[12 November 2013]
For an artist who reinvented himself and found fame in his mid-thirties through the mixtape scene, the fact that 2 Chainz was able to complete and convince his label to release a second retail album in less than a year is a real shocker. But then I suppose surprises have been Tauheed Epps’ modus operandi in the three years since he began tagging his Tity Boi mixtapes “aka 2 Chainz”, in turn adopting a persona that was less earnest Ludacris weed carrier and more hip hop clown prince. And in the year since Based on a T.R.U. Story surprised the world by not only being tolerable but unabashedly fun from start to finish, 2 Chainz has only doubled down on that strategy. Much like his “mentor” Luda (who is physically just one day older), the months following his debut have been a whirlwind of highlight-level feature verses. Between “Mercy”, “Rich as Fuck”, “Bandz a Make Her Dance”, “Fuckin’ Problems”, and his own singles, 2 Chainz has never been far from the radio; the properly subtitled B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME is a well deserved victory lap.
But perhaps even more surprising than the swift execution of a “gimmicky” (as if comedy were somehow the bane of rap’s existence) mixtape rapper’s sophomore album is how good #METIME turned out to be. Where Based on a T.R.U. Story was a series of great singles surrounded by songs Epps’ fanbase could learn to love, #METIME is both a more indulgent album and a better experience for it. There are a few mistakes: the core conceit of “Netflix” (filming a sex tape and then uploading it to Netflix rather than YouTube) castrates its absurd premise by going overboard on intimations of honest sexuality, and epic banger “I Do It” follows the one Shawty Redd template (courtesy of former understudy D. Rich) I find hardest to get behind. It’s a drill’n'bass track disguised as celebratory strip joint-cum-gangsta repping jam, so schizophrenic as to leave one delirious by the end of its absurd six-minute running time. Adding Drake and Lil’ Wayne to that mess only further exacerbates its multiple personality disorder.
Mistakes are what one would expect from a 2 Chainz release, though, which is what makes the numerous smart decisions so surprising. For example, arguably the best moment on the album is tucked into the final 45 seconds of that sensory overload, a gospel cut called “Me Time” accredited to no one that I could leave on a loop for quite a while. The harmonies of its second half are legitimately chill-inducing. And the album’s other epic, “So We Can Live”, is a legitimate culture shock: what begins as a typical T-Pain and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League aspiration jam slowly and confidently transforms into a Gang Starr motivational over its seven-minute length. Nothing about the track is like anything we’ve heard from 2 Chainz, and it attests to the quite intelligent dude behind the business of getting ratchet.
There are other earnest moments on the latter half of the album, including “Black Unicorn”, which features his daughter reading a poem about her love for her family. Again, it’s noteworthy that these songs do nothing to detract from the image of 2 Chainz as a party man. In fact, they add some much needed and oft-missing gravitas to his fun-time raps, emphasizing that he is a man about his friends and family reveling in success over a decade in the making. But it’s the bangers fans will come for initially, and things are a little less surprising here. “Feds Watching” will one day be regarded as 2013’s lost summer anthem, the song that was undeservingly obfuscated by Pharrell’s other renaissance cuts, “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky”. But it’s a slow burn, 2 Chainz’ greatest song yet but nothing that’ll bring the twerk out the way “Birthday Song” or “I’m Different” did. The other club tracks mostly follow this professionalism model, resulting in a more consistent set than he’s ever felt primed to deliver while simultaneously failing to make single-worthy material. This is great for the album as a sit-down listening experience, but may disappoint those who just wanted a couple jams for the whip.
#METIME was a surprise when it was announced, and it’s high quality doubly so. Thanks to a litany of insanely dumb punchlines (many of them ground into seasoning across the album’s first eight tracks) it’s still a hard album to recommend to folks that haven’t bought into the feature-king mythology yet. But anyone on the fence—as well as longtimers—should be looking at #METIME as the definitive 2 Chainz album, as well as evidence that he may just be better at crafting albums and affecting songs than meme culture is willing to give him credit for. There is certainly a lot of dumb going on across #METIME‘s hour, but its seamless transition from absurdity to a more pathos-oriented final third (aided by the impossibly dumb non-rhyme “rest in peace to all the soldiers died in service / I died in her cervix” that somehow doesn’t offend in context) creates a dimension that acknowledges 2 Chainz doesn’t have to be a jester to entertain us. He just enjoys the ride.