Last night at the 40/40 Club, during the listening session for 2 Chainz’s debut Based On A T.R.U. Story (Def Jam), it became apparent that the Atlanta MC grew up watching What’s Happening?—he kept insisting that he could feel someone recording his album in the crowd a la Rerun’s run-in with the Doobie Brothers. As a result he said he wouldn’t play the entire album for the assembled; he played enough of it to give the fiends in the crowd a breeze, but not enough to catch a real vibe.
Chainz packed the house with “a lot of black card holders,” as he put it. DJ Enuff, Ebro and Angie Martinez repped for Hot 97. Def Jam was heavy with their fairly newly appointed president Joie Manda, as well as Universal Republic/ Island Def Jam chairman Barry Weiss. Even Memphis Bleek (!!!), sporting his trademark white tee and Yankee fitted, stepped off the back of a milk carton to be there.
All the screens in the glamorized sports bar played 2 Chainz videos with the sound off while staff handed out 2 Chainz fans with a graphic of his album cover. Behind the bar, the bartenders doled out free Ciroc while cocktail waitresses carried trays of 40/40 Club patron Jay-Z’s new cognac, D’Ussé.
After two hours of DJ SNS spinning MMG, YMCMB and G.O.O.D. (a lot initials in today’s rap) a waft of weed filled the sports bar; Tity Boi and his entourage had arrived. Chainz, wearing some tie-dyed spandexish shirt with splashes of animal print that everyone immediately commented on, wasted no time getting on the mic to introduce the songs to NYC. “I know the songs aren’t familiar… yet,” he explained. “But you might as well start getting used to them.” Here’s what was played.
“Yuck!” (feat. Lil Wayne)
This one might be better after a few listens. It’s definitely not wack; it just should pack a bigger punch as an intro. Also, up until this point 2 Chainz has been a “feature rapper”—it may have been wiser to start the album off on a solo note to show he can stand on his own.
Crack! Self-explanatory. Good beat for head-bussing and drink spilling.
2 Chainz pays homage to his journey from selling dope to making dope music. This song’s hook wins, and the beat is slick. Chainz said he holds “Dope Peddler” in high regard because he was trapping since high school, and at times he felt he’d never leave that life. That explanation made the celebratory vibe of the song all the more tangible.
“Birthday Song” (feat. Kanye West)
Chainz said that he and Yeezy had just shot a video for this Sonny Digital-produced ode to birthday wishes and the thick, voluptuous girls who make them come true. Tity Boi more than holds his own with Yeezy, which is a lot more than a lot of more “lyrical” rappers can do.
Southern shit-talking at it’s finest, with braggadocio-stuffed wordplay that may have seemed far-fetched last summer, but that’s all too true in 2012. When he raps “100K for a feature,” you actually kinda sorta believe that that’s what he’s receiving for guest verses now. Just for good measure, he outlines a few other minor reasons why he’s different, including his car, the caliber of women he attracts now and his thought patterns that help him think outside the trap.
“Extremely Blessed” (feat. The-Dream)
This journey through 2 Chainz’s great life is a smooth R&B joint with The-Dream offering up laid-back, effortless vocals. It could’ve come off as sappy, but you get a feeling Chainz is genuinely grateful to be where he is. (Plus, Southern humility is always refreshing in New York.)
“I Luv Dem Strippers”
Pretty straightforward ode to fast girls who shake body parts for money. Being from ATL I’m sure he felt he had to speak on such a big part of his city’s culture. Nicky Minaj has a guest verse on the song, conjuring the Bonnie-and-Clyde chemistry they tapped into for “Beez In The Trap.”
2 Chainz, “Riot”
(Around this time Rick Ross walked in, also smelling like weed. He greeted Chainz; the two spoke briefly; and Ross was out the door.)
“Ghetto Dreams” (feat, John Legend and Scarface)
This was a pleasant surprise, and probably the song that resonated most due to its more substantial subject matter. Face and John Legend do their thing, but even though Face has been known to murder rappers on their own shit Chainz maintains ownership of the song with strong verses. (This impression may change after several listens, though.)
“Wut We Doing?” (feat. Cap 1)
Run-of-the-mill club stuff with a kind of annoying hook and a a slight air of filler, but I’m sure to drunk listeners it’s perfect music for two-stepping.
(At this point, Chainz said he was skipping more tracks because he “could feel it in my gut… someone is recording all of this.”)
As this song began to play, Chainz insisted that we “listen to the words, people.” It was a little hard to catch the words by this point but he did spit a couple of “positive” bars on there. The beat works because it’s not soft, so the raps come off sharp instead of melodramatic and dull.
“Countdown” (feat. Chris Brown)
A doozy. Sonically sophisticated, and I can see this making some rounds in Europe and South Beach and being 2 Chainz’s crossover to the mainstream.
This song made me a 2 Chainz fan, especially after he released the video shot in one of the clubs he’s rapping about here. The night ended with a playthrough of this track.