What’s in a name? The storied quote would imply that a rapper by any other name is still just as [fill in the blank], but 2 Chainz, the Playaz Circle member who was better known as Tity Boi until fairly recently, might have a different perspective.
Since switching nom de plumes, the Georgia MC’s popularity has skyrocketed. It could be a coincidence, but either way, the kid’s everywhere. He spent the last week recording verses for a slew of remixes. He popped up on Wale’s “Bait,” rocked with French Montana for a joint, and rapped side by side with Juicy J. And that’s just his features.
2 Chainz’s mixtape Codeine Cowboy, which came out last winter and contained the song “Spend it,” has been a staple for DJs at New York hotel bars and Atlanta hole-in-the-wall-clubs alike. People are still bumping “Spend It” all over, but that didn’t stop him from releasing the mixtape T.R.U. REALigion last month. We caught up with him on a visit to New York, where he was—what else?—working.
So what’re you doing in my city?
Just doubling back really. Since my mixtape [T.R.U REALigion] dropped November 1 I’m just following up on a few things I have going. I want to maximize the “Spend It” wave, so I’m making appearances, shaking hands, getting feedback. But also since it’s getting close to Christmas I’m also going to visit a few homeless shelters for battered women facilities. Might shoot some visuals while I’m out here too. Y’know, it’s like my song says, “I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Wow. So do you make it a point to visit shelters in all cities you visit?
I always do stuff to give back. Depending what city I’m in, I’ll usually schedule a surprise visit to some sort of facility that helps people. We usually call ahead to whatever city we’ll be in and find those types of places so we can give back to them.
And I’m about to do my 142nd show this year so I’ve been getting around a lot, just spreading love for those in need.
How important to you is giving back?
Well I come from that, you know? I came up under Ludacris, and Luda has like two nonprofit organizations that help people. To me you should do for people that can’t do for themselves. Plus, if you’re doing it genuinely out of the kindness of your heart without anyone asking you to do it, that says a lot. I give away a lot of stuff. When some corporate people find out they’re like “Oh you should’ve told us. We could’ve have gotten the company to donate them.” But I don’t care if I pay for [gifts]. I’d rather just do it on my own.
Let’s backtrack a bunch. What were you like in high school?
Most popular. Best dressed. I was on the basketball team. I’m 6’5″, so I played everything from the 1 to the 3. I can grab rebounds and still push that rock. I loved basketball.
Did you ever apply your on-court lessons to the rap game or just life in general?
Well, not lessons but I use my peripherals. Like… I can see you when you trying to ride up on me, boy! I can see you out the corner of my eye!
2 Chainz Feat. Dolla Boy, “Role Model”
What was your childhood like?
I’m from College Park, Georgia. I was raised by a single black woman, Ms. Epps. I love her, that’s my heart. I’m an only child so it was just me and her. I knew my dad, but he spent most of my young life in and out of prison. But I still always respected him. He’s doing well now, though, and he actually lives with me.
How’d you start hustling?
I’m a product of my environment. The apartment complex I’m from, pretty much everyone sold something illegal or had some type of hustle. I’ve been a felon since I was 15 years old. It’s nothing to brag about and you’ll rarely hear it in my music, but it is what it is and most importantly it helped shape the person that I am now.
Well, I learned the importance of learning from your mistakes early on in life. Even though it was hell at the time, getting caught selling coke at 15 and then getting caught selling weed my senior year in high school, I still learned from those experiences. I learned life is not a game. Getting caught in 12th grade messed up a lot of my opportunities to play ball on a scholarship. Which in turn made me become the artist you see today, but still… it could’ve gone either way.
So what do you think has given you an edge over the competition?
Well, just like when I was playing ball, I used to play ball every day; now that I rap, I do this every day. This is my job. I’m always in the studio. If I can’t get to the studio, then I’m doing interviews. Like, for instance, after some interviews last night, I did a photo shoot with Kay Slay for his magazine. Then I went back to my suite at the W to link with Jadakiss so we can shoot a video for “One Day At A Time.” Not only did I invite him over, I got Jim Jones to shoot and direct the video. A lot of people don’t know he directed a lot of Dip Set videos, so I just wanted to acknowledge him for that skill. Plus I just like to push the envelope. It’s what I do.
So what’s your label situation like?
I’m completely independent. All the DVDs and videos you see me doing, the cups, the gifts… it’s all funded by my left pocket. I pray a lot and I’m pretty sure my prayers will be answered, but I’m not stressing a deal. My phone rings every 30 minutes with some money at the other end. So, you know.