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Album review

2 Chainz, 'Based on a T.R.U. Story'

August 14, 2012|By Randall Roberts | Times Pop Music Critic
  • 2 Chainz's "Based on a T.R.U. Story."
2 Chainz's "Based on a T.R.U. Story." (Def Jam Records )

2 Chainz

“Based on a T.R.U. Story”

Def Jam

One star out of four

The first things to know about the Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz are that he’s not a very good lyricist, his flow is a little clumsy and his phrasing is monotonous. A purveyor of a hip-hop subgenre known as trap music, which is typified by sparse but hard beats, synth clusters and frantic high-hat rhythms, 2 Chainz has a distinctive style that values bounce over brains, is created for clubs and not hipsters, and conveys its message simply and unapologetically. 

But as fellow rap chart lottery winners DMX, Mike Jones and Lil B can attest, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make a mark, and 2 Chainz (born Tauheed Epps) is no better or worse than any of them. Each line on “Yuck,” the opening track on his Def Jam Records debut, is delivered in the same steady pace, one syllable per quarter note, rolling relentlessly along with little variation. Contrasted with Lil Wayne’s easy, seemingly effortless guest verse, 2 Chainz sounds like a rank amateur whose topics of choice -- strippers, money, drugs -- have been examined to death in hip-hop by others with a much more varied vocabulary. “Crack” is about crack, how he started in the biz as a seller, and now he’s a rapper.

Sound familiar? It should, because the story has been told better nearly everywhere else, and even guest appearances by Kanye West and Nicki Minaj don’t provide much boost. Other cameos include Drake, The-Dream and John Legend, and they’re all so much better at their art that rather than their host stepping up to their level, 2 Chainz drags them down. 

“Mr. Telephone Man, there’s something wrong with my line/ When I call my baby’s number I get a click every time,” 2 Chainz raps on “I Love Dem Strippers,” nicking a line from New Edition’s 1984 hit. Maybe it was something he said. 

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