Yeah, we knew 2 Chainz was going places. From now on, just trust us.
Words by Benjamin Meadows-Ingram
Images by Diwang Valdez
It’s a Tuesday night in early August, and 2 Chainz is in his studio in the Southside of Atlanta, working.
“Murder!” he yells into his cell as a beat pounds through studio speakers in the background. The record—a stripped-down, bare- bones thing built on rolling highs and thundering lows—blares for and fellow College Park native Earl “Dolla Boy” Conyers in the late ’90s, 2 Chainz’s career has been marked by as many setbacks as steps forward. He’s been shot (in the ankle), seen his partner locked up (Dolla Boy did a bid shortly after the two dropped their indepen- dent debut, United We Stand, United We Fall, in 2002) and watched a minute or so, with 2 Chainz occasionally jumping in to punctuate lines over a main vocal track that’s already been laid. From the other end of the call, it’s unclear if he’s adding depth to a track that’s damn near done or if he just can’t get enough of the song. Either way, it’s important enough for him to share.
“I’m sorry, brah,” he says, when the beat finally cuts and silence settles over the line. “I’m good now. What’s up?”
A better question: What isn’t?
It’s been one hell of a summer for the rapper born Tauheed Epps, formerly known as Tity Boi of Playaz Circle and now officially going by 2 Chainz. Riding a string of Southern street heaters that dates back to the spring of 2009, 2 Chainz has kicked his way into the conversation thanks to a relentless approach to what he calls the “2 Chainz campaign.” In less than two years, he’s dropped six solo tapes and shot enough video clips—including the minidocumen- tary Codeine Cowboy—to keep his name jumping in the World Star stream. But it’s not just about quantity. Last year’s impressive Trap- A-Velli 2: The Residue and the more recent Codeine Cowboy (A 2 Chainz Collective), which dropped in February, as well as a series of high-profile features on records by Wale (“Globetrotter”), Juicy J (“Oh Well” and “Zip and a Double Cup”) and Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame (“Mud Musik” from 1017 BrickSquad Presents Ferrari Boyz) have established 2 Chainz and his flamboyant—hustle hard, spend fast, smoke loud and floss daily—lifestyle at the forefront of today’s traps-and-trunks scene. Codeine Cowboy’s “Spend It” has been burning up blocks throughout the South since it dropped, and his short, tight set at Hot 107.9 Atlanta’s Birthday Bash 16 lit up the crowd like a fistful of princess cuts. Not bad for a guy once best known as one the two rappers not named Lil Wayne to appear on the 2007 smash “Duffle Bag Boy.”
“I always felt I had the raps; always felt I had the respect of the industry—other rappers and executives,” says 2 Chainz, a College Park, Georgia, native who’s been signed to Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace since 2002. “It was just about connecting the dots and bring- ing it all together to connect with the fans.”
For years it looked like that would never happen. Since first form- ing the group that would become Playaz Circle with childhood friend his biggest record, “Duffle Bag Boy,” from Playaz Circle’s DTP debut, Supply & Demand, do more to set up Wayne’s Tha Carter III than dis- tinguish him as one to watch. But instead of fading into the back- ground as an extra to Luda’s super-starring role, he and Dolla Boy built a studio and went to work. According to 2 Chainz, that was the move that changed the game.
“It makes such a difference to be able to work and not be always conscious of the time [you’re taking] because you’re paying for it,” says 2 Chainz, who recently swapped out his stage name from his family given nickname, Tity Boi, to the more retail friendly 2 Chainz, a handle he picked up in middle school, for what his associate and frequent collaborator, DJ Teknik, characterizes as “obvious reasons.”
“To be able to get the raps in my head out whenever I want with- out worrying about it—that’s what changed.”
These days, if 2 Chainz isn’t on the road, chances are he’s in the lab clocking a full day’s work in the middle of the night. (“When my girl starts calling, and I see the school buses and the neighbors start going to work, that’s when I know it’s time to punch out,” he says.) And that commitment to the grind is paying off.
“He’s really one of the hottest in the city right now,” says DJ Drama, who recently tapped 2 Chainz for the remix to “Oh My,” the lead single from his upcoming album, Third Power. “And he really did it the right way. Maybe it was a little slower [than he might have wanted], but he really represents the power of coming along step by step instead of being an overnight success.”
Now 2 Chainz is focused on keeping his campaign going strong and extending his summer heat into the early fall. He hopes to drop a new tape in time for homecoming and talks about other mixtape projects, including one from Dolla Boy and affiliate Cap 1, coming from the DB camp soon. And while he brushes aside recent rumors of a possible move from DTP to Cash Money—stoked, no doubt, by his relationship with Baby and Wayne, as seen in Codeine Cowboy— he doesn’t deny being open to taking calls from anyone looking to turn the 2 Chainz street campaign into one backed by the suits. But there’s one caveat: The conversation has to involve a big M.
“You know how people say it ain’t about the money?” he asks before signing off and, presumably, getting back to work. “It is.”
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