For the past decade, Tauheed Epps has grown his rap career under two pseudonyms: the hotfoot Tity Boi (one-half of Playaz Circle) and the self-proclaimed “family friendly” 2 Chainz. While the former delivered raunchy, unpolished hustler anthems (“Duffle Bag Boy”), the latter witnessed his profile sky-rocket by fusing an entertaining swagger with slick punchlines and gutter rhymes that packed as much punch as a barrage of bullets.
Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, Epps’ fourth and latest studio LP skillfully combines the two, allowing listeners to slide into the passenger seat of his Tesla and sonically autopilot through his journey. 2 Chainz once told Genius, “For me, music is very therapeutic. I like getting into a booth. I never been into talking to a psychiatrist or counselor. I handle my stuff a different way.” On the highly-anticipated follow-up to ColleGrove, his 2016 collaborative effort with Lil Wayne, he gives a thorough account of his ascent from selling grams and balancing underground rap buzz to mainstream success and winning a Grammy.
On the cinematic Mike WiLL Made It-produced album-opener, “Saturday Night,” Chainz gives himself a pat on the back, acknowledging the achievements that some argue weren’t highlighted enough prior to Jay Z revealing an extensive list of rappers who inspired him. “Enough of the negative actions. I got my paycheck off passion. I’m wearing four bracelets for fashion. Don’t think it's a race when I pass you,” he raps.
Making a pit stop on “Riverdale Rd,” a local route in his native College Park, Chainz muses over his humble beginnings on Atlanta’s notorious Southside. “Riverdale, he was there, she was there, you wasn’t there. I was the same old n***a. Yeah, that rap had raised a n***a. How could you blame a n***a?”
Not even halfway through 16-track LP, it’s apparent that not only are the 39-year-old MC’s ambitions grander, but he walks with a different purpose and motive. While his past musical offerings were gratuitously animated and spry, focusing on strip clubs, the pandemonium of his glittering jewels and purple drank, 2 Chainz now flagrantly speaks about his disdain for mumble-rap and government.
In May, the rapper sat with the ladies of The View, sharing that fans could “expect growth and maturation” on Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. “It’s still edgy content, but trap music is kinda defined as low socioeconomic background music where you have to hustle to get out. It’s a situation where a lot of good girls used to like the bad guys, and that’s what this album is about, he continued.”
Tracks like the star-studded “It’s a Vibe” (featuring Jhené Aiko, Trey Songz, and Ty Dolla $ign), “Bailian,” which reunites Chainz with Pharrell, and the album’s lead single, “Good Drank," offer a slinky, melodic change of pace without omitting his gritty trap roots.
“Trap Check” is a stunning standout, toasting to Atlanta’s past, present, and future, as producer Buddah Bless incorporates fiery, chopped and screwed samples of Jeezy’s “Get Ya Mind Right” and T.I’s brassy “ASAP.” Paired with Chainz’s employment of a stripped flow and flamboyant rhymes, it’s a re-up of the blueprint on which he built his now-flourishing career.
2 Chainz then takes a moment to revel on the track’s interlude, gushing, “I'm telling you, n****s like me fall out the sky. You don't just bump into me. I'm a real blessing, bro, nah, for real, bro.” While some may write this banter off as unnecessary showmanship, for Chainz, an artist who stayed down until he came up and influenced the latest generation of the genre (let’s not forget that B.O.A.T.S is the only full-length Atlanta rap album to go platinum in some time), it’s an inherited right.
“Burglar Bars,” the album’s closer, brings things full circle, serving as an introspective tune that counter-balances Chainz joyful boastings elsewhere. Featuring impassioned vocals from R&B chanteuse Monica and thoughtful words from leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan: “As I met 2 Chainz a few minutes ago, as I gazed into his face, I felt that I was in the presence of royalty. There's a certain power presence that he gives off,” shares Farrakhan.
Coincidentally, the same year that Playaz Circle celebrates it’s 10th anniversary, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music etches the underserved MC’s face — gold Cartier Frames included — onto the Mount Rushmore of trap rap alongside Gucci Mane, T.I., and Jeezy. Welcome to the club, Chainz. We’ve been expecting you.
For more music commentary, read our review of Lorde's ethereal piece of pop perfection, 'Melodrama,' here.