June 7, 2017

Luke Benjamin still treats his mattress like the ATM.

2 Chainz is a comic absurdist, a writer of verses dripped in fauvist candy colors, and one of the best rappers alive. The cover of his forthcoming album is similarly saturated in pastel, pink like Cam’ron’s iconic fur offsetting a dilapidated bando. It’s a juxtaposition befitting a project titled Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. It’s both absurdist and earnest, like the vast majority of 2 Chainz’s oeuvre — over-the-top decadence balanced by retrospection and interiority. You almost believe him during droll brags like: “I was born a hustler, paraphernalia in my baby pictures.”

It’s easy to neglect such an outwardly unserious line, but the interplay between humor and abstract cognizance is magnetic; the overt ridiculousness partly obscures the underlying truth beneath. In his allusion to College Park, his neighborhood of origin, he’s referencing what has been seen as the most violent part of the state. .

Even under different pseudonyms, 2 Chainz has always been a master of imagery. He renders archetypal rap braggadocio exotic and immersive. Most rappers walk you up to the gates of the mansion, but 2 Chainz will tour you through the palatial gardens and then step into a spa tub bigger than Drake’s Calabasas grotto. He’s an astounding imagist, keenly aware of the power in specificity, Forgiatos spinning on a brinks truck as he rolls a blunt the size of a forearm in the passenger. The Caligulan opulence can distract from Chainz precise control of language, he’s learned mastery of his gifts, changing tempos and turning sentences for sport while never losing sight of the larger frame.

Just in the last month, 2 Chainz has posted up Kevin Garnett on national television, sat on the Warriors bench as they dismantled the best team the best player in basketball has ever assembled, and dropped an unimpeachably good single. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tity Boi was mere myth. The evidence for him as at least a tertiary member of raps present-day Mount Olympus has only been building, Collegrove was a victory lap alongside a rap titan, and Daniel Son; Necklace Don a third album crystallization of prime era Chainz. His product has never been stronger, uncut and focused, at thirty nine years old and two decades into a prolific career, somehow still peaking.

Pretty Girls Like Trap Music could be his defining work, the first full-length to commercially and canonically elevate the lanky Georgian to his rightful Olympian perch. To this end, “4 AM” is an auspicious start, a dusky Travis $cott featuring jaunt through a debaucherous dawn—Uber Blacks and gold leaf bubbly. Travis’ hook is metallic and boisterous, the loud beat of clumsy drunken feet on pavement, and further evidence that the Texan is most effective as a complement.

To consider it simply as an understated banger is reductive; if entirely correct, and neglects the depth and skill of 2 Chainz verses. In the forty four bar length of his contribution, sly humor is packed next to poignant reflection “For my birthday I threw me a surprise party / Reminiscin’ ’bout the trap, playin’ the first Carter / My life changed when I had my first daughter,” internal rhymes signal switches from languid to stilted cadence, and discrete images bloom from few syllables.

Shakespeare famously wrote “brevity is the soul of wit” in the middle of an ironically voluble speech, but where Polonius falters 2 Chainz excels, no bars wasted no pockets unexplored. It’s utter command, and though “4 AM” is not the most dynamic or individually brilliant effort in 2 Chainz discography, it’s testament that any measure of Tauheed Epps is close to the best thing going. Another entry into the growing legend of a once duffle bag boy turned rap superhero.

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