019’s “Rap or Go to the League,” co-executive produced by LeBron James.
All of this got here to thoughts after I requested him to make clear what seemed like a rebrand: “How do you distinguish your previous work from what lies forward whenever you’ve already dug within the metaphorical crates and get remembered on your lyrics?”
“I’m at all times placing lyrical content material in all of my stuff, even the watered-down stuff,” he says. “Proper now the house I’m transferring in is ok. Nevertheless it’s not saying the primary one or two issues that come to thoughts. It’s about digging in and arising with concepts and ideas that individuals can hold onto and revel in for an extended time frame.
“I simply have far more tougher stuff that individuals haven’t heard but, what I imply?” he continues. “Not solely do I’ve stuff recorded that’s tremendous arduous that individuals haven’t heard, however there’s stuff I haven’t even performed but that I do know I’m able to doing, and that’s a complete different layer to Tity Boi. So, I simply know myself and know what I can convey to the desk.”
Higher but, amid no matter advertising stunt he pulls to promote us on what’s to come back, absolutely the final thing he’ll want is a reputation change.