As prevalent as a Rick Ross "Unnnnh
" or Kanye West "Haaahhhhhn?
" may still be in 2012, the most familiar sound in hip-hop radio this year might very well be the eponymous call of "TWOOOO CHAAIIIIIIINZ!
" In the last year, Chainz—previously known as Tity Boi, always known as Tauheed Epps—has gone from forgotten one-hit wonder to mixtape sensation to omnipresent guest rapper to legitimate hip-hop star, entering the realm of the rap elite at the improbable age of 35. Now he's got a #1 album, and Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj cameo on his
It seemed a long ways away back when Epps was going by Tity Boi, one half of Atlanta rap duo Playaz Circle, signed to Ludacris' Disturbing the Peace label.
Playaz Circle did have one hit, 2007's "Duffle Bag Boy," though Epps' contributions were overshadowed by guest star Lil Wayne's famous "I'm countin' all day like a clock on the wall" chorus, recently referenced by Drake in his "Underground Kings
Unfortunately, the group was unable to build on the momentum from their breakout hit, as Epps was shot in the ankle and partner Dolla Boy was incarcerated. Epps went solo, and decided that he needed some re-branding, going with the more "family friendly" 2 Chainz. "I always been saying 2 Chainz in a lot of my songs," Epps explained of the name-change.
Moniker in place, Chainz started on a run of mixtapes and increasingly high-profile guest appearances, for the likes of Wale, Big K.R.I.T. and former label boss Ludacris. It all culminated in "Spend It," Chainz' first radio hit, which showed off his knack for instantly memorable hooks ("I'm ridin' 'round and gettin' it" became the de facto catcphrase for the hip-hop lifestyle, until replaced by "Cashin' out" and "YOLO"), and his gonzo personality (rapping about having sex in a Mercedes, then naming the baby that ensues from the encounter "Mercedes").
In early 2012, Chainz' career was taken to another level when Kanye West cast him as the cleanup hitter on his G.O.O.D. Music single "Mercy." The posse cut featured such big names as Big Sean and 'Yeezy himself, but Chainz arguably stole the show with his boasts of "Horse power, horse power, all this Polo on I got horse power" and "Money tall like Jordan."
After "Mercy," Chainz started guesting for A-Listers, becoming one of the most in-demand 16-bar men in the business:
He was also ready for his first smash hit as a leading man, "No Lie," getting some assistance from a swirling, hypnotic Mike Will beat and an super-catchy hook (and scene-stealing guest verse) from his Club Paradise tourmate Drake. Chainz still remained a force on the song, with his bragging about how his "life should be on Cinemax" and "all I get is cheese / like I'm taking pictures." The song became Chainz' first R&B #1 in August.
The only thing slowing Chainz' momentum on this run was his arrest at LaGuardia Airport
in New York, where he was detained for attempting to carry a weapon on board, with brass knuckles found in his bag. (It may have only been a large ring of some sort.) Chainz was quickly released, though his ambiguous jewelry was never returned to him.
Chainz followed up "No Lie" with "Birthday Song." The uninspiring song, with a monotonous hook ("All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho") and a mediocre Kanye West guest appearance, received some negative reviews from critics and peers
, but the song is climbing the charts, however, and got one of the most awesome videos of the yea
r courtesy of Andreas Nilsson. Plus it had an awesome single cover:
Whatever the "Birthday" reception, it didn't hurt the sales of debut album Based on a T.R.U. Story
any. The LP sold around 130,000 copies in its first week, one of the best debut weeks for any rap album this year, and put Chainz on the top of the charts. Will Tauheed Epps remain on top of the rap game, or is this the peak of his meteoric rise? We'd tend to guess the latter
, but we've certainly enjoyed the year of catching up to 2 Chainz' campaign.