2 Chainz had one of the most notable comebacks in rap, firing off verses in features that most rappers aspire to, blurring the line between young rap and old bars. He seamlessly transitioned from Tity Boi to 2 Chainz, revamping his catalog, and creating a wave of calmly delivered raps that coast along on tracks without wrestling with the beat. His love of Atlanta, strippers, and flexing on just about anybody and everybody is brandished all over B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time, the rapper’s second solo album after Based on a TRU Story.
Since its release, B.O.A.T.S. II has become essential Chainz listening, with his charismatic "2 Chaiiiiiinz!!!" sprinkled into nearly every track, reminding us what adlibs and quick punchlines can add. B.O.A.T.S. II is sonically more experimental than its predecessor, Based on a TRU Story, but Chainz’s delivery remains comfortingly familiar and consistent. His creativity, enthusiasm, and quips keep us listening and almost praying for him to explain how much richer he is than us – but in a different way.
Led by singles including “Feds Watching” featuring Pharrell, “Where U Been?” with Cap. 1, and “Used 2” performed relatively well on the charts. “Where U Been?” lets Chainz taunt the fact that he’s been getting money since the ‘90s over a twinkling beat, courtesy of Mike Will Made It. And then there’s “Used 2,” produced by Mannie Fresh, which features the perfect glisten of nostalgia. On this one, Chainz mimics – but doesn’t insult – Juvenile’s flow on “Back That Ass Up.” The accompanying music video is a dead ringer for the original, too, filmed in New Orleans and showing Chainz, Lil Wayne, Mannie Fresh, and Juve grinning ear to ear rapping along and standing as hometown heroes while the block cheers and twerks.
The hype around B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time didn’t stop with just music – Chainz continued his theme of hometown comfort with the release of a cookbook, appropriately titled: #MEALTIME. It includes recipes 2 Chainz enjoyed while on tour (no beef or pork), created and cooked by Chef Aleem. The two created dishes to pair with different moods and tracks on the album, noting that the creation of music and the creation of new recipes are both based on feelings they have at the time. Beer-steamed snow crabs is paired with “So We Can Live,” his Me Time Sauce recipe is suggested to follow a day of buying a new fit, getting mani-pedis, and re-watching The Wire. The mixed seafood kabobs are for a cookout with comforting vibes.
Something notable about 2 Chainz’s raps is the comfort. Some of his tracks may crackle with harsh realities of selling drugs to his own mother or robbing somebody, they’re delivered with a matter-of-fact tone you respect from someone who has really lived what he raps about. On “Beautiful Pain,” Chainz and Ma$e rap about the sacrifice they’ve made to get what they have, crediting it to “beautiful pain” – a struggle so visceral that it “must be” beautiful now that those hard moments are over. 2 Chainz has mentioned in interviews that he doesn’t see a therapist because he doesn’t feel comfortable discussing his past, but that rapping is therapeutic for him. Rapping, for him, can get that pain out and then allow him to gloss into delivering chuckle-worthy punchlines that almost make us forget the traumatic autobiographical bars he just gave us.
On “Black Unicorn,” Chainz raps about being an anomaly and reinventing himself after his last record deal ended. He briefly touches on growing up in poverty: "And when it's cold outside, so your pipes won't bust/Turn on your faucet/Drip, fuck the water bill, we stay in apartments/And everything is a obstacle/When they watching you, the hospital needs a hospital."
And then almost immediately veers right into triumph: "And I'm covered in Balmain Instagram pics of my lobster omelette/Selling that Parkay, life ain't no arcade/Now I got more nines than the fourth grade."
On “Outroduction,” 2 Chainz narrates a full story we can see, talking to us like we’re right in front of him. It has the common theme of making something out of nothing, going from duffel bags to designer, a heavier message with a hot, crackling, full-bodied sound to it like a Sunday church chorus.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in 2018.
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