On one hand, 2 Chainz is the butt of jokes about how low hip-hop has sunk, while on the other, he is an example of a carefree, wildly entertaining rhymer not unlike the early rap pioneers Sugarhill Gang. Fame came late for the Atlanta native, as he rose to prominence just a few years ago, well into his 30s, following a failed stint on Ludacris’ DTP imprint on Def Jam as Tity Boy of Playaz Circle, a group that put out a modest hit with “Duffle Bag Boy.” Changing his moniker to 2 Chainz and going on a guest feature tear, he was picked up by Def Jam as a solo artist, releasing Based on a T.R.U. Story, which contained the hits “No Lie” with Drake, “Birthday Song” with Kanye West and the DJ Mustard-produced “I’m Different.” With his latest, B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME, 2 Chainz seamlessly picks up where he left off, with even more braggadocio, uptempo Southern bangers, and a few poignant moments.
The album opener, “Fork,” establishes the motivation behind 2 Chainz hustle: “I had a dream that rap wouldn’t work, I woke up on the block, had to hit it with the fork.” It’s humorous lines like “my wrists deserve a shout out, like ‘what’s up wrists?” that differentiate him from the run-of-the-mill trap rappers, as he gloats over rap riches, with more of the same on the rock guitar-spiffed hit single “Feds Watching” featuring Pharrell.
Drake and Lil Wayne pop up on the menacing “I Do It,” and while their lyrics don’t break any new ground, the song will satiate clubs worldwide. Where they lack substance, all three rappers provide just what the masses want. The song ends with soulful crooning from an unidentified singer who vocalizes, “right now it’s me time,” an unneeded reminder that narcissism is a central theme of the record.
The album’s biggest surprise is the appearance of Fergie of Black Eyed Peas on “Netflix.” It’s hardly an ad for the digital streaming service, but that doesn’t stop 2 Chainz from suggesting “let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix.” Fergie spices up the track considerably and turns 2 Chainz’s signature “when I die, bury me inside the Gucci store” quip into “when I die, bury me inside the liquor store, ’cause when I die Fergie still gonna be getting dough.” It’s ignorant entertainment at its finest.
B.O.A.T.S. II succeeds by striking a superb balance between mainstream and street-oriented songs. “Extra” with Rich Homie Quan and “36” counter the pop-oriented cuts like “Netflix” and “I Do It.” With a spoken word intro from Sunni Patterson and Chrisette Michele vocals on “Black Unicorn,” 2 Chainz provides his most poignant song to date, reflecting on his journey and even quoting label-mates Jay-Z and Nas. He truly reaches another level here, capping off with the best single quote on the album with “you need a focus group, my group focused.”
The moment of clarity is a nice way to provide context for the entertaining ignorance that has anchored 2 Chainz in the mainstream. With B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME, he captains a very big shiny yacht through rough waters with skill and precision.