2 Chainz Talks New Album, Signing With Def Jam, Winning Over New Fans
Happy 2 Chainz Day! That’s the feeling you get from all the hype surrounding the omnipresent Atlanta rapper’s major label debut Based on a T.R.U. Story, released today. VIBE caught up with the artist formerly known as Tity Boi to get his views on his seemingly meteoric rise; how an out-of-the-blue phone call from Jay-Z gave 2 Chainz perspective about his long and strange journey; why Nicki Minaj is his perfect match; and what led to the making of T.R.U. Story. From the man himself.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
VIBE: So let’s get into Based on a T.R.U. Story. What type of sound were you going for?
2 Chainz: I like to make people move and react in different ways. I like for people to have fun and that comes out in the music. I’m sound driven. And I love to be witty with the lyrics. I held it down for Georgia for the most part on the production. I got Sonny Digital, Mike Will, Southside, StreetRunner, Bangledesh, DJ Mustard, and Drumma Boy. And I got Hit-Boy, The-Dream [and more].
You’ve said in a recent interview that you shut down requests for song features during the heavy lifting for T.R.U. How much of a zone were you in during the recording process?
It was crazy. I slowed down on the features a little bit because I was gearing up for the album. Every artist has reached out to me. I’ve done a song with almost everybody in the game. That’s a blessing, too. I can’t keep up with the numbers anymore.
I want to take you back to the moment you parted ways with Ludacris’ Disturbing The Peace in 2010 before setting up your solo situation. At this point you had already found some success with Playaz Circle, but it seems like the music industry was ready to bury you. How were you able to stay positive at a time when people were saying, “Tity Boi had his shot…it’s time to move on”?
Me owning a recording studio helped me a lot. I just stepped up my workload and my work ethic and created so many songs that I had to find different avenues on releasing them whether it was through Playaz Circle or 2 Chainz. Just all the features I was doing, all my mixtapes. During that time between Playaz Circle and me changing over from Tity Boi to 2 Chainz it was just about me being productive.
The moment you broke through beyond the South was the release of your 2011 mixtape T.R.U. REALigon, which produced the national hit single “Spend It.” Can you talk about the process of going from Tity Boi to the hottest unsigned act in hip-hop?
I had a very strong viral and social media campaign. Doing shows and features combined with the mixtapes helped me to become a familiar face to people because I felt like I just needed to connect the dots with the fans. I felt like I had something to bring to the table and my peers respected me so much to the point where I just had to get that same respect from the fans. I think I’ve done that over the last year or two. People know I work hard.
You had several label deals on the table. At what point did you know it was time to sign with a major?
I had to sign to a label sooner or later because I thought I really maximized things. I had done everything up until that point. I was on the cover of magazines. I had Top 40 records. I had videos that were getting played on TV. I was doing the same things that major artists were doing. So with just getting a deal it was all about figuring out what they can do for me radio wise and what they can do for me on the international scale. ‘Cause I had cornered certain markets in the United States as far as just building my career.
Was there one moment when you said, “Wow, I’m really blowing up”?
I was getting a lot of phone calls everyday. But by the time Hov (Jay-Z) called, I knew I was doing something. Jay was like, ‘I hear you running shit.’ And I was like, “True…” But getting all those calls from different people was just crazy.
But you ended up signing with Def Jam. Why?
I knew people in the building. I had relationships with a few people. Some people followed my career and others didn’t. It just felt like I had more leverage at Def Jam. They understood my personality. They knew where I came from. And it was a more comfortable fit for me to be a part of something that I was part of before with Playaz Circle. I have direct contact to the people I need to talk to instead of just having a filter to go through like I did before.
What comes to mind when you perform Playaz Circle’s “Duffle Bag Boy” today as 2 Chainz?
What comes to mind? That I’ve been kind of dope before 2 Chainz [laughs].
Part of the mythology of 2 Chainz is your name change. Did you just wake up one day and say, “Middle America is not ready for Tity Boy…I have to make a change”?
It was a timing thing. People wasn’t listening when I was Tity Boi. That’s why I speak on griming which is timing mixed with grinding. It’s a term that I coined. That’s a perfect example of what you are looking at: time multiplied by grind.
But really I was always going by 2 Chainz even when I was Tity Boi. I didn’t do [the name change] on my own. I could never take the credit for that. It was just a blessing that God gave me. There just came a time where I worked so hard people started listening…not just hearing, but listening to my music. So I started yelling 2 Chainz before verses. The name became more family friendly. People were finding it fun to say.
What did you take away from your time rolling with Ludacris?
Ludacris is a very smart individual. He’s about his business. Everything is business with him. So I learned a lot about making deals from him. He owns liquors, restaurants…he owns a lot of things outside of music. Just being around him gave me another edge to have when I went on further with my career and started taking meetings.
Your association with Kanye West has opened you up to an even broader fanbase. Is he the recording maniac dictator that he’s made out to be?
[Laughs] It’s not like that. Ye’s sessions are very laidback. He is really cool. You basically have everything you need right there in front of you in the studio. You don’t have to really go anywhere. He has a team of people that are experts in [the recording] field. It’s always fun working with those cats.
You seem to have a strong connection with Nicki Minaj from recording together to being the opening act on her current tour. How does your chemistry come off so effortlessly?
Nicki is a dope ass chick and I’m a dope ass dude, and when we team up it’s like it’s going down. Right now, it’s just me and Nicki. And then I’ll probably go out on my own tour. But I’ve been knowing Nicki for years. I respect her creative expression. I respect how she moves and I respect how she feels about being a black woman that’s a millionaire. I love that about her. She definitely supports everything I’m doing. It’s just real love. I got nothing but love for her and the whole Young Money camp over there.
Let’s jump outside of music. You were on the basketball team in college. How big of a sports fan are you?
I’m going to always be a [Los Angeles] Lakers fan. But I’m very, very, very excited for LeBron [James] getting his first ring.
A Lakers fan cheering for a Bron…that’s sacrilegious, huh?
[Laughs] Me and him became great friends this year. The dude represents, man. When he won the championship he said, “True.” So that just made me feel so good. And he sends me shoes personally. So I feel like, “Go Bron, Bron!” [laughs] Keep winning folk.
2012 has been quite a whirlwind for you. Do you ever find time to see your family considering you have been out on the road the majority of the year?
It’s tough sometimes. That’s when you got to learn how to work all your gadgets. You have to use iChat and Skype…everything, man. Because it’s just going so fast for me that I don’t even know what’s going on anymore to the point where I lose days of the weeks. It’s all in God’s plan. I don’t think he wouldn’t put nothing on me I couldn’t handle. I’m 2 Chainz, but when I get home I’m a father. I like to take care of things. I’m a provider. Long as my family is smiling and I can keep them as entertained as the fans then I guess it will be good.